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Africa News Briefs from Global Information Network

Lisa Vives Feb 4

Website Developed in Kenya is Helping Haiti

A website first developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2007 is being used to help focus where help is urgently needed in post-earthquake Haiti.

Ushahidi, the website whose name means “testimony” in Swahili, has been used in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor unrest and al-Jazeera used it to track violence in Gaza. It was also used to monitor the 2009 Indian elections and to help gather reports during the swine flu outbreak.

“Born from post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, Ushahidi provided invaluable assistance to those providing relief,” said Ory Okolloh, Ushahidi’s co-founder and executive director at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The open-source Ushahidi platform has already received and mapped 13,000 calls of help from people in Port-au Prince. The website can be found at ushahidi.com.

Gaddafi Pleads with Obama to Lay Down the Guns

Libyan leader, Moummar Gaddafi, speaking at the recently concluded African Union summit in Ethiopia, called on President Barack Obama to end all U.S.-sponsored wars around the world.

The Libyan leader singled out Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine as battles which were unjust.

“The war against Iraq and Afghanistan is not profitable for America and as a matter of fact, (these wars) were lost as soon as they began. America is today involved in the Iraqi quagmire and is also lost in the Afghan mountains and has achieved none of its objectives and this represents very complicated situations inherited by Obama ,” Gaddhafi observed.

The Libyan leader, whose term as head of the AU was expiring, handed over the AU mantle to president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika.

Also at the summit, the African Union unveiled its new flag—a dark green background symbolizing hope, and stars to represent Member States.

‘No Excuse to Remain Poor,’ Says New AU President

Incoming African Union chairperson and President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, told the assembled African nations at his swearing in ceremony that Africa has no excuse to remain poor.

While Africa has multiple problems, the continent was not poor, he said, but was endowed with great mineral wealth and other resources, which the developed world was exploiting.

Since 2010 is viewed as a year for Africa, he said the chance had come for Africa to be recognized.

“We should remain committed as African Union to the principles of development, peace and security in Africa … five years from now, no African child should die of malnutrition or go to bed hungry,” he declared.

Dr. Wa Mutharika, 76, is a former Economics Minister and World Bank official who studied at the University of Delhi. Born and raised in the tea-growing district of Thyolo, he entered politics at a young age and narrowly won the presidency in a hotly contested election in 2004. He was re-elected on a pledge to fight corruption in 2009.

In 2005, he helped Malawi weather one of its worst food shortages—producing 45 percent less than the national requirement—by giving out seed and fertilizer at a reduced cost.

De Klerk Lauded for Freeing Mandela 20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago today, former president F.W. de Klerk called an end to the racist system of apartheid. Not long after, he ordered the release from prison of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

De Klerk was “one of the braver apartheid rulers,” observed former ANC secretary general Cyril Ramaphosa in an interview with SABC radio.

“Of all the apartheid rulers he was the braver one, who took the steps,” Ramaphosa said, but added, “He had to do it….His hand had been forced by pressure inside and outside the country for reforms.”

Mandela was released from Victor Verster prison near Cape Town nine days later to scenes of wild rejoicing and led the ANC in three years of multi-party negotiations on the transition to democracy.

“By 3:30, I began to get restless,” recalled Mandela in his book Long Walk to Freedom, “as we were already behind schedule. I told the members of the Reception Committee that my people had been waiting for me for twenty-seven years and I did not want to keep them waiting any longer…

“When I was among the crowd I raised my right fist, and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for twenty-seven years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy. As I finally walked through those gates to enter a car on the other side, I felt—even at the age of seventy-one—that my life was beginning anew.

“My ten thousand days of imprisonment were at last over.” Many years later, when the book Long Walk to Freedom appeared, Mandela was asked about a movie version and he suggested that he be played by actor Morgan Freeman. That movie, Invictus, is now showing at cinemas worldwide.

These briefs are published weekly by Global Information Network.

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