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DISCUSSION: Was it Right for President Obama to intervene in the Libyan Conflict?

March 28, 2011 by · 6 Comments 

On March 19th 2011, President Obama made the decision to commit the United States already taxed military to a third Muslim war.

President Obama cast U.S. military intervention in Libya in stark strategic and humanitarian terms, saying he would not stand by while the democratic aspirations spreading across the Middle East were “eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship” at the hands of a murderous Moammar Ghadafi.

“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and, more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said in a speech before officers at the National Defense University, a military think tank. “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

Some Republicans dismissed Obama’s speech as too vague; others said the president had no right to send forces to intervene.

- Source: USA Today by Mimi Hall

UN Millennium Development Goals: Feasible or Not?

September 19, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

In 2000 a commitment was made to the world’s poorest. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG). This commitment has spurred an unprecedented global agenda for partnership since they were established 10 years ago. They have seen remarkable progress, including a 74 percent reduction in measles deaths, 4 million people on life-saving AIDS treatment, and more than 30 million additional children in primary school in Africa alone. The success stories each have major lessons for scale up, including sound technical interventions, institutional mechanisms to deliver services, adequate finance to reach scale, and a clear focus on metrics. Ten years ago most were widely considered unachievable. This week, the UN will be discussing progress and setbacks and there have been many setbacks; unfulfilled promises, global economic crisis, lack of commitment and more.

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

The eight Goals are:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

Do you think the UN can meet its commitment to slash poverty, hunger, disease, maternal and child deaths and other ills by the 2015 deadline?

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As World leaders renew commitments, we want to know what your commitment will be. What is the one thing you can do, the one action you can take to help with any one of these goals?

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

DISCUSSION: Africa/China – Friends with mutual benefits? or is one friend exploiting the other?

August 17, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

Has China’s push for raw materials become a “new form of neo-colonialist adventure” with African raw materials exchanged for low quality manufactured imports and little attention paid with truly developing an impoverished continent?

Image Courtesy of http://www.biyokulule.com - Left, a Chinese merchant in Ndjamena. Officials say money from Chinese investments could fix schools and hospitals, or provide jobs and new roads. But so far, even with binding arrangements governing the use of oil revenues, Chad’s people have largely missed out

Quote from Africa/China Relations Article on The Independent

China deals with just about any rogue and unsavoury regime in Africa. It supplies jet fighters, military vehicles and guns to Zimbabwe, Sudan, Ethiopia and other repressive governments. At the UN, China has used its veto power to block sanctions against tyrannical regimes in Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The nature of China’s contracts is most objectionable. They are secured through outright bribery by building presidential palaces (Namibia, Sudan and Zimbabwe) and sports stadiums (Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea). Namibian prosecutors are investigating allegations of bribery and kickbacks on government contracts with China to supply Namibia with scanners at security checkpoints. Nuctech, the Beijing-based manufacturer and headed until 2008 by the son of Hu Jintao, China’s president, is accused of paying $4.2 million in kickbacks to a Namibian front company (New York Times, July 31st 2009, p. A4). Another investigation involves a Chinese contract to build a key railroad link.

Most alarming, the deals are opaque and on barter terms dictated by China. For example, in exchange for oil exploration slots, China will rebuild Nigeria’s dilapidated railway system. But China will supply nearly all the equipment and technical personnel at prices determined by itself. There is no protection against overcharging or cost overruns. As with other projects in Africa, China will supply most of the workers. The potential for exploitation and plunder of Africa’s resources is enormous in such contracts, leading irate African commentators to denounce what they see as “chopsticks mercantilism”. With chopsticks dexterity, China can pick off mineral dumplings with relish in Africa, all to its advantage.

Further, China’s engagement has devastated local industries in Lesotho, Nigeria and Zambia. In Nigeria, the influx of Chinese products has destroyed Kano’s manufacturing sector. In 1982, 500 factories churned out textile products in Kano, but fewer than 100 remain operational today, most at far less than full capacity. In South Africa, the textile union says some 100,000 jobs have been lost as Chinese synthetic fabrics replace cotton prints in street markets across Africa.

Angry Africans are sounding off. In 2007, South Africa’s unions threatened to boycott anyone selling Chinese products. In April 2007, nine Chinese workers were killed in an attack by armed men on an oil field in eastern Ethiopia. In Nigeria, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has vowed to expel all Chinese workers in the area. (Quote from The Independent)

DISCUSSION: Which would you rather have as the World Cup Anthem – Shakira’s “Waka Waka” vs K’Naan’s “Waving Flag”

June 1, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

So much controversy has surrounded the change of the Official World Cup Song from Somalian Artist K’Naan’s “Waving Flag” to Colombian Artist Shakira’s “Waka Waka”. Some prefer the former while others prefer the latter and then there are those who say it should have been sung by a South African. Which would you have chosen? Shakira’s song which features South African band Freshly Ground or K’Naan’s “Waving Flag” featuring Will.I.Am and David Guetta?

Which would you rather have as the World Cup Anthem - Shakira's "Waka Waka" vs K'Naan's "Waving Flag"

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WAVING FLAG Video

WAKA WAKA Video

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DISCUSSION: Can a Man or Woman in a Committed Relationship ‘Earn’ the Right to Cheat?

February 2, 2010 by · 10 Comments 

THE CASE OF JON

“I have a huge problem. My wife has lost interest in intimacy and sex ever since we got married and had our first child who is no 9 months old. No matter how much I try to talk about it with her or address any issues she might have, she refuses to entertain the subject. “Is that all you can think about?” is all she will say and walk away.  It seems she doesn’t care about how I feel about it.  Do I have the right to cheat?  I love my wife but I also have needs. I just can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with no intimacy.  I feel really guilty about it, but something’s telling me I have earned the right. I had no idea my wife would be this way about sex, and it just kills me. It even puts me in a bad mood sometimes.” – Jon

Can a Man or Woman in a Committed Relationship 'Earn' the Right to Cheat?

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DISCUSSION: Can money buy love?

November 30, 2009 by · 6 Comments 

moneyloveMany women want to be wooed still with gifts and treats that cost money. Men do not want to carry the load of covering household bills on their shoulders alone. And if asked the criteria required for settling down, many men and women will require a partner who earns a certain minimum.

Is it possible to use money to make someone love you?

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DISCUSSION: Should “Bride Price” be abolished and made unconstitutional?

September 26, 2009 by · 19 Comments 

brideprice

An African father giving his daughter away in marriage

“Bride Price” should be made unconstitutional. That is what Ugandan Deobrah Awori is requesting in a Ugandan court this month. Awori told the court that she tried in vain to stop her husband from forcefully marrying off their daughter, Evelyn, so that he could benefit from the “bride price” she received. The petitioners argued that demand for payment of a “bride price” by the parents of the bride from the groom – a tradition practiced by many communities in Uganda – gives rise to conditions of inequality during marriage. These, the petitioners argued, were contrary to the provisions of the constitution. The full report can be found at this link.

This is a debate that has been ongoing on different fronts. The Sunday Monitor recently did a study on the pros and cons of “Bride Price”.  Below is an excerpt from the article done on the subject this week.

Examples of the negative aspects were varied and ranged from the denial of education to the girl by the parents in a bid to extract wealth from her, promoting early marriages and young men borrowing money to finance the bride price hence starting the new family in debts.
It was also noted that a man who fails to pay bride price is often looked at as inferior and in case of tragedy, to such a man in the form of death of his wife, he would be required to first pay bride price before being allowed to bury his wife. The same report noted that bride price has left many men unmarried because they can’t afford it which makes the having of children impossible for them.
If bride price cannot be done away with and is a cultural practice, what should be done about it then?
Many women may also fail to return to their homes even under improper treatment from the husband because bride price was paid while others fear that their parents may not be able to refund the bride price they were given thus occurrence and continuation of domestic violence.
In the same report, interviewees shared real life experiences of bride price. Some couples revealed that they have been pursued by the bride’s family for failure to pay bride price while many women have been inherited after their husband’s death and some brides families requested for the return bride price after the death of the wife. Widow inheritance and victimisation of infertile women were among the many experiences shared.
On the positive side, it was noted that bride price has stabilised and resulted into loving relationships between the two families. The report also looked at the connection between bride price and HIV. It found out that women or young girls who are forced to get married for wealth accumulation by their parents maybe presented to men who are already infected since their goal(parents) is just to get wealth. It also noted that wife inheritance as well has accelerated the spread of the disease especially where bride price was paid.
Also looked at was the connection between bride price and domestic violence. The result revealed that 99 per cent of the interviewees had experienced domestic violence, mostly the widowed women.

Examples of the negative aspects were varied and ranged from the denial of education to the girl by the parents in a bid to extract wealth from her, promoting early marriages and young men borrowing money to finance the bride price hence starting the new family in debts.

It was also noted that a man who fails to pay bride price is often looked at as inferior and in case of tragedy, to such a man in the form of death of his wife, he would be required to first pay bride price before being allowed to bury his wife. The same report noted that bride price has left many men unmarried because they can’t afford it which makes the having of children impossible for them.

Many women may also fail to return to their homes even under improper treatment from the husband because bride price was paid while others fear that their parents may not be able to refund the bride price they were given thus occurrence and continuation of domestic violence.

In the same report, interviewees shared real life experiences of bride price. Some couples revealed that they have been pursued by the bride’s family for failure to pay bride price while many women have been inherited after their husband’s death and some brides families requested for the return bride price after the death of the wife. Widow inheritance and victimisation of infertile women were among the many experiences shared.

On the positive side, it was noted that bride price has stabilised and resulted into loving relationships between the two families. The report also looked at the connection between bride price and HIV. It found out that women or young girls who are forced to get married for wealth accumulation by their parents maybe presented to men who are already infected since their goal(parents) is just to get wealth. It also noted that wife inheritance as well has accelerated the spread of the disease especially where bride price was paid.

Also looked at was the connection between bride price and domestic violence. The result revealed that 99 per cent of the interviewees had experienced domestic violence, mostly the widowed women.

Read the entire article at this link.

What do you think should be done about bride price?

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Discussion: President Obama’s Message to Africa – Will this speech have an impact on Africa?

July 11, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

President Barack Obama walks with Ghanas President John Atta Mills at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009.  (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

President Barack Obama walks with Ghana's President John Atta Mills at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Text of President Barack Obama’s speech, provided by the White House, as delivered to the Ghanaian parliament today in Accra, Ghana:

THE PRESIDENT: (Trumpet plays.) I like this. Thank you. Thank you. I think Congress needs one of those horns. (Laughter.) That sounds pretty good. Sounds like Louis Armstrong back there. (Laughter.)

Good afternoon, everybody. It is a great honor for me to be in Accra and to speak to the representatives of the people of Ghana. (Applause.) I am deeply grateful for the welcome that I’ve received, as are Michelle and Malia and Sasha Obama. Ghana’s history is rich, the ties between our two countries are strong, and I am proud that this is my first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as President of the United States of America. (Applause.)

I want to thank Madam Speaker and all the members of the House of Representatives for hosting us today. I want to thank President Mills for his outstanding leadership. To the former Presidents – Jerry Rawlings, former President Kufuor – Vice President, Chief Justice – thanks to all of you for your extraordinary hospitality and the wonderful institutions that you’ve built here in Ghana.

I’m speaking to you at the end of a long trip. I began in Russia for a summit between two great powers. I traveled to Italy for a meeting of the world’s leading economies. And I’ve come here to Ghana for a simple reason: The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well. (Applause.)

This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity can expand America’s prosperity. Your health and security can contribute to the world’s health and security. And the strength of your democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere.

So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – (applause) – as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And that is what I want to speak with you about today.

We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.

I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. After all, I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s – (applause) – my family’s own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.

Some you know my grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him “boy” for much of his life. He was on the periphery of Kenya’s liberation struggles, but he was still imprisoned briefly during repressive times. In his life, colonialism wasn’t simply the creation of unnatural borders or unfair terms of trade – it was something experienced personally, day after day, year after year.

My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities where he would come to get an education. He came of age at a moment of extraordinary promise for Africa. The struggles of his own father’s generation were giving birth to new nations, beginning right here in Ghana. (Applause.) Africans were educating and asserting themselves in new ways, and history was on the move.

But despite the progress that has been made – and there has been considerable progress in many parts of Africa – we also know that much of that promise has yet to be fulfilled. Countries like Kenya had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born. They have badly been outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent.

In many places, the hope of my father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair. Now, it’s easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.

Now, we know that’s also not the whole story. Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or a need for charity. The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with repeated peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. (Applause.) And by the way, can I say that for that the minority deserves as much credit as the majority. (Applause.) And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana’s economy has shown impressive rates of growth. (Applause.)

This progress may lack the drama of 20th century liberation struggles, but make no mistake: It will ultimately be more significant. For just as it is important to emerge from the control of other nations, it is even more important to build one’s own nation.

So I believe that this moment is just as promising for Ghana and for Africa as the moment when my father came of age and new nations were being born. This is a new moment of great promise. Only this time, we’ve learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future. Instead, it will be you – the men and women in Ghana’s parliament – (applause) – the people you represent. It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized.

Now, to realize that promise, we must first recognize the fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends on good governance. (Applause.) That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That’s the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.

As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I’ve pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa’s interests and America’s interests. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by – it’s whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change. (Applause.)

This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I’ll focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy, opportunity, health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. (Applause.)

As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not.

This is about more than just holding elections. It’s also about what happens between elections. (Applause.) Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves – (applause) – or if police – if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. (Applause.) No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top – (applause) – or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. (Applause.) That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end. (Applause.)

In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success – strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges – (applause); an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. (Applause.) Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives.

Now, time and again, Ghanaians have chosen constitutional rule over autocracy, and shown a democratic spirit that allows the energy of your people to break through. (Applause.) We see that in leaders who accept defeat graciously – the fact that President Mills’ opponents were standing beside him last night to greet me when I came off the plane spoke volumes about Ghana – (applause); victors who resist calls to wield power against the opposition in unfair ways. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth. We see it in police like Patience Quaye, who helped prosecute the first human trafficker in Ghana. (Applause.) We see it in the young people who are speaking up against patronage, and participating in the political process.

Across Africa, we’ve seen countless examples of people taking control of their destiny, and making change from the bottom up. We saw it in Kenya, where civil society and business came together to help stop post-election violence. We saw it in South Africa, where over three-quarters of the country voted in the recent election – the fourth since the end of Apartheid. We saw it in Zimbabwe, where the Election Support Network braved brutal repression to stand up for the principle that a person’s vote is their sacred right.

Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. (Applause.) Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions. (Applause.)

Now, America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation. The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. But what America will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and responsible institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance – on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard – (applause); on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting and automating services – (applause) – strengthening hotlines, protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability.

And we provide this support. I have directed my administration to give greater attention to corruption in our human rights reports. People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe. (Applause.) We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t, and that is exactly what America will do.

Now, this leads directly to our second area of partnership: supporting development that provides opportunity for more people.

With better governance, I have no doubt that Africa holds the promise of a broader base of prosperity. Witness the extraordinary success of Africans in my country, America. They’re doing very well. So they’ve got the talent, they’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit. The question is, how do we make sure that they’re succeeding here in their home countries? The continent is rich in natural resources. And from cell phone entrepreneurs to small farmers, Africans have shown the capacity and commitment to create their own opportunities. But old habits must also be broken. Dependence on commodities – or a single export – has a tendency to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few, and leaves people too vulnerable to downturns.

So in Ghana, for instance, oil brings great opportunities, and you have been very responsible in preparing for new revenue. But as so many Ghanaians know, oil cannot simply become the new cocoa. From South Korea to Singapore, history shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and in their infrastructure – (applause); when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled workforce, and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs.

As Africans reach for this promise, America will be more responsible in extending our hand. By cutting costs that go to Western consultants and administration, we want to put more resources in the hands of those who need it, while training people to do more for themselves. (Applause.) That’s why our $3.5 billion food security initiative is focused on new methods and technologies for farmers – not simply sending American producers or goods to Africa. Aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it’s no longer needed. I want to see Ghanaians not only self-sufficient in food, I want to see you exporting food to other countries and earning money. You can do that. (Applause.)

Now, America can also do more to promote trade and investment. Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way. That will be a commitment of my administration. And where there is good governance, we can broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in better roads and electricity; capacity-building that trains people to grow a business; financial services that reach not just the cities but also the poor and rural areas. This is also in our own interests – for if people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Africa, guess what? New markets will open up for our own goods. So it’s good for both.

One area that holds out both undeniable peril and extraordinary promise is energy. Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change. A warming planet will spread disease, shrink water resources, and deplete crops, creating conditions that produce more famine and more conflict. All of us – particularly the developed world – have a responsibility to slow these trends – through mitigation, and by changing the way that we use energy. But we can also work with Africans to turn this crisis into opportunity.

Together, we can partner on behalf of our planet and prosperity, and help countries increase access to power while skipping – leapfrogging the dirtier phase of development. Think about it: Across Africa, there is bountiful wind and solar power; geothermal energy and biofuels. From the Rift Valley to the North African deserts; from the Western coasts to South Africa’s crops – Africa’s boundless natural gifts can generate its own power, while exporting profitable, clean energy abroad.

These steps are about more than growth numbers on a balance sheet. They’re about whether a young person with an education can get a job that supports a family; a farmer can transfer their goods to market; an entrepreneur with a good idea can start a business. It’s about the dignity of work; it’s about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.

Just as governance is vital to opportunity, it’s also critical to the third area I want to talk about: strengthening public health.

In recent years, enormous progress has been made in parts of Africa. Far more people are living productively with HIV/AIDS, and getting the drugs they need. I just saw a wonderful clinic and hospital that is focused particularly on maternal health. But too many still die from diseases that shouldn’t kill them. When children are being killed because of a mosquito bite, and mothers are dying in childbirth, then we know that more progress must be made.

Yet because of incentives – often provided by donor nations – many African doctors and nurses go overseas, or work for programs that focus on a single disease. And this creates gaps in primary care and basic prevention. Meanwhile, individual Africans also have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries.

So across Africa, we see examples of people tackling these problems. In Nigeria, an Interfaith effort of Christians and Muslims has set an example of cooperation to confront malaria. Here in Ghana and across Africa, we see innovative ideas for filling gaps in care – for instance, through E-Health initiatives that allow doctors in big cities to support those in small towns.

America will support these efforts through a comprehensive, global health strategy, because in the 21st century, we are called to act by our conscience but also by our common interest, because when a child dies of a preventable disease in Accra, that diminishes us everywhere. And when disease goes unchecked in any corner of the world, we know that it can spread across oceans and continents.

And that’s why my administration has committed $63 billion to meet these challenges – $63 billion. (Applause.) Building on the strong efforts of President Bush, we will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and we will work to eradicate polio. (Applause.) We will fight – we will fight neglected tropical disease. And we won’t confront illnesses in isolation – we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness and focus on the health of mothers and children. (Applause.)

Now, as we partner on behalf of a healthier future, we must also stop the destruction that comes not from illness, but from human beings – and so the final area that I will address is conflict.

Let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war. But if we are honest, for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.

These conflicts are a millstone around Africa’s neck. Now, we all have many identities – of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century. (Applause.) Africa’s diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division. We are all God’s children. We all share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to access education and opportunity; to love our families and our communities and our faith. That is our common humanity.

That is why we must stand up to inhumanity in our midst. It is never justified – never justifiable to target innocents in the name of ideology. (Applause.) It is the death sentence of a society to force children to kill in wars. It is the ultimate mark of criminality and cowardice to condemn women to relentless and systemic rape. We must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur and the dignity of every woman in the Congo. No faith or culture should condone the outrages against them. And all of us must strive for the peace and security necessary for progress.

Africans are standing up for this future. Here, too, in Ghana we are seeing you help point the way forward. Ghanaians should take pride in your contributions to peacekeeping from Congo to Liberia to Lebanon – (applause) – and your efforts to resist the scourge of the drug trade. (Applause.) We welcome the steps that are being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, to keep the peace, and support those in need. And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, transnational forces to bear when needed.

America has a responsibility to work with you as a partner to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there’s a genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems – they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response.

And that’s why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy and technical assistance and logistical support, and we will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. And let me be clear: Our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa, and the world. (Applause.)

In Moscow, I spoke of the need for an international system where the universal rights of human beings are respected, and violations of those rights are opposed. And that must include a commitment to support those who resolve conflicts peacefully, to sanction and stop those who don’t, and to help those who have suffered. But ultimately, it will be vibrant democracies like Botswana and Ghana which roll back the causes of conflict and advance the frontiers of peace and prosperity.

As I said earlier, Africa’s future is up to Africans.
The people of Africa are ready to claim that future. And in my country, African Americans – including so many recent immigrants – have thrived in every sector of society. We’ve done so despite a difficult past, and we’ve drawn strength from our African heritage. With strong institutions and a strong will, I know that Africans can live their dreams in Nairobi and Lagos, Kigali, Kinshasa, Harare, and right here in Accra. (Applause.)

You know, 52 years ago, the eyes of the world were on Ghana. And a young preacher named Martin Luther King traveled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: “It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice.”

Now that triumph must be won once more, and it must be won by you. (Applause.) And I am particularly speaking to the young people all across Africa and right here in Ghana. In places like Ghana, young people make up over half of the population.

And here is what you must know: The world will be what you make of it. You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, and end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can – (applause) – because in this moment, history is on the move.

But these things can only be done if all of you take responsibility for your future. And it won’t be easy. It will take time and effort. There will be suffering and setbacks. But I can promise you this: America will be with you every step of the way – as a partner, as a friend. (Applause.) Opportunity won’t come from any other place, though. It must come from the decisions that all of you make, the things that you do, the hope that you hold in your heart.

Ghana, freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation. And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Accra and say this was the time when the promise was realized; this was the moment when prosperity was forged, when pain was overcome, and a new era of progress began. This can be the time when we witness the triumph of justice once more. Yes we can. Thank you very much. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)

DISCUSSION: Are adoption laws in Malawi unreasonable? Is Mercy’s father ungrateful to Madonna for wanting to raise his child?

June 16, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Pop Singer Madonna, who adopted a son from Malawi in 2006 has been given the right to adopt a second Malawian child by a Malawi appeals court.

Normally, an adoptive parent has to live in Malawi for 18 months before being awarded a child for adoption there, assuming all else is in place.

The Nyasa Times reports from Blantyre that the Supreme Court of Appeal in Malawi handed down a ruling Friday which overturned a lower court decision preventing Madonna from adopting three-year-old Chifundo (“Mercy”) James from an orphanage in southern Malawi.

In April Judge Esmie Chombo said the pop star could not be granted custody because she was single and she had not lived in the country for the minimum period prescribed by inter-country adoption laws.

The little girl’s father, who placed his daughter in an orphanage because he cannot afford to care for her is devastated that Madonna is able to adopt his daughter and take her out of the country according to the Daily Mirror, a British newspaper.

Mercy’s dad, James Kambewa is quoted as saying, “I am devastated. I did not even know that the judges were making a ruling about Madonna adopting my child on that day…I feel betrayed by my countrymen who gave me a deaf ear because I am poor and Madonna is rich.”

DISCUSSION: Will Condoms make the African Aids crisis worse?

March 17, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

The Guardian reported today that the Pope reignited the controversy over the Catholic church’s stance on condom use as he made his first trip to Africa, saying condoms were not the answer to the continent’s fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse. Benedict XVI made his comments as he flew to Cameroon for the first leg of a six-day trip that will also see him travelling to Angola.

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