SOTU Africa Blog

Sophie Mokoena, Editor SABC News

African media editors commit to play their part in development of the continent through objective reporting

 

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A major two day meeting of African editors, managing editors, media owners, representatives of journalists’ unions and African media organisations has concluded in the Ghanaian capital Accra, with concrete agreements on how the media can use its agenda setting role to tell the story of Africa to the continent and internationally.

Bringing together over 30 top level African media personalities from all five regions of the continent, the forum from 11 to 12 June was organised and sponsored by the State of the Union (SOTU) and Oxfam, with support from the African Media Initiative (AMI) and the African Union Commission.

The selection of senior level participants was therefore meant to enable the meeting not only to discuss, but also to make decisions on the way forward in communicating about developments on the African continent.  The forum provided opportunity for frank interaction between the AU and the media, with a combination of information sharing, discussions, brainstorming and planning.

To support the discussions, the AUC delegation distributed copies of the African Union handbook and the first ten year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 as key resources. Media took the opportunity to highlight the challenges they face in reporting on the African Union’s activities and to suggest ways of improvement. However, throughout the debates, all the participants underscored their total commitment to playing their part in the development of the continent through objective reporting and analysis of the African Union’s work through Agenda 2063.

Ambassador Jean Mfasoni- Special Advisor to the AUC Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, made a presentation on Understanding the African Union, taking the editors through the aspirations and major expected outcomes of Africa’s Agenda 2063, as well as key successes that have been achieved under the Agenda to date.  Examples were drawn from the areas of peace, stability, good governance, democracy and human rights; agriculture, natural resource management and food security; inclusive economic development and industrialization; health, education and employment; resource mobilization; a people’s African Union; and institutional capacities and relations with regional economic communities, AU organs and partners. Participants welcomed the information, saying that it had shed light on some issues they had not been aware of before.  “Our media needs to reflect the true Africa as it is, in an accountable and transparent manner, with its positive achievements and negative aspects to be corrected in order to reach better levels of performance for the benefit of all African peoples”, said Ambassador Mfasoni, adding “your sustained efforts can greatly facilitate public awareness of the Africa we want, around its seven aspirations”.

Ms Osai Ojigho, SOTU coordinator explained that her organisation is committed to working with the AU Commission to popularise the work of the African Union and the impact it is making on the continent. “SOTU is pushing African voices in support of the AU”, she noted. Explaining why SOTU decided to fund the editor’s forum, she said, “We want to bring the AU closer to the people” and we need dialogue to see how best we can do it together”. Ms Ojigho presented an analysis of the status of ratification and domestication of key instruments of the African Union, adding that SOTU is engaged in lobbying for the ratification of all AU instruments continent wide as they had been adopted by Heads of State and Government to advance Africa’s development.

Mr Eric Chinje of the African Media initiative announced the impending launch of an information exchange platform, which would greatly benefit attempts to collate and share information coming from different media houses for more effective distribution to the African continent. He urged media to feel a sense of commitment to the continent, and play their part in achieving the goals of the AU, while at the same time urging the African Union to fully recognise the place and role of the media. He particularly pointed to the responsibility of the gathered editors, saying the outcomes of the meeting should be more concrete and practical than those of previous meetings. He presented an analysis on media coverage of AU summits, and led a discussion on areas where the media felt more support was required.

Mrs Wynne Musabayana, the AUC’s Deputy Head of Communication and Information presented a technical paper on the spaces available to the media to interact with the AU. These include a media center, interviews and press conferences, an agency service, publications, website, social media, live streaming, multi-media, and branding. She provided information on the main communication entry points, giving contact details of officers responsible for each function; from the office of the Chairperson to the general Commission. She also took the participants through planned activities to enhance the work of the media such as the proposed AU media awards, improved functions on the website, and proposed the formation of an editors’ database.

The ensuing debate shed light on the media’s work processes and requirements. She highlighted the necessity for a long term, substantive relationship with key African media editors- one that has clear strategies and an action plan so as to effectively tell the story of Africa. She also informed participants of the upcoming editors’ forum to be held in Kigali, Rwanda on the side lines of the summit of the African Union, using it as an example of the Commission’s commitment to work with and through the media.

Ms Marceline Nyambala of the Association of Kenya Media Women took the meeting through the topic ”News sources; What makes news and what does not- the role of media in making the news”. After the discussions, the editors agreed that “everything that happens at the AU is newsworthy”. It all depends on how it is packaged.  Ms Sophie Mokoena of the South African Broadcasting Corporation presented a summary of the first day’s proceedings, emphasising the need for practical and serious efforts at telling the African narrative. She highlighted the need for leaders across the continent to avail themselves to the media in order to project the continent correctly. “Give us the story and we will provide the platform to communicate with audiences”, she said.  Ms Jane Godia – Editor of the African Women and Child Features Services discussed “Media’s role in showcasing women leaders across the continent”- a topic that led to positive pronouncements on the need to not only profile high flying women, but also to shed light on those performing critical functions in lower positions as well as on supporting the girl child to have equal status and opportunities in life.

Mr Emmanuel Bensah of the Africa in Focus Show led a session on “African civil society organisations and the media; effective use of media and managing relations”, while Mr  Victor Nyambok spoke about SOTU’s “My African Union” campaign- an effort by the organisation to promote the African Union.  T

he meeting came away with what it identified as concrete proposals that are expected to lead to more robust reporting on the AU.

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SOTU Malawi convenes the National Citizen Conference on Human Rights and Governance

The National Advocacy Platform (NAP) under the State of the Union (SOTU) governance programme in Malawi, on 23rd March 2016 held a National Citizen Conference on Human Rights and Governance at Hotel Victoria in Blantyre.

The conference was held to assess the human rights and governance situation in Malawi in recognition to the African Union (AU) theme for 2016 ”The African Year of Human Rights with a Particular Focus of the Rights of Women”.

Over 90 delegates drawn from civil society and citizen groups attended the one-day conference. Mrs. Margaret Ali, the Executive Director for Save the Children Fund Malawi graced the occasion as Guest of Honour.

During the forum, key priority issues were identified by sector that will inform the drafting of the 2016 Grand Petition (ll) to be used as an engagement tool as the platform tracks the domestication and implementation of AU Charters and protocols. The Conference also helped to generate a plan for Sectoral Engagements for the SOTU programme.

Following incisive and engaging discussions, the NAP called upon the Malawi Government, the African Union, Political parties, the Malawi Police Service, Religious Leaders, Private Sector and the Civil society to put in place measures that promote, defend and support the human rights programmes for the benefit of ordinary citizens.

Recommendations arising from the conference included;

Compliance and Accountability: There is need for authorities, duty bearers and all stakeholders to ensure that there is total compliance and accountability in formulation and implementation of development programmes.

Human and Peoples Rights: Government and all stakeholders should eliminate and deal with all violations of human rights including arbitrary arrests, killing of albinos, political violence, and other human rights abuses.

Democracy, Elections and Governance: Government, political parties and other stakeholders should nurture and embrace a culture of democracy and respect for freedoms enshrined in legal and policy instruments.

Health: Access to quality health care services is a human right. Patients need to be accorded their rights by providing the necessary human resource, food, drugs and equipment in all the hospitals.

Food Security: Sustainable means of ensuring food security such as irrigation and increased investment need to be put in place before the next farming season.

Women Rights: Effective programmes and interventions must be put in place to politically and economically equip women and girls advance their rights. Women need to be involved in decision making, “Nothing for Women without Women”.

Corruption: Fight against corruption must be independent to ensure that all cases of corruption are concluded. It is a major catalysts of human rights abuses and violence as it affects social service delivery in education, health and other sectors.

Children and Youth: Over 65% Malawi’s population is young people below the age of 24. Child rights abuses must be combated. Youth poverty, illiteracy, and political abuse pose a greater danger to the Malawi society, hence the need to place children and youth at the center of development.

Environment Conservation: Environment degradation and climate change are hindering the enjoyment of human rights for poor sections of the society. Reports of heavy-handedness and abuse by the Malawi army in the forest reserves need to be propped and stopped.

Human rights and good governance is key to achieving development goals. The NAP urged the Malawi government and the African Union (AU) to effectively implement Project 2016 on human rights with a special attention to the rights of women and girls.

The meeting concluded that for Malawi to advance, human rights and good governance must be adopted as strong tools for fostering equality and justice for all citizens. The rights and freedoms enshrined in various national and regional instruments need to be realized for the benefit of citizens.

CSOs and citizen groups present, committed to engage the authorities and various stakeholders to ensure that human rights are a priority focus in democratic and development processes.

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SOTU Africa Ghar El Meleh marathon in Tunisia – Engaging African citizens through sports

The 4th edition of the Ghar El Meleh marathon, Tunisia.
Using sports to engage African citizens to act/do/engage/speak-out on matters that affect their development, freedoms and rights ‪#‎BeTheVoice‬ My African Union

The State of the Union (SOTU) Coalition in Tunisia led by the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR), a, held a marathon in partnership with the LAZARET association for youth and sports. This was part of outlined activities under My African Union campaign that seeks to mobilize African citizens to be the voice that calls on African governments to implement the commitments they have adopted in the form of legal instruments and policy standards at the African Union (AU).

The project aims at Strengthening Tunisian Citizens’ Participation in Policy Development, Monitoring and Implementation within the African Union”. Persons with disability as well as the young and old joined in to race. Efforts from SOTU have seen Tunisian citizens increasingly engage with issues of the African Union and participate in debates and discussions on them.

The event was also attended by the India ambassador to Tunisia, the Regional Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Mr. Abdelkarim Fatnasi, and the Governor of Ghar El Melh, Mr. Sofiene Ben Faddah. This is one of the events that SOTU in Tunisia put together to sensitize and educate the Tunisian youth on the campaign.

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SOTU Tunisia sign cooperation agreement on Scientific Research in African Affairs

SOTU Tunisia May 4th, 2016: Mr. Abdelbasset Ben Hassen, President of the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) and Professor Dr. Hedi Jallab, General Director of the Tunisian National Archives (a State Institution under the Prime Minister Office), signed a cooperation agreement on Scientific Research in African Affairs.

This agreement is one of the implementation tools of AIHR-SOTU project titled: “Strengthening Strengthening Tunisian Citizens Participation in Policy Development, Implementation and Monitoring within the African Union”. It includes a set of activities amongst: 1) establishing a research study that outlines the peculiarities of Tunisian relations with various countries across the African continent, and 2) preparing an exhibition of archives documents about Africa on the occasion of African Day (May 25th).

A number of academics and researchers attended the signing event amongst we mention: Professor Dr. Hayet Amamou, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tunis, Professor Dr. Mustapha Tlili, Head of the Department of History at the same faculty, and Professor Dr. Lotfi Aissa, who is leading the preparation of the aforementioned study. A number of Tunisian National Archives staff were present together with experts and researchers taking part in other activities of the same program.

On behalf of the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) Ms. Lamia Grar, Executive Director and Ms. Rola Badran, Programs Officer were present together with Mr. Bassem Ammari, Media Officer and Mr. Mouldi Abidi, Officer in charge of Public Relations and Protocols.

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SOTU Malawi Grand Petition ll to Government on May 25 Africa Day 2016

The National Advocacy Platform (NAP) under the State of the Union (SOTU) coalition in Malawi presented the Grand Petition ll to the Malawi Government through the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) as part of commemoration of the Africa Day, 25 May.

The Principal Secretary of OPC Mr. Clement Chinthu Phiri received the Petition on behalf of the Malawi Government for forwarding to the Head of State. Through the Chairperson, Mr. Robert Mkwezalamba, NAP has called for urgent attention to the issues raised and recommendations made.

Among the urgent issues raised included the call for decisive actions to stop the killing of People with Albinism. As we celebrate Africa Day 2016, it is being reported that a new murder case in Tcheu district has emerged. It involved a man with Albinism who was attacked while working in his dambo field. These killings are unacceptable and need to be tackled with urgency.

Below is the summary of the Grand Petition ll 

KEY ASKS OF THIS GRAND PETITION II (2016)

The National Advocacy Platform (NAP) comprising civil society and citizen groups
believes that for Malawi to make remarkable progress on its effort to address political,
social and economic challenges, and to ensure that all citizens enjoy equal rights
enshrined in the various legal and policy instruments including the Republican
Constitution, the following are the key asks the Government of Malawi and other
stakeholders should seriously and expeditiously ACT ON:

1. Stop the killings of people with albinism and severely punish the perpetrators
of this inhuman and barbaric violence against citizens. JUSTICE must be served.

2. Eradicate all forms of violence and discrimination against children, women,
people with disability and political opponents- such acts are unacceptable.

3. End hunger by depoliticizing the agriculture sector, invest in massive irrigation
programmes and declare maize as a protected crop.

4. Ensure that public hospitals have food, drugs and functional medical equipment-
the breakdown of health care system is affecting the poor most.

5. Decisively act against corruption by bringing to book and punishing all persons
implicated in government offices and district councils.

6. Complete the 2006/2007 Constitutional Review process to comprehensively
respond to emerging political and governance concerns and harmonize the
reform agenda. This process is long-overdue and remains a key governance
issue that needs urgent attention.

7. Enhance compliance with regional and international charters and protocols such
as the AU instruments for the benefit of citizens.

8. Ensure that all children of Malawi are accorded the right to education and
protection irrespective of their background, social status, and physical abilities-
the education crisis concerning the school dropout by children with albinism in
fear of attacks must be investigated and mechanisms be put in place to ensure
that these children return to school

9. Prioritize youth development by establishing Parliamentary youth committee
and awarding young entrepreneurs 30% of public contracts as a response to
rising youth unemployment.

10. Ratify the Revised AU Convention on Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources and invest in climate change mitigation programmes.