Post Colonial Moment: Paris is Burning - Part Two

From Reuters

By Anna Willard

PARIS - Life has not improved for the inhabitants of France's poor, ethnically diverse suburbs since the riots of 2005, despite millions of euros in cash pledges and President Nicolas Sarkozy's election promises.

High unemployment, underperforming schools, poor relations with the police, inadequate housing and controversial new immigration laws have created a generation of frustrated youths ready to turn to violence at any time.

Locals say it is not surprising that the deaths of two teenagers in a crash with police in the Villiers-le-Bel suburb of northern Paris led to scenes that revived memories of 2005, when France's worst urban riots in 40 years erupted.

"Nothing has changed," said Mehdi Bigaderne, a spokesman for ACLEFEU, an association helping youths in Clichy-sous-Bois.

"I don't think they learnt any lessons from 2005." The violence two years ago began in Clichy-sous-Bois when two teenagers were electrocuted after apparently fleeing police.

The prime minister at the time, Dominique de Villepin, promised to restore millions of euros in funding for community projects in sensitive areas, funds the public accounts body this month said had often failed to reach their destination.

Sarkozy, who as interior minister took a tough line on the 2005 rioters and was blamed for stoking the violence, called for affirmative action to help non-whites get fair treatment.

During this year's presidential election campaign he called for a "Marshall Plan 2", a reference to the U.S. aid granted to rebuild post-war France, to offer 250,000 youngsters in the 750 most deprived areas paid training and work experience.


Despite the long list of promises, nothing has changed.

"The inhabitants highlighted four problems: the police, education, unemployment and the status of immigrants," said sociologist Laurent Mucchielli.

"On schools, that has not moved forward one iota, you have only to look at the results. The fall in unemployment doesn't seem to have reached these neighbourhoods. As for the police, it's even worse than before," he told the Le Parisien daily.

Local officials and residents have repeatedly called for a return to community policing, which was scrapped by Sarkozy during his stints at the interior ministry.

"Ten or 20 years ago, the police would come by and talk to us, now they just want to put the youngsters up against the wall and search them," said Samir Ghrabi who has lived in Villiers-le-Bel since 1973. "We need community police."

The 2005 riots also provoked a wider debate about better integration of second-generation immigrants who feel alienated by mainstream society, despite being born in France.

A recent law on immigration that introduces language assessments and optional DNA tests to verify family links, has made them feel more marginalised.

Sarkozy has sought to offer non-whites role models in his government by naming Rachida Dati as justice minister and Fadela Amara as junior towns minister. Both are of North African origin.

Amara will present a plan for the suburbs in January but it may be too little, too late.

"Promises were made. We see the results today," Francois Hollande, the Socialist leader, said.

"There's talk of a plan for the suburbs. How long have we been talking about a 'plan for the suburbs'?" (Reporting by Anna Willard and Brian Rohan; Editing by Jon Boyle)



What will Bush's legacy be?

Clearly in an effort to make sure his legacy isn't just remembered for the monstrosity of a disaster known as the Iraq War, President Bush honestly believes he can solve the six-decade long Middle East conflict in the 14 months left in his term. In the above picture Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert awkwardly shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the so-called Annapolis Summit. Even they know that this is a joke of a PR stint.

Isn't it interesting that the White House wants to bring peace to one part of the world, and their is U.S. made havoc going just a few hundred miles away...


Zim Watch: Are Mugabe and Smith the same person?

Usually when controversial people die, everyone wants to look back at that person's life and what contribution - if any - they made to society. With the recent death of Ian Smith, the first Prime Minister of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), this is no different. However, the international community for the most part has been mute since his death. While many would regard him as a man of integrity (British conservatives and colonialists, of course), he will be mostly remembered for being a racist who let white minority rule go on for longer than it should have.

"I don't believe in Black Majority rule ever - not in a thousand years", he famously said.

While the international community was supportive of Smith being replaced by black priest Abel Tendekayi Muzorewi; nonetheless, it was the "freedom fighter" Robert Mugabe progressives were impressed with. He was suppose to be the great liberator who would bring justice to Africa.

Looking back now, did we make a mistake with Mugabe?

In the 25 years he has been in power he has brought the same amount of oppression on the Zimbabwean people - if not more - as Smith did. The Mugabe administration has been criticised around the world for corruption, suppression of political opposition, mishandling of land reform, economic mismanagement, and deteriorating human rights in Zimbabwe.

In supermarkets around Zimbabwe, food can't be found on shelves because of ridiculously high inflation rates. Actually it has the highest inflation rate in the world.

Like Smith, Mugabe is accused of racism, war criminality and causing Zimbabwe to be economically isolated from the world.

So what will Mugabe be remembered for when he passes...



Post Colonial Moment: The New Scramble for Africa

From Reuters:

Older white women join Kenya's sex tourists
By Jeremy Clarke

MOMBASA, Kenya - Bethan, 56, lives in southern England on the same street as best friend Allie, 64.

They are on their first holiday to Kenya, a country they say is "just full of big young boys who like us older girls."

Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex.

Allie and Bethan -- who both declined to give their full names -- said they planned to spend a whole month touring Kenya's palm-fringed beaches. They would do well to avoid the country's tourism officials.

"It's not evil," said Jake Grieves-Cook, chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board, when asked about the practice of older rich women traveling for sex with young Kenyan men.

"But it's certainly something we frown upon."

Also, the health risks are stark in a country with an AIDS prevalence of 6.9 percent. Although condom use can only be guessed at, Julia Davidson, an academic at Nottingham University who writes on sex tourism, said that in the course of her research she had met women who shunned condoms -- finding them too "businesslike" for their exotic fantasies.

The white beaches of the Indian Ocean coast stretched before the friends as they both walked arm-in-arm with young African men, Allie resting her white haired-head on the shoulder of her companion, a six-foot-four 23-year-old from the Maasai tribe.

He wore new sunglasses he said were a gift from her.

"We both get something we want -- where's the negative?" Allie asked in a bar later, nursing a strong, golden cocktail.

She was still wearing her bikini top, having just pulled on a pair of jeans and a necklace of traditional African beads.

Bethan sipped the same local drink: a powerful mix of honey, fresh limes and vodka known locally as "Dawa," or "medicine."

She kept one eye on her date -- a 20-year-old playing pool, a red bandana tying back dreadlocks and new-looking sports shoes on his feet.

He looked up and came to join her at the table, kissing her, then collecting more coins for the pool game.


Grieves-Cook and many hotel managers say they are doing all they can to discourage the practice of older women picking up local boys, arguing it is far from the type of tourism they want to encourage in the east African nation.

"The head of a local hoteliers' association told me they have begun taking measures -- like refusing guests who want to change from a single to a double room," Grieves-Cook said.

"It's about trying to make those guests feel as uncomfortable as possible ... But it's a fine line. We are 100 percent against anything illegal, such as prostitution. But it's different with something like this -- it's just unwholesome."

These same beaches have long been notorious for attracting another type of sex tourists -- those who abuse children.

As many as 15,000 girls in four coastal districts -- about a third of all 12-18 year-olds girls there -- are involved in casual sex for cash, a joint study by Kenya's government and U.N. children's charity UNICEF reported late last year.

Up to 3,000 more girls and boys are in full-time sex work, it said, some paid for the "most horrific and abnormal acts."


Emerging alongside this black market trade -- and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down -- are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men.

They go dining at fine restaurants, then dancing, and back to expensive hotel rooms overlooking the coast.

"One type of sex tourist attracted the other," said one manager at a shorefront bar on Mombasa's Bamburi beach.

"Old white guys have always come for the younger girls and boys, preying on their poverty ... But these old women followed ... they never push the legal age limits, they seem happy just doing what is sneered at in their countries."

Experts say some thrive on the social status and financial power that comes from taking much poorer, younger lovers.

"This is what is sold to tourists by tourism companies -- a kind of return to a colonial past, where white women are served, serviced, and pampered by black minions," said Nottinghan University's Davidson.


Many of the visitors are on the lookout for men like Joseph.

Flashing a dazzling smile and built like an Olympic basketball star, the 22-year-old said he has slept with more than 100 white women, most of them 30 years his senior.

"When I go into the clubs, those are the only women I look for now," he told Reuters. "I get to live like the rich mzungus (white people) who come here from rich countries, staying in the best hotels and just having my fun."

At one club, a group of about 25 dancing men -- most of them Joseph look-alikes -- edge closer and closer to a crowd of more than a dozen white women, all in their autumn years.

"It's not love, obviously. I didn't come here looking for a husband," Bethan said over a pounding beat from the speakers.

"It's a social arrangement. I buy him a nice shirt and we go out for dinner. For as long as he stays with me he doesn't pay for anything, and I get what I want -- a good time. How is that different from a man buying a young girl dinner?"



I've been listening to the 'rong radio station

Check out Benjamin Zephaniah's video:


The new bitch in town...

Now that Tony Blair is gone, I guess Nicolas Sarkozy is Bush's new 'poodle'!


‘Price of Sugar’ documentary offers food for thought

Talia Whyte
Originally published in the Bay State Banner

Sugar is one of the most used commodities in the world, but few people think about the story behind the sweetener in their coffee cups. Local filmmaker Bill Haney’s new documentary suggests that if they did, they would realize that sugar is not only a political landmine, but also quite literally a life and death issue.

Haney’s controversial “The Price of Sugar,” which debuts for Greater Boston audiences tomorrow at Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, explores modern day slavery and racial strife at one sugar cane plantation in the Dominican Republic. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2006 report on human rights in the Caribbean island, there are over 650,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants living and working in Dominican sugar cane camps known as “bateyes.” Many of these immigrants come to the Dominican Republic hoping to escape political and economic unrest in their homeland, but soon find themselves in an even direr situation.

The workers’ journey begins when they are smuggled across the Haitian border during the night, and are immediately stripped of any identification. Once in the bateyes, they are placed under harsh conditions, forced to work 12 hours a day cutting cane and making only enough money to sometimes buy one meal a day. They live in substandard housing with limited or no electricity or running water, and Haitian children have inadequate access to education. The immigrants also have limited access to health care; many die from preventable illnesses like diarrhea and malnutrition.

If the workers try to escape, they are subject to beatings, or worse, murder, by armed guards. Even if they make it out of the bateyes, without any identifying documentation they can’t even leave town, let alone return to Haiti.

Haney became aware of the situation a couple of years ago while doing volunteer work with Dr. Kim Wilson, a Children’s Hospital Boston pediatrician who provides health care services for the underprivileged in Latin America. While volunteering in the Dominican Republic, Haney met Rev. Christopher Hartley, who cares for both Dominicans and Haitian sugar cane cutters in his parish. For over three years, the priest has been battling with the Vicini family — one of five owners of sugar plantations in the country — to provide better living and working conditions for their workers.

Hartley asked Haney to come back and document the plight of the Haitians. Enthused by the priest’s dedication, Haney agreed.

“The father is inspirational,” said Haney during a telephone interview from New Orleans, where he is on location shooting his next film. “I felt really motivated by the work he is doing.”

Though he grew up privileged in Spain and England, Hartley has a long history of working for the rights of the poor. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school to become a priest, and as a young man in 1977 he traveled to India to work with Mother Teresa in her Home for the Dying.

In the Dominican Republic, Hartley has built housing compounds and created social service programs for the Haitians, much to the dismay of the native Dominican population — the documentary shows death threats against Hartley posted on street signs. The priest finds himself caught in the middle of the long, estranged relationship between Dominicans and Haitians, which dates back to the days of colonialism and nearly boils over into a deadly race riot in the film.

While the human rights violations and Hartley’s struggles may interest some, the question remains: Why should Americans in general care about this problem?

The answer: The Dominican Republic is the largest supplier of sugar to the United States through preferentially negotiated import restrictions and quotas. According to Haney, although the sugar industry only makes up 1 percent of American agricultural business, it contributes more money to politicians than any other agricultural lobbyist group in the country. And because of preferential trade agreements, Dominican sugar is sold at twice the price of sugars imported from the rest of the world — with American consumers subsidizing the cost.

For obvious reasons, the Vicini family is none too happy with Haney’s film — they have hired Miami-based public relations firm Newlink to clear their tainted reputation in America, and Haney says that Grupo Vicini, the family’s corporation, has made every effort to make sure the documentary is not seen in the Dominican Republic. A Washington law firm has also sent a cease-and-desist order to Haney on the Vicinis’ behalf, arguing that 45 statements in the film made false accusations against them.

“They think that because they have a lot of money, they can push around human rights filmmakers who usually don’t have a lot of money,” Haney said.

Nonetheless, Haney says “The Price of Sugar” has been well received not only by Haitian Americans, but also by audiences at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Congressmen will view the film in Washington this week with Father Hartley in attendance, and Haney says he is working closely with Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern on this issue.

Despite that momentum, there have been negative developments since Haney shot his film over a year ago. Hartley was forced out of the Dominican Republic last year by his diocese because of the hostility surrounding his efforts, and now lives in Ethiopia. Since his departure, the housing and social services he created have not been maintained.

However, Haney is hopeful the film will inspire viewers to think twice about what they eat and what impact their everyday choices can have on the lives of others.

“I hope people enjoy the film,” he said, “but I also hope they will be engaged in what is going in the world.”

“The Price of Sugar” debuts tomorrow in an exclusive one-week Boston-area engagement at Kendall Square Cinema, 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge. For show times and ticket information, call 617-499-1996.


Outcry to find missing Haitian activist hits Boston

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in the Bay State Banner

Boston-area activists have joined the growing international contingent voicing concern about the welfare of missing Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.

“The fact that the Haitian government and the U.S. government are not doing anything about this is just not right,” said Josué Renaud, director of the New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti. “After two months, no one is taking this seriously.”

An outspoken advocate for Haiti’s poor majority, Pierre-Antoine was last seen leaving his Port-au-Prince home just before midnight Aug. 12. Before vanishing, he had been leading a joint U.S.-Canadian human rights delegation in Haiti, according to the People’s Weekly World newspaper. Some leading the effort to locate Pierre-Antoine believe that because of his outspoken nature, there are certain opponents who want to keep him quiet.

“He could have been taken by people who are opposed to him politically, possibly someone he knows,” said Pierre-Antoine’s wife, Michele, during a telephone interview. “He is very popular with the poorest people in Haiti, and there are a lot of people who don’t like that, even the elite there.”

Michele Pierre-Antoine said she has gotten no help from the Haitian government, and that she continues to call the Haitian police weekly about searching for her husband, but they don’t seem eager to help. She said the U.S. Embassy in Haiti told her that they didn’t have time to look for him.

Over the last two months, activists and politicians in Boston have worked to raise local awareness of Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance, calling for the world’s governments to take action.

Several local human rights groups hosted an Oct. 19 press conference in front of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Government Center, demanding that the U.S. Embassy in Haiti initiate a full-scale search for Pierre-Antoine. They also plan to hold a vigil there every other Friday until Pierre-Antoine is found. According to the press conference’s organizers, U.S. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry have placed multiple telephone calls and e-mails to the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti over the past two months to no avail.

There is also a letter being signed by a growing list of local officials, including City Councilors Chuck Turner, Sam Yoon and Felix Arroyo, that will be sent soon to the U.S., Canadian and Brazilian governments demanding a full search for Pierre-Antoine.

“We all need to recognize the human rights situation,” said Turner, who has been involved in political activism locally on behalf of Haitians for years. “It is important that Americans stand up to injustices, no matter where they are happening.”

To many, Pierre-Antoine is seen as a voice for the voiceless. He founded the September 30 Foundation, or Fondayson Trant Septanm, an organization that advocates on behalf of family members of victims of the military coup d’état against former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that took place Sept. 30, 1991. The foundation’s work is similar to the internationally renowned Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an association of mothers whose children “disappeared“ under the military dictatorship in Argentina between 1976 and 1983. Like the Mothers, the September 30 Foundation have for over a decade held weekly vigils demanding justice for victims of human rights violations and the release of political prisoners.

A trained psychologist, Pierre-Antoine also runs several programs in Port-au-Prince that provide medical and psychological aid for teen mothers and homeless youth.

Lynn Currier — director of the Haitkaah Social Justice Center in Randolph, an organization that works with at-risk youth in both Boston and Haiti — is a close friend of Pierre-Antoine and his family, and has gone on a hunger strike until the U.S. Embassy starts a search for Pierre-Antoine. Before his disappearance, the two were working to build a supportive community in Haiti for orphans.

“Most people don’t care about these kids in Haiti, but he does,” Currier said. “He doesn’t just work in an office; he was out there in the streets working with the youth.”

Pierre-Antoine and his family went into exile in Maryland in 2004 and became permanent U.S. residents. He has been invited to many events in Boston to raise awareness about human rights violations in Haiti, including a press conference and meeting hosted by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and Haitkaah Social Justice Center with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., at Roxbury Community College during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Following last year’s election of new Haitian President René Préval, Pierre-Antoine began traveling back and forth to Haiti to continue his advocacy.

Political kidnappings are commonplace in Haiti. But Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance is especially suspicious because he has been missing for more than two months, and kidnapping victims are usually kept captive for a very short time.

Currier is optimistic that he is still alive .

“We are part of a much bigger movement,” she said. “People around the world want to seek justice for Lovinsky.”