Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Congo Basin and its Significance in The Fight Against Climate Change

Jean-Paul Kibambe, Ingrid Schulze, and Samuel Yagase discussed the impact and importance of the Congo Basin to the rest of the world, with host Lys Alcayna-Stevens presenting and leading the discussion. Each panelist has been involved in developing the Congo positively, such as bridging the divide between rural communities and intellectuals or working in or funding higher education and rainforest conservation. The Congo Basin stores more carbon than the Amazon and Asian rainforests combined and can affect the climate on other continents. This shows how significant the Congo Basin is. The discussion focused on topics of international funding, respecting the local agenda, and letting Congolese citizens be the leader of changing their communities.  

Click here to support flood relief in Isangi, DRC.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Connecting Our African + African-American Brothers & Sisters

The painful destruction of African families and tribes due to colonization is one that had irreparable effects on the Black community leading to generations of kids not having the privilege every other racial group did, knowing their history. Slavery was the colonizer’s history. Their shameful, bloody takeover of the land from the Native Americans was led by enslaving beautifully melanated Africans and forcing them to do slave labor. Even after years of attempts to liberate ourselves from the chains and whips, we still face brutality in a land forced onto us.

Acknowledging that African-Americans were stripped of knowing their real identity and ancestry, Africans can trace the country from where their families stayed from going generations back. We are all seen and treated the same but, we all have different stories and backgrounds. Learning to accept and embrace each other while respecting that some of our brothers & sisters were robbed of learning their true history is the key to building relationships and uniting for the strengthening of our communities to become one, as we always have and will be.

Azameet G
Communications Director
UC Merced

Thursday, October 01, 2020

AFRICOM: Deadly Deception

On October 1, 2007, the United States under the presidency of George W. Bush and the military leadership of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, launched the Africa Command (AFRICOM). The command was based in Stuttgart, Germany. In the same vein as the 1884/85 Berlin Conference, AFRICOM was a wholly external concoction to be imposed on Africans without their input or consent. In fact, when African leaders first heard of the establishment of an African command, they overwhelmingly rejected its intent to expand U.S. military presence on the African continent. Even during President Bush's trip to the continent in 2008, African leaders roundly rejected US military expansion on the continent. The only country that was amenable to the presence of AFRICOM on African soil was Liberia under the leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Although Bush appointed Morgan State University graduate, Kip Ward, an African American four-star general to head up AFRICOM and continued to claim that the intent of AFRICOM was not to establish US military bases in Africa, he still faced stiff resistance. Kip Ward waxed eloquently about AFRICOM being established to support humanitarian assistance efforts in Africa, build wells and prevent conflict.

In order for otherwise reasonable and critical people to buy the deception of the US military having as its main aim, humanitarian assistance support and peace and stability in Africa, they have to already subscribe to certain preconceived notions about Africa and Africans. In essence, the US military has traded in the notion that Africa is a poor continent in need of charity. Although the opposite is true - that Africa is a rich continent, in fact the richest continent on the planet in natural resources that has been plundered for the past 500 years, starting with the trafficking in African bodies and today with the super exploitation of oil, copper, cobalt, coltan, diamonds, gold, bauxite, timber and myriad other natural riches. The charity propaganda combined with the command being led by a Black man and then to be championed by a Black president with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the resistance to AFRICOM became exceedingly difficult. The path was cleared under the Obama presidency to the point where the US military presence on the African continent expanded nearly 2,000 percent under his presidency. In addition, under the Obama administration with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Susan Rice as US Ambassador to the United Nations, AFRICOM led the bombing of Libya in cahoots with NATO to effect "regime change" in Libya by removing Muammar Gaddafi from power. Hillary Clinton infamously stated on her visit to Libya after the murder of Gaddafi "We came, we saw, he died"
Today, Libya and the surrounding countries in the Sahel, particularly Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali are a living hell due to the fall out from the Nato/AFRICOM bombing campaign and subsequent government overthrow in Libya.

Should one make an objective assessment of one of AFRICOM's signature claims at its inception - to bring stability and assist in advancing peace and stability in Africa - one would have to conclude that AFRICOM has been an abject failure. However, knowledgeable people know that AFRICOM's real aim was never peace nor stability but rather strategic interests. The United States uses its military throughout the globe to bring about full spectrum domination and Africa is no exception. A case in point is the United States' recent push to acquire permission from Kenya to conduct drone strikes in its territory. Should Somalia serve as an example or model where US drone strikes have killed civilians, Kenyans would be forewarned to categorically reject this request from the US.

Today, Thursday, October 1, 2020 on the International Day of Action on AFRICOM:  Shut Down AFRICOM we encourage you to join the Black Alliance for Peace by going to their site, download the materials, disseminate the press release that came out today and encourage your networks to take action to SHUT Down AFRICOM.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Pan-African Response to COVID-19: A Review

Pan-African Response to COVID-19: A Review
Achint Das, Intern, FOTC

Friends of the Congo-Atlanta organized a forum on the Pan-African Response to COVID-19, and the call was moderated by Carl Kananda, who is part of the Friends of the Congo Atlanta network. It covered a diverse array of topics, all related to the global epidemic disrupting society today. All the speakers, including Mr. Martin Azaboy Bunziga of the Telema Youth Movement, Mr. Diallo Kenyatta of the African World Order, Mr. Kambale Musavuli of the Center for Research on the Congo, Dr. Patricia Rodney of the Walter Rodney Foundation and Partners in Health, Education and Development (PHEAD), and Mr. Bernard Warner of the A & B Association of Persons with Disabilities, brought very important insights into the conversation that widened the audience's perspective on the outbreak response effort on the African continent and throughout the African world.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that similar to most issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the issue boils down to key core elements: malnutrition, misrepresentation, and oppression. If the people of the Congo are hungry, how can they focus on proper prevention techniques to keep them safe in the outbreak? Mr. Musavali's experience in supporting efforts to distribute soap and information speaks volumes about this issue. He was able to share how Congolese youth organized efforts to distribute over 20,000 soap bottles to the people of Kinshasa and educate them about best practices for avoiding the Coronavirus. The youth were met with this response: "we thank you for the soap and information, but before that, we need food." Adding to this is the issue of running water and stable homes, which unfortunately not every citizen has access to. Thus, the response effort does not start with social distancing and vaccination. Instead, it must be adapted to the community itself, a point brought up by many of the experts. If the Congo has the potential to feed the expected increase in the world's population of 2 billion by 2050, why are its people starving? Infrastructure has to be improved at the local level, and basic amenities must be established, closely monitored, and maintained before any other measure. Moreover, control of food production must not be in the hands of the elite, rich, and large international organizations.

We see this consistent issue of how people in the Congo are not the ones in control, even though they are the ones who have the right to be represented and accounted for. It is the typical "power lies in the hands of the few" to the extreme. In political, administrative, and governmental institutions, the common citizens are not the priority - money and influence are. This mindset leads to corruption and exploitation, even of healthcare and humanitarian efforts - the 70-page review by UN forces and aid groups that exposed corruption within the Ebola response, sexual exploitation of women and girls, and manipulation of delivery and procurement of supplies, is a prime example of this (link to this report.

Thus, the overwhelming call from the forum really highlighted how an effective health response and a permanent solution works from the ground up - attend to the basic needs of the people, push for institutional reform, and then call for Pan-African unity. That way, we can expect to see success like the nations in the Caribbean and Mauritius have experienced during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you are interested in viewing the archive of the forum, please click here.

We encourage you to support the efforts of the valiant Congolese youth in combating the Coronavirus by making a contribution to their GoFundMe Campaign.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Solidarity With African Americans

We, members of the popular mass movement, TELEMA, striving not only for the unity of Africa but also for its solidarity; reflecting on pan-Africanism as articulated by Thomas Sankara, gathered within our organization to reaffirm our solidarity with our African-American brothers and sisters.  Their oppression has been exposed yet again by the brutal and inhumane killing of George Floyd after the police officer of Minneapolis Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes while he was handcuffed and laid face down on the road.

Faced with this act of murder, the popular mass movement, TELEMA demands:
1. The African Union to follow closely the legal processes against Derek Chauvin;
2. African heads of state to challenge and confront the United States, especially at the level of the United Nations, about its human rights abuses of African-Americans;
3. Our brothers and sisters in the 54 African countries to demand of their political leaders to summon the American ambassadors in each country to account for the abuses that are occurring against African Americans;
4. Pan-African movements and organizations to stand together and be vigilant against the injustices that affect the sons and daughters of our dear African continent who were separated from us by the European slave trade.

Long live African American solidarity
Long live African American freedom
Long live African American unity
Long live the pan-Africanism of the people.

Done in Kinshasa, May 31, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Free Education in the DRC

Free Education in the DRC
By Francesca Dishueme

The administration of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the country where the majority of my family was born and raised, announced an initiative to enforce free education for primary school-children. A policy which has been introduced in the past and guaranteed by the constitution. The refund of school fees is in the works. I have my reservations.

While it is written in civil law, the ideal of compulsory education is simply not met throughout the DRC. Enrollment numbers are not suitable for a country nearing 81 million inhabitants. According to Northwestern University, enrollment rates stand at “40% overall for primary and secondary schools, and attendance is even worse in rural areas of the east where ethnic conflict persists”. In 2017, a national study on the DRC conducted by UNICEF found that an average of 95% of Congolese children are not participating in early childhood education or primary education. With the battered history and context of the DRC, government spending is a national concern. Unfortunately, a lot of progress has been at a snail's pace due to mismanagement of funds and corruption. There are so many systemic issues at play with the DRC and the education sector is no different.

Relatively, the public education I have seen in America while attending a public school myself is, granted, one that's ideal compared to places around the world. I'm familiar with “free education” being somewhat circumstantial. This past year, my fees for taking my chosen courses came out to $147. That’s just for classes. In my high school career (3 years), my family has spent around $1,000 for fees.

School fees are mandatory. They go directly towards providing adequate supplies and materials, teachers' salaries to recognize their labor and continuous training, the upkeep of school maintenance, ensuring transportation as a way to acknowledge the wide radius of students. Technology, lunches, courses, etc., etc.. Fees are the indirect costs to allocate for a school’s infrastructure and resources. So, it does act as a condition to getting an education.

America strongly enforces the law that requires a child to attend school for however many days out of the year. It’s an obligation to send your child to school. For low-income families at a greater disadvantage, they can be accommodated in order to maintain equal opportunity. For example, lunch fees would be reduced or completely waived if a family expressed financial insecurity. All in all, the system does its best to cater to a student's situation. The American school system as a whole centralizes and develops the change-makers of tomorrow because it’s free in its’ delivery. Access to education is free whereas tuition is not.

In the Congo, a Central African country with high unemployment and extreme poverty, struggle and stress find a home. The scale of urgency and vulnerability often forces the children to step up to the plate. So in too many cases, the decision is made to exclude education for the sake of reducing expenses. It’s not fair for children to strain themselves in their search to supply their family’s income. It’s not right for a child to choose between survival and education. That alone makes me incredibly frustrated. Theoretically, free education sounds beautiful. Right now, households in DRC are the major source of funding a school receives. That should not be the case, the Government should help foot the bill. “Promising to provide “free” education is not only in keeping with international standards and requirements, it is popular with people.” says Dr. Christina N’tchougan-Sonou, who has directed education projects in Africa for over 20 years. But reform needs to be practical before it is introduced to families that have been regularly under-served by former education policies. “If a school cannot collect some money from the parent, and the government doesn’t send the funding they promise (payment of teacher salaries, school building construction and maintenance, teaching materials), then the school directors don’t have anything to work with and sometimes have to close a school.” As mentioned, the chance of Government spending to actually reach the education sector and families is slim.

Congolese children often share their plea for access to quality education and a roadblock routinely mentioned is the adversity they face due to school fees. Of course, educational inequality should be eradicated and it is the Government’s responsibility to invest in its children. But, how in the world are schools to be funded? The new initiative for free education takes a commendable stab at raising school enrollment, but fails to address quality of education. Especially if there should be a sudden stream of enrolled students, the resources don’t stand a chance.

Mostly free education is a reasonable goal for the best interests of the schools and the children. I’m hoping for a more multi-sectoral response and better oversight by the higher-ups that can correct education management and accountability for DRC’s school network. Eliminating fees is a ways to go looking at the country’s trajectory. Before the kids get accustomed to a fleeting prospect and become even more disoriented by instability, questions should be raised. Will free education lead to the ineffective regulation of schools?

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Combating COVID19 From New York to the Congo: An Interview with Bibi Ndala

Bibi Ndala speaks at The People’s Forum in New York City

What do you do on a day to day basis in the battle against the coronavirus?
Bibi Ndala: The situation in the field guides my daily tasks. In the early days of the outbreak, I was coordinating and actively participating in the enrollment of clinics and hospitals to the Public Health Laboratory (PHL)'s eOrder system to facilitate the transmission of their specimens. Another aspect of my daily duties relates to problem resolution, which is a liaison role between hospitals and the laboratory to ensure that issues with problem specimens are resolved to minimize the impact on turnaround time. I also trained some of the staff that were hired to support the agency's efforts.

What are some of the key challenges that you face in carrying out your duties?
BN: Because this is an unprecedented situation, there is no real guideline in dealing with this outbreak. For most of us working, I believe that is the source of most of our daily challenges.

How do you cope with the stress and emotional challenges of being on the front lines in this battle against COVID-19?
BN: First, I am grateful to support the nurses and doctors treating patients by easing the testing process of their specimens. The Department of Health provides a lot of wellness and mental health support resources to the staff at PHL. Finally, I have a great network of friends and family that have been very supportive.

You just finished working on the Ebola task force in 2019 with doctors, activists, and policymakers. How does the coronavirus outbreak compare to what you witnessed with the 2019 Ebola outbreak in the Congo?
There are many lessons to be learned from the Ebola outbreak, especially for the Congolese government. Yet, it is hard for me to compare it to the current pandemic. Although insecurity in the region made the response challenging, most of the procedures applied during the Ebola outbreak were based on lessons learned from previous outbreaks. In the case of the novel-coronavirus, the modus operandi is not well known. Further, health systems are being challenged like never before, revealing how much more we need to do in terms of global surveillance and emergency preparedness.

You visited health clinics and centers in the Congo in January, how prepared do you think the Congo is to address an outbreak of COVID-19?
It is not a secret that the DRC has an ailing health system suffering from decades of negligence. The country lacks the medical equipment to respond to the outbreak appropriately; we are talking about respirators, oxygen pumps, test kits, consumables, and personal protective equipment. The good news is that they have the structure and the lessons from the recent Ebola outbreak to work with, along with some skilled health workers dedicated to their work.

You recently shared your experiences and offered advice to Congolese youth who have taken the initiative to educate the residents of Kinshasa about the challenges and best practices to combat coronavirus. Does being engaged in the battle in New York give you particular insights that you can pass on to your comrades in the Congo?
First, I want to say that I am inspired and encouraged by the youth who are fighting to take control of the country's narrative. Although my involvement in New York is more technical, I have access to resources beneficial to their initiative. Unfortunately, the social conditions in Congo make it very difficult to apply the recommended preventive measures to combat this outbreak. Beyond the actions taken by youth organizations in the capital, the government needs to provide its citizens with the resources to apply the preventive measures effectively.

Anything that we haven't asked about your experience in New York and the Congo that you would like to share with our readers?
I want to stress the fact that these are unprecedented times. In Congo, like in New York, it is important not to let fear and panic get the best of us. It is important to remain connected to reliable sources of information because there is a lot of misinformation circulating on coronavirus. Finally, we are fighting this pandemic together.

Bibi Ndala is a graduate of the Masters of Public Health program at New York University with a concentration in Global Public Health. She currently works as a City Research Scientist at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Public Health Laboratory. She has ten years of experience as a medical technologist at McGill University Health Center. She recently launched the organization ELAKA to support and educate expecting mothers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bibi also serves as volunteer coordinator for Friends of the Congo and Congo Love.