June 29 (GIN) Some 270 women from 220 countries gathered in Managua, Nicaragua over the past weekend to launch a political platform that addresses discrimination against people of color.

At the end of the three-day meeting, the women participants and representatives of more than 400 Black women’s organizations adopted a political strategy, timed to coincide with the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024).

“We hope that future generations of African descent have a dignified life on an equal footing with the rest of the people of the continent,” said the general coordinator of the Network of Women Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and the Diaspora, Dorotea Wilson.

Wilson underscored that the political platform addressed issues of health, education, environment, protection of women of African descent and poverty reduction, among others.

According to statistics produced by the Women’s Network, people of African descent account for 30 percent of the population in Latin America. Half are women.

Rachel Dixon, deputy for the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast, welcomed the holding of the summit in Nicaragua, to highlight progress in restoring the rights of Black women in the Central American country.

The First Meeting of Women of African Descent was held in the Dominican Republic. It works to influence national and regional policies in favor of a united and non-discriminatory society without violence.

Cuban women also took part in the organization, especially in the field of human rights of people of African descent. The Network seeks to reach all territories where Black women are resident. w/pix of D. Wilson, head of network of Afro-Latin American Women, courtesy of RMAAD


June 29 (GIN) Polling places have been set up in Burundi for controversial parliamentary elections that have put President Pierre Nkurunziza at odds with religious groups, the political opposition, students, the African Union and the U.S.

Nkurunziza is seeking a third term, despite a constitutional limit of two terms. The president argues that his first term was the result of selection by parliament and not a result of votes by the public, but critics disagree.

His action also violates a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2005, critics said.

Some 3.8 million Burundians are eligible to vote in the polls, which the opposition and civil society groups are boycotting, claiming they will not be free and fair. Burundian authorities have refused to delay the elections, despite calls from the international community.

“(The AU) will not observe the elections scheduled for June 29,” declared AU chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. “AU reiterates the imperative need for dialogue and consensus for a lasting solution to the crisis in Burundi.”

The refusal to send observers is a first by the AU against a member state.

Echoing the AU’s remarks, the UN said Sunday that Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was concerned about “the government of Burundi’s insistence on going ahead with elections on 29 June, despite the prevailing political and security environment.”

Meanwhile, a group of journalists, dubbed “SOS Medias,” has begun broadcasting the only independent news available in the country. With military officers physically keeping them from their studios, they are using SoundCloud, a new platform, to broadcast the news.

“Even if we could get into our studios, a lot of our equipment has been destroyed,” said one member of the team on the condition of anonymity because of security concerns. “The website allows us to continue to broadcast radio reports using whatever recording devices we have.”

Reports on their SoundCloud page range from minute-long interview clips to full-fledged news reports on the current unrest.

In one report, a journalist details the recent closure of the office of Air and Border Police. In another, opposition leader Agathon Rwasa explains his doubts about the coming elections at a press conference as the clicks of photographers’ cameras are heard in the background.

Electoral commission spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye told the BBC that he was unaware of any incidents. Presidential elections are scheduled for next month. w/pix of Pres. P. Nkurunziza cycling to his polling place.


June 29 (GIN)—After more than 400 days of captivity, some of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, may now be taking orders from their captors in the terror group Boko Haram, witnesses are telling Amnesty International.

Witnesses say some are being used to terrorize other captives and are even carrying out killings themselves.

The testimony cannot be verified, but Amnesty International says other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been forced to fight.

Boko Haram has killed some 5,500 civilians in Nigeria since 2014.

Despite claims by the previous Nigerian government that the girls would be saved, more than 200 schoolgirls are still missing, more than a year after they were dragged from their school in northern Nigeria. Many of those seized are Christians.

Three women who claim they were held in the same camps as some of the Chibok girls told the BBC’s “Panorama” program that some of them appeared to have been brainwashed and are now carrying out punishments on behalf of the militants.

Seventeen-year-old Miriam (not her real name) fled Boko Haram after being held for six months. She was forced to marry a militant and is now pregnant with his child.

Recounting her first days in the camp she said, “They told to us get ready, that they were going to marry us off … They came back with four men and slit their throats in front of us. They then said that this will happen to any girl that refuses to get married.”

Miriam’s claims cannot be independently verified, but Amnesty International said their research also shows that some girls abducted by Boko Haram have been trained to fight.

Dr. Fatima Akilu, a British-trained psychologist, is in charge of Nigeria’s counter-violence and extremism program. She is currently looking after approximately 300 recently rescued women and children.

“We have not seen signs of radicalization,” she said. “But if it did occur, we would not be surprised …

In situations where people have been held, there have been lots of stories where they have identified with their captors.”

“When we started the program, we didn’t really have any experience of anything other than military solutions,” said Akilu. “The challenge is to look into what Boko Haram’s message is, and how we can get a different one across.”

Boys are also in the program run by Akilu, who writes children’s books with an educational theme. “We find a lot of the young guys who are in prison on suspicion of Boko Haram activity have stunted abilities to think logically,” said Akilu, who said she visits inmates regularly.

“If you are a true Muslim and have some interpretation of Islam, you can debunk this stuff, but if not, then you may be susceptible to it.” w/pix of F. Akilu


June 29 (GIN)—The reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act will open the floodgates for U.S. chicken parts and undercut South Africa’s domestic industry with cheaper cuts of meat, local chicken producers fear.

AGOA, as the trade pact is known, was just reauthorized after South Africa agreed to remove “anti-dumping” protectionist tariffs that have been in place since 2000.

U.S. senators Chris Coons and Johnny Isakson had threatened to kill the lucrative U.S.-Africa agreement if the anti-dumping provision was allowed to remain.

Under AGOA, as much as 90 percent of South Africa’s exports, including cars, chemicals, citrus fruits, textiles, wine and nuts, enter the U.S. duty-free.

South Africa Trade Minister Rob Davies said the two countries had been negotiating a possible deal whereby the U.S. could export a capped volume of chicken in return for providing assistance with developing trade links. In the end, the U.S. won the right to export 65,000 tons a year to the South African market for the next 15 years.

Trade Minister Davies called the deal something “we can all live with.”

But according to the South African poultry association, they could lose close to 72 million dollars and approximately 6,500 jobs.

“There was no easy way out for South Africa,” said Kevin Lovell, head of the South African Poultry Association. “Either you defend the poultry industry or you defend AGOA. We had to find a balance.”

With its growing popularity, the rising demand for chicken had been straining local producers trying to keep up but are saddled with the high cost of feed, fuel and electricity.

In light of the concession made by South African poultry producers, initiatives will be proposed to try to manage the fallout from the likely reduction in sales of domestic chicken products, the trade minister said.

“There will be a package to support small Black companies in the import of the US product and its packaging and further processing in our country,” the minister said. “We have been talking about a developmental package … which would include training of people in our poultry industry in the United States.”

U.S. Sen. Isakson called the end of South African tariffs on American chicken “a huge boon” for Georgia’s poultry industry. Georgia poultry will soon be headed for South Africa, he said.

One of the signature dishes of South Africa’s poor townships is a stew called “walkie talkies,” made from chicken heads and feet. These parts are not popular in America and U.S. exporters could easily undercut local producers without the duties.