Friday, 1 August 2014


MEDIA ADVISORY

US-Africa Leaders Summit: Advocates Call on
President Obama and Congress To Cease Support for African Strongmen

"Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions" 
President Obama in Ghana, July 11, 2009

What: A diverse U.S. based activist coalition focusing on Africa is calling on U.S. leaders to cease their support and empowerment of brutal dictators across Africa. The Coalition will host a press conference on Thursday, July 31st ahead of the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to take place in Washington, DC in early August.

The Coalition will focus on U.S. support for strongmen in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The people of these countries have been caught in a dictatorial death trap since the Clinton Administration that has resulted in millions dead due to wars of aggression and internal repression. The U.S. has dubbed these tyrannical strongmen, a "new breed" of "Renaissance" leaders of Africa in spite of the havoc they have wreaked on the African continent. Other heads of state from Ethiopia, Egypt and elsewhere on the continent will also be addressed during the press conference.  A special focus will be placed on heads of state who are seeking to change their constitutions to remove term limits so they can remain in power in perpetuity.

Paul Rusesabagina (who performed Raul Wallenberg-type heroics during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and whose story has been captured in the movie "Hotel Rwanda") is expected to lead the appeal in calling for an end to the support the U.S. provides to these African strongmen. Other expected speakers include: Congolese human rights activist Nita Evele; genocide survivor Claude Gatebuke; and Ugandan Publisher Milton Allimadi. Shaka Ssali, Host of "Straight Talk Africa and Managing Editor, VOA TV will moderate the discussion.

When: Thursday, July 31, 2014; 2:00 PM through 4:00 PM

Where: National Press Club, 529 Fourteenth St, NW, Washington DC 20045

Contacts:
Maurice Carney, 202-584-6512 or info@friendsofthecongo.org
Netfa Freeman, 202-787-5229 or netfa@ips-dc.org

Organizers:
Coalition members include: African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN); Don't Be Blind This Time; Foreign Policy in Focus; Friends of the Congo (FOTC); Hope Congo (HC); Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF); Mobilization for Justice and Peace in Congo (MJPC) and la Fédération Internationale des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH)



Support  the work of Friends of the Congo.
Join the global movement in support of the Congo.
Participate  in the Dear John Postcard Campaign.
Participate  in Congo Week VII, October 19 - 25, 2014.
Keep abreast of the latest updates via Twitter @congofriends.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

topdivider
OOF Girl Child Initiative meets with potential Public and Private partners to boost teacher training and digital literacy in Jigawa State.
girl child
On Friday 24th June 2014, I arrived in Nigeria to attend several meetings with potential partners and stakeholders including the Ministry of Education, Science & Technology (MOEST) and the Governor of Jigawa State... read more> 
White and Case Summer Event with Women Leaders in Infrastructure.
white and case article
On 9th July 2014, White and Case in association with Women Leaders in Infrastructure organized a summer event for women leaders with a particular focus on Africa and in support of the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation.
Key Speakers at the event were H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Cherie Blair QC, Bridgette Radebe
read more> 

Portrait of Africa.
portrait of africa
In May, the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation hosted an intimate luncheon in conjunction with Bonhams auction house to celebrate the African Now, 2014 sale. read more>

Friday, 25 July 2014



To all those who haven't signed the petition think again.remeber it could be ur child if we don't stop this.do not wait for it to happen to someone you know.together we can stop child marriage... ‪#‎Endchildmarriagenow‬‪#‎signthepetitiontoday‬
By 2020, 140 million girls around the world will become child brides.
Another shocking fact: in sub-Saharan Africa, more than one third of girl children are married by their 18th birthday.
These girls are often taken from their friends, and their family....
See More

Friday, 18 July 2014

Goodluck Johnathan meets with Taliban survivor Malala Yousafzai

By YEMI DIPEOLU - Wed Jul 16, 3:19 pm
  • 0
Malala Yousafzi and Goodluck Jonathan
Malala Yousafzi and Goodluck Jonathan
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani human rights activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning in favour of education for women recently met with Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to discuss the missing Chibok girls, ahead of her seventeenth birthday.
During the visit Jonathan told Malala that he was doing everything in his power to bring back the missing girls and she encouraged him to meet with the families of the missing girls, which she herself did on her visit.  He said: Terror is relatively new here and dealing with it has its challenges. The great challenge in rescuing the Chibok girls is the need to ensure that they are rescued alive.
Malala visited with the parents of the missing girls, as well as four of the girls who managed to escape, and joined them at a daily rally in Abuja . While the families and activists welcomed Malala’s visit, they were still disappointed that it took her visit to Nigeria to get the government to speak openly about the growing problem of Boko Haram.
After meeting with the parents as well as four of the girls who managed to escape Malala said “It’s quite difficult for a parent to know that their daughter is in great danger. My birthday wish this year is… bring back our girls now, and alive.” She added that she ‘sees the girls as sisters’ and pledged to ‘participate actively in the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign to make sure that they return safely’.
While Malala visited Nigeria as part of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign terrorist group Boko Haram relaeased a video, which seemed to be mocking the campaign. In the video he said ‘bring back our girls? Bring back our army!’ alluding to his offer to swap Boko Haram prisoners for the girls.
Nigeria’s government has declined this offer.
20140714 malala nigeria schoolgirls

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Commissioner Tumusiime presents the theme of the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government; urges leaders to recommit to the principles of CAADP

Description: Description: C:\Users\Jilomboc\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\AP77H1CG\Commissioner day 4-0004 (2).jpgAddis Ababa, Ethiopia – , 2014 – On June 27 at the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, H.E Mrs. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace presented to the Heads of State and Government, the theme of the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa; “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development.”.


During her address, Commissioner Tumusiime, stated that the theme echoed the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU, centered on “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance,” as well as the vision of the pan-African transformative Agenda 2063.

“Ensuring an inclusive and transformative agricultural growth that builds the self-reliance of the African citizenry, including food and nutrition security is central to re-asserting African dignity. The debate between member states, public and private organisations culminated in the provision of strategic direction, guidance for renewed and heightened commitments on concrete goals and targets in advancing Africa’s agricultural growth and transformation agenda for the next decade,” she said.

AU Member States were also urged to recommit to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as it had helped elevate agriculture to the center of Africa’s development agenda. 

“We have witnessed progress on the allocation of public expenditures to agriculture, which have been increasing at an average rate of 7.4% per year since the adoption of CAADP”, said Mrs Tumusiime. “Member States have been making efforts to meet the CAADP target of allocating at least 10% of public expenditure to agriculture; and most importantly they are seeing the benefits of according primacy to this strategic sector.”
  
The address by Commissioner Tumusiime preceded a high-level panel discussion facilitated by Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency with the Executive Secretary of UNECA, Dr. Carlos Lopes, President of IFAD, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze and Director General of FAO, Dr. José Graziano da Silva. This culminated into a debate by Heads of State and Government which among other conclusions, noted that Africa’s leaders needed to commit to interventions for the realization of a food and nutrition secure and poverty free Africa and also towards mutual accountability to actions and results through a periodic, possibly biennial agricultural review process.
CJ/WZM
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The Department of Health has announced plans to help the NHS to recover more of the costs of migrant and visitor healthcare.
Patients from outside Europe using the NHS will be charged 150% of the cost of treatment under new incentives for the NHS to recover costs from visitors and migrants using the NHS.
Visitors and migrants can currently get free NHS care immediately or soon after arrival in the UK, leaving the NHS open to abuse.
But now government is asking the NHS to clamp down by identifying these patients more effectively so costs can be recovered from them.
This will make sure that by the middle of the next parliament, the NHS will recover up to £500 million a year from treating foreign visitors and migrants.
In June, it was revealed that the NHS will receive an extra 25% on the top of the cost of every procedure they perform for an EEA migrant or visitor with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Now details of the non-EEA incentive further strengthens the programme planned over next 2 financial years.
A non-EEA visitor will be charged for their care plus an extra 50 per cent. This means that for a £100 procedure, they could be billed up to £150.
For those who are temporary migrants from outside the EEA and are here for longer than six months, a new health surcharge will be applied when they submit an application for leave to enter or remain in the UK. This surcharge could generate up to £200 million per annum in the
future.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
“We have no problem with international visitors using the NHS as long as they pay for it – just as British families do through their taxes. These plans will help recoup up to £500 million a year, making sure the NHS is better resourced and more sustainable at a time when doctors and nurses on the frontline are working very hard.”
Financial sanctions will also be put in place for trusts who fail to identify and bill chargeable patients.
Steps are being taken to help the NHS charge more effectively and consistently. A clear timetable has been issued and a new National Intensive Support Team will be on hand to assist.
A clearer registration process and IT system will help lessen the burden on busy staff. In summer, trials will start in some A&E departments to explore how details can be taken from patients with an EHIC when they register for care.
Options for recovering the costs of primary care services are also being explored. Eligibility to free NHS prescriptions, optical vouchers and subsidised NHS dental treatment will also be tightened.
The EEA incentive scheme will be introduced in autumn 2014. The non-EEA incentives will begin in spring 2015

Filming - A practical guide to filming in Kenya

Overview

Kenya is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and currently makes around $1bn a year from tourism.
In terms of specific advice on filming in Kenya, the first port of call should be the Kenya Film Commission (KFC). Launched in 2006, the KFC - with support from the Kenya Tourism Board - acts as a bridge between foreign producers and relevant government ministries, negotiating reductions and waivers in licensing and location fees. It also acts as the focal point for enquiries about local crew and equipment availability. KFC can also advise on the possibility of free/reduced price flights through Kenya Airways and hotels/transport discounts.
In July 2014, plans were announced for a national film policy, which would ease the path for foreign filmmakers and attract more overseas producers.  
Kenyan capital Nairobi is the heart of the Kenyan production industry and also acts as a hub for the East African region. In terms of regional competition, Kenya is slightly more expensive thanSouth Africa and doesn’t have the benefit of tax breaks.
But anyone visiting the country right now (summer 2014) needs to be acutely aware of the risk posed by terrorism and high levels of violent crime and robberies, making it a challenging place to visit.
Anyone considering filming there should check out the latest advice from their foreign office before committing themselves.

Recent Productions

Reese Witherspoon’s 2014 film The Good Lie tells the story of an American woman who takes in a Sudanese refugee. Most of it is filmed in the US and South Africa, with the latter doubling for a refugee camp in Northern Kenya. However some sequences were shot in Kenya and serviced by Blue Sky Films.
For companies serious about filming in Kenya, Blue Sky would be a useful point of contact providing accurate, up-to-date advice. During their 18 years in the business they have worked on several films including The Constant Gardener and Tomb Raider 2.
Their work has also included numerous commercials for clients such as Guinness, Coca Cola, Lyons Tea and Johnnie Walker.
The need for authenticity sometimes works in Kenya’s favour. For example, Goodcop recently filmed a commercial for South African telecoms firm MTN that focused on the way coffee gets from the farm to the mug. This involved filming just outside Nairobi. Kenya was also recently used as a double for Ghana in a commercial for Windhoek Lager featuring Didier Drogba.
In 2013, the KFC signed a memorandum of understanding with South Africa’s Film & Video Foundation to encourage more production collaboration between Kenya and South Africa.

Permits

The KFC says: “Special passes for international filming crew are issued by the Department of Immigration. The special passes or work permits are available for 15,000 Kenyan Shillings (US$170). Application requirements need to be forwarded to the Department by the film agent who is facilitating the international film production.”
This local film agent is also required to secure a filming licence from the Department of Film Services (DFS). The cost of this licence varies depending on the production and number of shoot days involved. Processing a film licence can take anywhere around three days.
Location permits are typically issued by local authorities. Because there are no fixed fees, this is another situation where an experienced local production partner is invaluable. Shooting in Nairobi is possible but requires planning, according to Emerge Film Solutions.“Shooting in the Nairobi business district or on city streets requires an additional permit.
"Shutting city streets requires at least two weeks to permit. Additional clearances may be required by NEMA (Environment), CID (National Security) and other agencies should you wish to film in sensitive areas etc.”

Studios

The main studio site is run by Film Studios Kenya. In 2012 there were reports that it had been sold to South Africa’s SuperSport, though in reality SuperSport simply came on board as an anchor tenant.
Explaining the situation, James Ndaiga, a senior manager at the studios, told the Kenya Film Television and Producers Association: “Film Studios Kenya Ltd has concluded an agreement with SuperSport to utilise facilities and space within the Film Studios complex. This does not mean we have sold the company. Film Studios is here to stay and continues to grow further in the region beyond our borders. SuperSport has initiated development plans that include construction of ultra-modern new studios together with more office facilities.
"These are not for their sole use but there will be complete fitted studios available to the local industry for hire. All equipment in these studios is being upgraded and new lighting equipment and grip equipment is being installed and maintained by Film Studios. SuperSport is engaging new talent in the industry and training them in the process. There are over 200 local Kenyan crew and support staff who have been given this opportunity.”
There have been reports that the Kenya Film Commission is seeking to establish a new studio at Konza City on the Mombasa highway, but this project has not advanced very far.

Locations

As referenced above, Kenya is a spectacular country offering a wide array of location types. Close to capital city Nairobi there are national parks and wildlife reserves, mountains, desert, savannah, lakes, farms and colonial houses. Within the city itself there is a mix of locations including a business district, industrial neighborhoods and poor slums.
Further out from Nairobi are volcanoes, rainforests, waterfalls, beaches as well as more mountains/savannah/deserts. Locations of particular interest include Mount Kenya National Park and the port city of Mombasa, though it’s worth pointing out that Mombasa has been a key target for attacks by regional terrorist groups.
In term of climate, Kenya sits on the equator so is invariably warm to hot. March and April are the main rainy months though it can also be extremely wet in October and November. This needs to be considered, because some roads are not paved and are slow-going when the wet weather arrives.

Equipment

The key to a successful shoot in Kenya is to work via one of the country’s local production services companies, which are typically based in Nairobi.
Examples include Dreamcatcher and Blue Sky. Blue Sky, for example, says it can provide access to crews with experience in features, television, commercials, documentaries, music videos and wildlife filming – across a range of budgetary bands. On equipment, Blue Sky Films says equipment rental houses “pride themselves with being up-to-date with the latest technologies from digital to high definition broadcast solutions.  However, if you would like to bring in your own equipment, we are able to facilitate speedy importation.”
For lighting, grip, generator and crews, you could also try Film Studios Kenya in Nairobi.
It’s worth noting that some companies work across the entire sub-Saharan African region. Cape Town-based Moonlighting can facilitate productions across East Africa (including Kenya).
In terms of casting, Kenya is an international hub, which means it is possible to find a diverse range of nationalities/looks.
Experts to further the implementation of the agenda on land
Addis Ababa,  2014 (ECA) – The Land Policy Initiative (LPI) is organizing this week two Experts Group Meetings (EGM) on monitoring and evaluation, and capacity development. The two areas of focus are highlighted in the African Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges as central to the realization of the agenda on land. The first EGM on the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework and the implementation plan for piloting the Framework is being held from 30 June to 2 July. The second meeting, focusing on Finalization of the Capacity Development Framework (CDF), will take place on 3 and 4 July. Both meetings will be held the United Nations Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Speaking at the M&E Framework meeting, Mr. Stephen Karingi, the Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), highlighted that the AU Declaration on Land urges Members States’ leaders to prioritise and lead in land policy review and development, and allocate the budgetary resources needed.

“The Declaration is also very clear on the need for an appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanism, and the LPI has offered good leadership in the implementation of this decision,” noted Mr. Karingi. He also reminded that the AU Declaration on Land mandated States to build human and technical capacity on land, and expressed the hope that experts’ discussions will help finalize the capacity development framework developed by the LPI.

The M&E Framework was examined during a workshop held in September 2013, and key recommendations were provided for its review and finalization. This week’s EGM will focus on actualizing those recommendations to provide critical inputs to finalize the document. The meeting will also provide guidance for the Framework to be piloted in selected African countries. The meeting will bring together about 30 land experts and representatives of regional economic communities, development partners, civil society, farmers’ and women’s networks, and the private sector.

The LPI will take the opportunity of this gathering to raise awareness of Africa’s stakeholders and partners on land of the need to include land in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) debate. Participants will be invited to deliberate on SDG so that land will be included in the post-2015 development agenda.

The second EGM will focus on revising the Capacity Development Framework for land policy in Africa, in line with key messages and recommendations from the validation workshop held in October 2013. The CDF document will be examined to ensure that key messages are conveyed in an appropriate and accessible manner to the target audience, which includes government officials, heads of land administration agencies, leaders of civil society organizations, farmer and women organizations, as well as centers of learning and land experts.  The working session will gather a small group of experts and resource persons selected from different institutions, based on their knowledge on capacity development and awareness of the LPI process of developing the CDF.

The Land Policy Initiative is a joint programme of the tripartite consortium consisting of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Its mandate is to facilitate the implementation of the AU Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014



DREA holds retreat on the implementation of its Strategic and Operational plan 2014-17 and on strategies of delivery of relevant Decisions and Declarations of the Malabo AU Summit
Description: DSC_8517Nairobi, Kenya, 2014- The Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) is holding a staff retreat, to review progress and plan for enhanced implementation of its 2014-2017 Strategic and Operational Plan as well as to plan for the implementation of relevant decisions and declarations of the just ended 23rd AU Summit in Malabo.
The DREA Strategic and Operational Plan is based on the AUC’s Strategic Plan 2014-2017, endorsed by the AU Heads of State and Government during their Assembly on May 26, 2013.
Opening the retreat, DREA Commissioner H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace welcomed and thanked staff for attending the retreat which she said was timely and pertinent in DREA’s pursuit of strategic areas of intervention towards contributing to the realization of the overall AUC priority goals. She also commended their continued hard work and dedication.
DREA has a renewed spirit and is actively implementing the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) while looking ahead to the next 50 years of African integration, self-reliance and prosperity within the framework of Africa Agenda 2063.
“This year has been particularly important for the department as the champion of 2014 which is the Year of Agriculture and Food Security and also the commemoration of 10 years of CAADP,” said DREA Director, Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel.
DREA is further cognizant that its role on the continent will contribute to Africa’s pursuit of the goal of agricultural transformation and development, food and nutrition security, environmental sustainability and contribution to socio-economic stability.
Attending the retreat are all DREA staff from the headquarters and the six specialized technical offices of the department.

Experts Call on the African Union to Promote the Rights and Welfare of the Child

14 July 2014

The Africa Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), established by the African Union in 2001 to promote and protect the rights of the African Child, has called on African Leaders to accelerate the promotion of the welfare of child on the continent.
In its report to the African Union during the organization’s Malabo Summit, the Committee highlighted that children especially girls in Africa are discriminated against and in many communities on the continent, girls face physical, sexual, and psychological violence, and unequal access to resources. Particularly, it was shown that in times of conflict and crisis girls are specific targets of violence and discrimination. The Committee emphasized that discrimination and violence against girls in Africa is one of the most pressing challenges faced today.
The Committee called on various stakeholders to address challenges faced by girls whilst outlining the measures they should take to ensure that discrimination is the concern of all. Stakeholders must provide a conducive environment for legal changes, and promote a focus on child protection issues. issues. A direct focus on advocacy, research, litigation and support for victims across Africa is key in effecting this change.
In addition, the Committee called on States to ratify all relevant regional child rights and international humanitarian instruments. They asked for full harmonization of national laws with relevant standards, and to criminalize and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all forms of violence and discrimination committed against girls. Simultaneously they should take all appropriate measures to prevent violations from occurring.
It also called on the African Union to endorse this declaration and to establish conceptual clarity around what constitutes violence and discrimination against children. Furthermore, they asked the African Union to undertake a periodic review of the progress made in its implementation.
The Committee also highlighted the thorny issue of child marriage and its prevalence across in Africa. They pledged to support the ‘AU Campaign on Ending Child Marriage in Africa’ which was launched last May.
They called on African Countries to see child marriage as a policy priority and to support policy action to address the rights of children and promote common standards on adoption and implementation of legal instruments of change at regional and national levels.
According to UNFPA child marriage continues to affect millions of girls every year in Africa. It has a resultant secondary outcome of huge increases in maternal and child mortality, obstetric fistula, premature births, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), incidence of cervical cancer, and domestic violence. Girls continue to be married as children in Africa, with more than five and a half million women who are today in their 20s married before they reached their 15th birthday.
African countries were urged to ratify all the relevant international child rights instruments and fully harmonise laws and policies with international and regional child rights standards. States are encouraged to put in place mechanisms that operationalize existing legislation relating to child marriage and the rights of children; including development of national action plans and provision of legal aid for enforcement of the rights of children to be free from child marriage.
Furthermore, States were urged to develop and implement transformative social policies that include communities and traditional and religious leaders as central stakeholders. Also, to implement policies that recognize children and child-led initiatives as key players in mitigating child marriage and its damaging effects.
Recently, the Committee also developed and adopted a strategy to ‘Promote and Protect the Rights of Children with Disabilities in Africa’. The strategy aims protect rights so that children with disabilities fully enjoy the same fundamental freedoms as all children. The dignity of the child must be ensured and their self-reliance and active participation in the community must be promoted. The strategy recommends that Member States adopt a three-fold approach to developing a medium term strategy. This approach should consisting of a development stage, implementation strategy and monitoring and evaluation process which should all receive due attention in the respect of protecting and fulfilling the rights of children with disabilities.
Seven countries are yet to ratify the Africa Charter on the ‘Rights and Welfare of the Child’ - an important tool for advancing children’s rights. While building on the same basic principles as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the AU Children’s Charter highlights issues of special importance in the African context.
Wurie Bah is a Communications and Advocacy Expert at the Department of Social Affairs, Africa Union Commission.

Women Against Rape UPDATE

Court ruling expected soon on domestic violence challenge to the total Benefit Cap

On Tuesday 29 April, Women Against Rape and others held a vigil outside the UK Supreme Court in Parliament Square, to support the legal challenge to thegovernments “total Benefit Cap”.  The Cap, which limits a family’s total benefit to £500 per week, including rent and Child Benefit, traps women and children in violent relationships – a violent man in waged work is not capped, but the woman who leaves him, is.  We went in to monitor the case, and anxiously await the outcome – the ruling is expected soon.

This Supreme Court challenge to the Cap, is joined by another challenge against “bedroom tax” by a single mother fleeing domestic violence whose Housing Benefit is cut for having a safe room in her secured housing, in case her violent ex-partner tries to break in.  And more challenges to the Cap, bedroom tax and Council Tax are under way.
The challenge before five Supreme Court judges was whether the “Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 are unlawful because they unjustifiably discriminate against lone parents and victims of domestic violence, who are predominantly women, and fail to have regard to the best interests of the child”. http://supremecourt.uk/cases/case_2014_0079.html It is being brought by two single mothers and their children, fleeing domestic violence.  Their solicitor Rebekah Carrier describes the Cap as ‘catastrophic, cruel and arbitrary’. 

The court heard from a legal team representing the families, the Child Poverty ActionGroup (CPAG) and Shelter.  Their case included that:

·         The Benefit Cap discriminates against women, disproportionately hitting women fleeing domestic violence and single mothers.  Traumatised mothers are less likely to be able to get waged work to escape the cap.  A girl in one of the families is traumatised by abuse – such children need their mothers, not unfamiliar childminders while the mothers go out to work.
·         The policy goes against the best interests of children.  By January 2014, more than 100,000 children had been made homeless – not a small-scale policy. (We are shocked at this level of brutality towards children – the emotional harm done to them can only be seen as violence against children!)
 
·         Women going into emergency accommodation to flee domestic violence are entitled to dual rent so they can return to their home – but dual rents are bound to exceed the Cap, so this deters women from leaving violent partners.  Women’s Aid fear the death toll could rise, of women murdered by partners – already, more than two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners.
·         Families placed in temporary accommodation by the Council have no choice about where they go or how much it costs. 
·         The actual impact of the Cap is much worse than set out in official documents, but Department for Work and Pensions predictions have not been reassessed according to the reality.  Discretionary housing payments are not reliable or a long-term answer.
·         The courts have a responsibility to address discrimination in social policy, and the Cap already has exemptions, such as for some disabled people.
·         MPs and Lords who wanted amendments to the Welfare Reform Act, such as keeping Child Benefit out of the Cap, were promised by the government that their concerns would be dealt with by the regulations – yet this has not been done.

The judges asked various questions.  Baroness Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, asked if the Cap was about discouraging people from having children.  (This too, goes against the human rights they are considering.)  The CPAG pointed out that large families could not change their size, and that parents in paid work get benefits on top of wages – including Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit, so the £500 a week “average earnings” to justify the level of the Cap, was false.  Also, one of the single mothers in the case has only two children but still exceeds the Cap due to her high rent. Her and the children’s benefit is a small proportion – her personal allowance is meagre.

Last year, Women Against Rape (WAR) launched a petition on behalf of women and children escaping violent relationships, and is campaigning with others to “Scrap the Benefit Cap!”  In Parliament, the Early Day Motion sponsored by John McDonnell MPcalls on the government to lift the cap to protect current and potential victims of domestic violence.  The government has been forced to respond to the many objections and since 10 April this year, some women in refuges and hostels are protected, but the majority – like the mothers and children in the legal challenge – are not.
Sign our petition here to scrap the cap NOW, get your organisation to endorse it, like it to your friends on Facebook and Twitter – we need as many signatures as possible.  The petition is endorsed by the Black Women’s Rape Action Project, and others. 
Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 980
Watch Don’t Cap My Benefits and share the link (BBC Panorama, 10 April).

Monday, 14 July 2014

“Ni kweli nilishiriki kwenye maziko kwa sababu mimi kama Balozi wa Tanzania wakati huo ndiye nilikuwa mwakilishi wa Serikali pale Washington, lakini jambo la pili ni kwamba binafsi nilimfahamu Ballali kwa muda mrefu, kwa hiyo hata kama nisingekuwa balozi lazima ningekwenda kuzika tu.” Balozi Ombeni Sefue.
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  Gavana wa zamani wa Benki Kuu ya Tanzania BOT), Marehemu Daudi Ballali aliacha wasia unaotaka maiti yake isionyeshwe hadharani atakapofariki dunia na wala maiti yake isiletwe Tanzania kwa ajili ya maziko.

Ballali aliyefariki Mei 16, 2008 na kuzikwa Mei 23 mwaka huohuo katika makaburi ya Gate of Heaven, eneo la Silver Spring, Maryland nchini Marekani alifahamu kuhusu kifo chake wiki mbili kabla, baada ya matibabu kushindikana.
 
Mwandishi wa Mwananchi aliyekuwa nchini Marekani kwa siku kumi kufuatilia suala hilo, alibaini kuwa kiongozi huyo alilazwa mara ya pili katika Hospitali ya Chuo Kikuu cha George Washington, April 2008 na alirejea nyumbani kwake, Washington DC wiki mbili kabla ya kukutwa na mauti.
 
Habari kutoka ndani ya familia yake zinasema baada ya madaktari kushindwa kumtibu walimwambia kwamba asingeweza kuishi kwa zaidi ya wiki mbili, hivyo walimshauri ahamie kwenye ‘hospice’ ambayo ni nyumba maalumu ya kusubiri kifo kwa watu ambao magonjwa yao yameshindikana.
 
Hospice hutumika kwa ajili ya kuwaweka wagonjwa wanaohitaji faraja hasa kutoka na maumivu makali chini ya uangalizi wa washauri na wauguzi kwa lengo la kuwaongezea wagonjwa husika siku za kuishi.

 Baadhi ya hospice hutoa huduma za kiroho, kijamii na kifedha na wakati mwingine huduma hizo hutolewa kwa wagonjwa ambao wanaugulia nyumbani. Hata hivyo, gazeti hili lilidokezwa kwamba Ballali alikataa kwenda kwenye nyumba hiyo na badala yake kutaka apelekwe nyumbani kwake.

 
“Alikataa kwenda kwenye hospice, aliwaambia madaktari kwamba yeye hawezi kwenda huko ijapokuwa kuna huduma nzuri na uangalizi wa nesi (muuguzi). Aliwaambia kwamba nitakwenda kufia nyumbani kwangu maana nina nyumbani kwangu,” kilisema chanzo chetu na kuongeza:

 “Aliporejeshwa nyumbani, alikuwa anazungumza kama kawaida lakini kadri siku zilivyosogea hali ilikuwa ikibadilika na kama sikosei siku mbili au tatu za mwisho (za uhai wake) alikuwa anajitambua lakini alikata kauli, hakuwa akizungumza chochote”.

 
Uchunguzi wetu umebaini kuwa katika siku hizo za mwisho za uhai wake, Ballali aliacha maelekezo kwamba pindi atakapofariki dunia, mwili wake usiwekwe hadharani kwa maana ya kutazamwa na watu nje ya familia wala kusafirishwa kuja Tanzania kwa ajili ya maziko.

“He said, he doesn’t like to be turned into a laughing staff (alisema asingependa kugeuzwa kichekesho), sababu watu wasingekuja kutoa heshima za mwisho, bali wangekuja kumdhihaki kuangalia Ballali aliyetuhumiwa kwa ufisadi wa EPA na siyo Gavana,” kilisema chanzo hicho.