Voices from Zimbabwe and the Great Lakes

Zimbabwe: As Nepal celebrated their revolution's success, envious Zimbabwean observers still trapped on the outside of democratic success couldn't hide their aspirations for the same in Zimbabwe. Nepal's revolution got Zimpundit dreaming,

“As I sit here looking at my computer screen I’m dreaming of Nepal. I so badly want the reality they are experiencing to be mine . I want to be able cower my despot into democracy too!”

Said Eddie Cross,

“Just been watching the celebrations in Nepal following the King’s decision to give in to popular demands that he restore the democratic structures in that country. It is very moving to see this massive commitment by simple, ordinary people in a very poor country demanding that they no longer be treated as feudal slaves to a totalitarian regime but be granted the democratic right to choose their own government.”

Eddie is convinced Zimbabwe is showing signs that she is readying for a revolution of her own

Manulite has a harrowing post about his friend Simon who is,

Much shorter than me, which of course is explained by the fact that he's much much younger than me. We both live in Zimbabwe so that gives us a lot in common. But Simon practically survives on the streets. Though he doesn't necessarily sleep on the street at night, his life is a life lived on the pavements of Harare's central business district.

He concludes,

I wonder if Simon can grow up to be a doctor, or a computer geek, with all the iPods, mp3 players, blackberry enabled cellphones and all that stuff? Will he even know such things exist? Will it be his fault when he ends up a thug or in prison? How many children out there are in a situation like Simon's? Surely someone's to blame… who?

This is Zimbabwe has many interesting posts including reports that “We're back to clearing out trash,” and that the infamous riot police recently went on rampage attacking students at the University of Zimbabwe.

The Bearded Man's news round up includes reports that Zimbabwe's opposition is “ganging up,” the government is going to print 60 trillion ZW$ to meet the bill for 300% pay hikes for civil servants despite inflation pegged at 1,000%, and that David Coltart an MDC legislator is contemplating turning independent. Check out his blog for daily news roundups from Zimbabwe.

Burundi: Agathon Rwasa points to articles indicating that Tanzania has been denied a mediatory role in the Burundian crisis because of Dar es Salaam's “pro-FNL leanings,” and that leaders of the Great Lakes nations want sanctions imposed on rebel groups bent on destabilizing the region.

D.R.C: Carl of Because We're Here Boy, No One Else; Just Us recently read “Re-Inventing Order in the Congo” a book dealing with the reality of how Kinshasha's inhabitants survive on infrastructure designed to sustain 25% of the city's population. His commentary on the book includes his experiences with the “fish pond gardens,” people,

“Cut [water] line[s] and use the water to fill up the pond. Then they put the other end of our line into the pond. We still get our water from the city water point, but via the pond. I wondered why our water is kind of brown once it settles out.

The pond is used to provide a ready source of water for all the little gardens in that vicinity of the airport.

Congogirl celebrates reports that the Catholic church might consider relaxing their rules regarding condom use in light of HIV/AIDS. She also has a report on the conviction of some rebels over the rape and other crimes against humanity.

Also filled with many interesting posts is Congowatch including reports that Uganda supports rebels in the DRC, the announcement of a new DRC discussion forum, and news that American filmaker and blogger Louis Abelman has unveiled a website for his documentary “The Goma Project.” The project, according to Congogirl is,

A deeply sensitive documentary about the lives of rape survivors in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo as they work with medical staff and counsellors to regain their health and dignity.

In a piece entitled “Heart of the DRC Black Looks provides a summary of the political and human rights situation in the country at the moment. She comments that the Francophone DRC blogs are written from a political perspective but are lacking in providing a social and human rights perspective.

In the midst of all the chaos and largely ignored in any discussions by the French language DRC bloggers, thousands of children remain at risk from sexual and physical abuse, abductions and attacks on schools and recruitment as child soldiers. Outwards signs of normality especially in the capital and major cities is deceptive. The most violent area remains around the north east in Kivu along the borders of Uganda and Rwanda (see map), Goma and further south in Bukavu. The figures as most figures of abuse in the DRC are astounding – 33,000 children are estimated to have been used as child soldiers between 1998-2002 – the highest concentration of child soldiers anywhere. Minors under the age of 15 are sitting in death row with no legal representation.

Malawi: Mike at Hacktivate in “Wireless toolbox for Africa,” lauds several different for wireless networking in Africa including a guide to using low cost radio communications for telecommunication.

Rwanda: 007 in Africa a blogger based in the DRC is in Goma, Rwanda for a short work trip where he is reminded of New Orleans . Here are some of his impressions of the country,

The country is essentially made of large hills, one rising up after the other. It is called “Le pays des Mille Collines” (“the land of the thousand hills”). Due to overcrowding, almost every square inch of land is cultivated. It resembles Peru or even Madagascar, with its stratified agricultural beds. The richer soils reside in the valley while the nutrient poor ones are on top of the hills. The water often washes crops away and strips the top soil of nutrients essential for growing crops. The poorer families own the lands on top of the hill. In addition to having to hike up the hills everyday to harvest their land, they also have poorer soil to work with…

007 also chronicles a history of the conflicts in Rwanda, and contemplates reasons for fueling the ages old conflict between Rwanda and the DRC.

In Gacaca (pronounced Gachacha), 007 in Africa meets a man who talks about the small town:

“For twelve years, we have preached the message, « we can live together ». That was the first step. Now we are in a phase of Reconciliation and Justice. Should we forget the past and build a future or punish the culprits? This is a dilemma. We should combine the two. But this has its set of challenges. Classic justice [as we know it in the West] cannot solve these conflicts. We would like to recognize the blame but also reinstate populations. We use Gacaca Justice. It’s a participatory process allowing us to talk. We are amongst ourselves, in the community. This is how we can deal.”

Uganda: Jay at Jay's Idle Notes is frustrated by the addition of new districts to the country as he is trying to update his contacts lists;

Sometime last year the government decided to increase the number of Uganda’s districts from 54 to 72. The parliament approved the increase to 69 and 3 other districts are awaiting approval.

The reasoning behind creating new districts from the larger ones made sense when it had just been started in the early 90s. The argument back then was that certain districts were very large and some of the subcounties in those districts that were furthest from the district headquarters were not receiving their share of resources due to the “remoteness” but now it has become misused vote getting trick by the government and a weapon of blackmail for the electorate.

These days every time an election comes around the President promises somebody a district. Sometimes, as was the case in Tororo county last year, he was told not to bother seeking votes in the area if by election time they didn’t have a district of their own ( I forget what they called it).

It had come to a point where if you blinked you’d miss the creation of a new district.

Jay's also unimpressed by the prospects some of the new districts have of survival given that some of them have no infrastructure to house the district headquarters but,

Infrastructure problems aside, the creation of large villages and calling them districts has brought about some really petty quarrels. In Manafa, the people of Manjiya subcounty threatened not to be part of the district if Bududa subcounty is not declared the district headquarters instead of Bubulo (something to the with the fact that the people of Bubulo always seem to get the good things). In retaliation one of the subcounties made its own letterheads because it could have its official correspondence bear the address of another. Such petty quarrels plague almost all the new districts.

I will not even get into what each new district means in terms of costs. More district officials to be paid, more women parliamentarians to be overpaid etc.

Visit Jay's blog he has a lot of updated links to other Ugandan blogs.

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