ZUSAA Calls for Artists to Promote Tolerance

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwe-United States Alumni Association (ZUSAA), which brings together Zimbabweans who have either lived, studied or participated in exchange programmes to the US and now resident in Zimbabwe, has called for support of programmes that use arts and culture to promote healing and tolerance in the country.

ZUSAA, which was established in 2009, currently has a membership of over a 1,000 alumni who have skills in different sectors ranging from business, government, non-profit organizations, trade unions, arts and culture among many other professions.

According to the ZUSAA National Coordinator, Michael Mabwe, the organization was formed to ensure that the skills and expertise of Zimbabweans who have been to the US are used for national development.

“We realized that after benefiting from rare experiences abroad, there was a need to continue with some of the concepts learned while in the US. Hence, the need for a platform which brings these leaders together and use their collective effort to give back to the various sectors in Zimbabwe,” said Mabwe, who is also a beneficiary of the US’s International Visitors’ Program on Promoting Tolerance through the Arts.

Mabwe, who is also a renowned human rights poet, said that artists have a big role to play in the national life of Zimbabwe.

“We want to see artists engaging more with the national question, particularly around promoting healing because as artists, they’re soul of the nation. With their art work – if done above political lines – artists can play a major role in diffusing tension that is currently being experienced locally. We want artists to be ambassadors of peace who in their collective effort can help spearhead an effective peace campaign,” he said.

Mabwe added that it is important for artists in the country to collaborate with the Organ on National Healing as well as the Church and Civil Society Forum to promote national healing.

“If the country is bleeding, there can be no development that can take place. Therefore, it means that we cannot improve the lives and livelihoods of our people. Political parties must put the needs of the general populace first before their narrow political ends,” said Mabwe.

“People limit the idea of national healing to political violence yet there are a number of sectors in our society that need  healing, apart from politics. From our industry, our education sector, our tourism, our politics among others, there is a need for healing to take place so that Zimbabwe can reclaim its status as a peaceful, and progressive country amongst the global family,” he said.

Mabwe said that ZUSAA will continue to contribute to different national processes by utilizing the broad skills base within its membership.

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101 for Campaigning for Human Rights in Africa

WHAT does it mean to campaign for internationally recognized human rights in sub Saharan which is chock-filled with rampant human violations? Does it mean that because governments in the region violate human rights willy-nilly, there should be no concerted effort to engage in a campaign for their recognition.

It is not enough to feel outrage when we learn of the number of children exploited sexually or at work, of refugees or of those suffering from hunger. We must react, each one of us to the best of our abilities. It is not just a matter of looking at what government is doing – Federico Mayor, former UNESCO Director-General

Human rights are often misunderstood and can sometimes be seen as abstract ideals with not much practical relevance for real people. And there is no doubt that the rampant abuse of human rights in Africa only serves to worsen the inequalities and vulnerabilities of individuals and communities.

The promotion of social justice and the culture of peace in Africa is of paramount importance but doing the job can be quite a risky business. And, of course, not so many people are willing to put their lives on the line. It’s understandable.

There are many stories of people who have disappeared in the night never to be seen again, of daylight murders, of state impunity that fill the majority of the citizens of the continent with terror. Continue reading

The Morality of Water

waterandsanitationPoverty, inequality and unequal power relationships are the main cause of the current global water and sanitation crisis, according to a paper titled “The human right to water and sanitation: benefits and limitations” which is contained in a UN report: The Right to Water – Current Situation and Future Challenges.

Despite the gravity of the situation, water and sanitation rarely make the headlines in the news media. The financial and human cost of the crisis is humongous.

“The global damage caused by diseases and productivity losses related to unclean water and poor sanitation is estimated at a staggering US 170 billion dollars per year with developing countries’ economies bearing the brunt of this burden. Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 5 % of GDP or US 28,4 billion per year, a figure that exceeded total aid flow and debt relief into the region in 2003,” states the report.

Such a hemorrhage is clearly unacceptable, and for Sub-Saharan Africa it is clear that lack of access to water and sanitation is not only about health and development; it is an economic imperative. Continue reading

Uganda Steps Backward with Anti-Gay Legislation

News from Uganda that the government is seeking to reaffirm penalties for homosexuality and criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality” will only serve to drive people of same-sex orientation underground. The implications for public health efforts are dire, and there is no doubt that if the bill is passed into law, it will deal a body blow to HIV prevention efforts.

In Uganda, as in many parts of Africa, the health of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersexual Peoples is marginalized. This sub-group is already faced many challenges including HIV, STDs and STIs, and mental health problems due to lack of access to services.

“This bill is a blow to the progress of democracy in Uganda,” said David Kato of Sexual Minorities Uganda. “Its spirit is profoundly undemocratic and un-African.”

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission the Ugandan Parliament is now considering a homophobic law that would reaffirm penalties for homosexuality and criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 targets lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans, their defenders and anyone else who fails to report them to the authorities whether they are inside or outside of Uganda.

The proposed law will effectively criminalize homosexuality, and consequently bar any person of same-sex orientation from seeking public health services. Continue reading

Governments should apologize for human rights abuse

In spite of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations 60 years ago, governments throughout the world continue to violate human rights with impunity.

Amnesty International reports that restless, angry and disillusioned, people will not remain silent if the gap continues to widen between their demand for equality and their governments’ denial.

As it is, governments have exhibited more interest in the abuse of power or in the pursuit of political self-interest, than in respecting the rights of those they lead.

US, the world’s most powerful state, has distinguished itself in recent years through a disregard of human rights thereby setting a bad example for other countries.

In fact, US’ disregard for human rights has resulted in the emergence of both leaders and movements in many parts of the world that abuse human rights.

“The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance,” she added. Continue reading

Gov’ts Need to Apologize for Abuses

In spite of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations 60 years ago, governments throughout the world continue to violate human rights with impunity.

 

Amnesty International reports that restless, angry and disillusioned people will not remain silent if the gap continues to widen between their demand for equality and their governments’ denials.

 

As it is, governments have exhibited more interest in the abuse of power or in the pursuit of political self-interest, than in respecting the rights of those they lead.

 

The United States, the world’s most powerful state, has distinguished itself in recent years through a disregard of human rights thereby setting a bad example for other countries.

 

In fact, this disregard for human rights by the US has resulted in the emergence of both leaders and movements in many parts of the world that abuse human rights.

 

“The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action,” said Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International.

 

“Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance,” she added.

 

According to Amnesty International, world leaders owe an apology to humanity for failing to deliver on the promise of justice and equality in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

“This is not to deny the progress that has been made in developing human rights standards, systems and institutions internationally, regionally and nationally,” said Amnesty International in its State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2008.

 

“Much has improved in many parts of the world based on these standards and principles. More countries today provide constitutional and legal protection for human rights than ever before.”

 

However, while only a handful of states openly deny the right of the international community to scrutinize their human rights records, the fact remains that injustice, inequality and impunity are still the hallmarks of our world today, said the report.

 

“As we entered the 21st century, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 transformed the human rights debate yet again into a divisive and destructive one between ‘western’ and ‘non-western,’ restricting liberties, fuelling suspicion, fear, discrimination and prejudice among governments and peoples alike,” stated the Amnesty International report.

 

Global economic forces and geopolitical interests have also seen governments compromising on the issues of human rights.

 

The road ahead is rocky, said Amnesty International.

 

“There is much rhetoric about eradicating poverty but not enough political will for action. At least two billion of our human community continue to live in poverty, struggling for clean water, food and housing,” stated the report. “Climate change will affect all of us, but the poorest amongst us will be the worst off as they lose their lands, food and livelihoods.”

 

According to Amnesty International, only a renewed and visionary commitment to the principles and values of human rights by leaders will save the world from conflict.