The media’s myopic tendencies – my take

My heart bleeds over issues of sexual reproductive health in Africa after listening to some very chilling  stories of how our beloved continent perceive issues of this nature.

This is not because I have been naive of the issue but have failed to look at it from a broader perspective.

Media I am in Dakar, Senegal, as part of a group of journalists from across Africa deliberating on  “Women’s sexual and reproductive health – getting the stories right.”

As I sit in front of my laptop this morning I can’t help but imagine how a young mother – married or unmarried in the Western region of Ghana (my home region) might be dying out of very preventable health complications.

This is because one way or the other I have failed as a journalist to bring her plight to the fore to attract the needed attention.

And I will later find out that I have not been the only one to be faulted in performing one of journalism’s most basic duties – bringing a voice to the voiceless.

My experience so far has been that, to achieve significant progress in improving maternal, newborn and child health, both men and women must realise and come to terms with their sexual and reproductive health rights.

The World Health Organization recognizes the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.

This also includes the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Maternal mortality rate is highest in Africa, where poor sexual and reproductive health is prevalent. UNFPA reports that illnesses and deaths from poor reproductive health account for one-fifth of the global burden of disease, and that only 20% of married women use modern contraception.

Motivation is low

Unfortunately, the media reportage and attention given to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) remains low.

This has to do with the inability or lack of motivation to report such issues by media practitioners. The media plays a vital role in galvanizing governmental and non-governmental support on issues related to SRH by continually raising public awareness to a targeted audience such as policymakers, program implementers and other key stakeholders.

As a result, reproductive health issues become more visible in developmental discussions. By promoting openness and public discussions, the media can help break the culture of silence and level of stigma and discrimination associated with SRH issues.

Also, bringing these issues to the fore will provide information that will positively affect reproductive health policy.

Henceforth, I promise on my honour to be faithful to my basic responsibility of giving a voice to the voiceless. How about you my media friends. Let’s not disappoint our citizenry by pushing issues like this to the periphery, we are their only hope.

I rest my case!!


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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Africa


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Africa


HKU students react to reports of unsterilized equipments at dental clinic


Students at the University of Hong Kong expressed anger at authorities over the disclosure that equipment used on about 250 patients at the university’s dental clinic last week had not been properly sterilized.

“I think an apology for such a mistake should not be entertained, they have put the lives of people at risk,” said Kalpesh Narkhede, a postgraduate student in urban design. “The school authorities must sack whoever was responsible.”

Narkhede said he is not comfortable to visiting the university’s clinic because he will always remember this case.

Korean postgraduate student Jinso Lee worried that the university may have lower safety requirements at the clinic, which is free for students. “This is so sad and somehow annoying to hear this because, to me, someone was supposed to be responsible for sterilizing those instruments but failed to do his/[her] job,” Lee said.

Some students said they feared that the patients could be at risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis B and C after a nurse discovered on Friday that a key step in disinfecting instruments had been skipped for four days in a row at the dental clinic.

Michelle Wong, an arts student who had her teeth cleaned on Friday, said in a report by the South China Morning Post that she was worried. “This is unbelievable. I only had dental cleaning, not even something complicated like root canal treatment or removing wisdom teeth, but now they say I need a blood test,” she said. “I will not be using the dental service there for a while.”

The University Health Service (UHS) said it has contacted some of the affected patients by last Saturday to request they undergo a blood test.

“By this evening (Nov. 3), UHS has contacted more than 100 patients, 86 of them have done the blood test. UHS will continue to contact the other patients,” the department said in a statement.

“UHS has immediately consulted three experts of the HKU Microbiology Professor Yuen Kwok Yung and his team. Their initial opinion is that the instruments, having been disinfected by the first three procedures, the chance of bacteria and viruses left is extremely low,” the University Health Service said in a statement.

“However, it is necessary to invite the patients to have blood test to safeguard their health. Blood test for Hepatitis B, C and HIV has been arranged in UHS and four designated medical laboratories. Initial results will be ready in two days,” UHS said.

The department said blood tests for HIV and Hepatitis B and C are necessary for the patients who were treated at the clinic during the four-day period. Results will be released two days later, the department said in a statement.

Meanwhile, HKU has established an investigatory panel consisting of Deputy VC Professor Roland Chin, Professor Yuen Kwok Yung and Dr. Kitty Chan, Director of University Health Services, establish better safeguards at the clinic.

The Academic Staff Association and the HKU Employees Union, however, placed the blame on the administrators of the UHS and dental clinic rather than junior-level workers.

“We are very surprised why such a case could have happened and why it was only made known three and half days later,” the ASA and HKUEU said in a joint statement.

The groups said the university has in recent years lost experienced employees in the dental clinic and at the UHS and said it is important for the panel to evaluate health department administrators and supervisors, as well as funding and manpower for the UHS.

“We do not want to see a report from the investigation panel that would take a junior staff as scapegoat for closing this incident and leave behind all the management and resource problems and issues untouched,” the statement said. “In this regard, we strongly demand that representatives from each of the staff unions of the University should be included in the investigation panel.”

The HKU Students Union (HKUSU) welcomed the investigation panel and urged the committee not to hide the results of the panel’s investigations from the students.

The university needs to release the results of the students’ blood tests to students, their relatives and appropriate departments to ease anxieties, the student union said. The group added that provide any assistance to students and act as a voice for students to university authorities.

Earlier, the Union said it was “shocked to learn that an incident had happened to our UHS Dental Unit affecting some 250 members of the HKU community.”

The University has since reported the incident to the Government’s Centre of Health Protection.

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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Africa


A dinner with Messi

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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Africa


Statue Square photo session

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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Africa


11,000 Liberian refugees in Ghana to lose status

Liberian refugees living in the Bububuram refugee camp in the Central region of Ghana will lose their status as refugees by June 2012. The decision which is being implemented by the international community will cut aid supplies to the refugees. According to a Programs Coordinator for the Ghana Refugee Board, Tetteh Padi, the refugees will be forced to integrate if the deadline elapses.

“The international community has come together, and this includes the Liberian government, and they have agreed that the conditions back in Liberia are good enough, safe enough for those who fled the war,” Tetteh Padi told Joy News.

He said the refugees have the option to regularize their stay in the country with the Immigration Service.

The first 95 Liberian refugees arrived in Ghana in 1990 but the number swelled up to 42,000 in 2004 according to a report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR).

However, according to the report, some of the refugees returned to Liberia when the civil war subsided in 2005 and there was a subsequent voluntary repatriation by UNCHR in 2008. During that exercise, over 1000 Liberian refugees left the shores of Ghana for home while others refused to be repatriated insisting on being repatriated to the United States of America instead.

With over 11,000 Liberian refugees living in the West African country currently, the only option left for them is to regularize their stay in the country with that country’s immigration service or voluntarily repatriate to their country because of the stable political situation there now.

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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Africa


Is the International Criminal Court targeting Africa?

A legal officer with the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fadi El Abdallah has denied that the world court has concentrated the bulk of its investigations and operations on the African continent. Recent critiques from a variety of sources, including the African Union, have charged the ICC with jeopardising peace, prolonging ethnic conflict and threatening the national sovereignty of African states.

This so called bias on the part of the ICC has left the world court battling to gain credibility but Fadi El Abdallah, says “the situations of four continents are under analysis by the Office of the Prosecutor: Afghanistan, Colombia, the Republic of Korea, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Nigeria and Palestine,” so the court cannot be said to be bias.

The following interview with Fadi El Abdallah sort to give answers to some of the pressing questions on the ICC in relations to Africa and its operations:

AfricaNews: How do you (ICC) start your investigations, do you need a permission of authorities of particular country to be able start investigations?

Fadi: Any State Party to the Rome Statute can request the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation. A State not party to the Statute can also accept the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to crimes committed in its territory or by one of its nationals, and request the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation. The United Nations Security Council may also refer a situation to the Court. The Prosecutor determines whether, in his opinion, the Court has jurisdiction with respect to the alleged crimes.
Following a thorough analysis of the available information, he decides whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation. Thus, he must establish whether the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes may have been committed and, if so, whether they were committed after 1 July 2002.

The Prosecutor must also ascertain whether any national authorities are conducting a genuine investigation or trial of the alleged perpetrators of the crimes. Lastly, he must notify the States Parties and other States which may have jurisdiction of his intention to initiate an investigation.

Also, if the Office of the Prosecutor receives reliable information about crimes involving nationals of a State Party or of a State which has accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC, or about crimes committed in the territory of such a State, and concludes that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation. Such information can be provided by individuals, intergovernmental or non-governmental organisations, or any other reliable sources. The Prosecutor must, however, obtain the permission of the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber before initiating an investigation under such circumstances.

AfricaNews: Is there an international definition of what constitutes crime? Is it fixed or democratically dynamic?

Fadi:The mandate of the Court is to try individuals rather than States, and to hold such persons accountable for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crime of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression, when the conditions for the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction over the latter are fulfilled.

These crimes are defined in the international treaty founding the ICC, called the Rome Statute, and in the legal text titled “Elements of Crimes” also approved by the States. Only the States Parties to the Rome Statute can amend these legal texts.

AfricaNews: What is the threshold for how serious a crime must be before investigations can commence?

Fadi:The gravity of crimes is one of the criteria that the Prosecutor examines in order to evaluate whether or not there is a reasonable basis to open an investigation. However, the gravity criteria is not defined only by the number of persons killed, but also by the impact of the crimes on victims, which can be measured only a case-by-case basis, under the final control of the judges.

AfricaNews: Does the ICC give militant groups or territories the authorisation to become signatories?

Fadi:No, only States can be parties to the Rome Statute, the treaty founding the ICC. However, all armed groups participating in an armed conflict have to comply with the rules of international law.

AfricaNews: Aside the trial of war crimes in theYugoslavia war, the ICC has most cases and investigations in Africa (Sudan, Kenya, Cote D’Ivore, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda). Why is this?

Fadi:The ICC is concerned with countries that have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction and these are in all continents, including Africa. Three of the six situations currently under investigation were referred by African states themselves.

Between 2003 and 2005, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and the Central African Republic referred situations in their own territory to the ICC. The situations in Darfur and in Libya were referred by the United Nations Security Council by two resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as provided for by article 13 of the Rome Statute. Only the investigation in the situation in Kenya has been initiated by the ICC Prosecutor.

Lastly, situations in countries on four continents are under analysis by the Office of the Prosecutor: Afghanistan, Colombia, the Republic of Korea, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Nigeria and Palestine.

AfricaNews: What is your take on people’s claim that the court is set-up for Africa?

Fadi: TheInternational Criminal Court is an independent judicial institution that it is not subject to political control. As an independent court, its decisions are based on legal criteria and rendered by impartial judges in accordance with the provisions of its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, and other legal texts governing the work of the Court.

African countries made great contributions to the establishment of the Court and influenced the decision to have an independent Office of the Prosecutor. In 1997, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was very active in supporting the proposed Court and its declaration on the matter was endorsed in February 1998, by the participants of the African Conference meeting in Dakar, Senegal, through the “Declaration on the Establishment of the International Criminal Court”.

At the Rome Conference itself, the most meaningful declarations about the Court were made by Africans. Without African support, the Rome Statute might never have been adopted. In fact, 43 African countries are currently signatories of the Rome Statute, of which 31 are parties to the Statute, making Africa the most heavily represented region in the Court’s membership. The trust and support comes not only from the governments, but also from civil society organisations.

AfricaNews: What is the relevance of the ICC with the prolonged diffculties in bringing to dock its indictees (as seen in Sudan’s president and the 16year hunt for Mladic)

Fadi: The ICC has been established to put an end to the impunity of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The fight against impunity is necessary to build a lasting peace, however it is clear that it is a long fight, and that the ICC counts on the cooperation of the States in order to implement the judges’ decisions. In establishing the ICC, the States set up a system based on two pillars. The Court itself is the judicial pillar. The operational pillar belongs to States, including the enforcement of Court’s orders.

States Parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC. When a State Party fails to comply with a request to cooperate, the Court may make a finding to that effect and refer the matter for further action to the Assembly of States Parties.

When the Court’s jurisdiction is triggered by the Security Council, the duty to cooperate extends to all UN Member States, regardless of whether or not they are a Party to the Statute. The crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court are the gravest crimes known to humanity and as provided for by article 29 of the Statute they shall not be subject to any statute of limitations. Warrants of arrest are lifetime orders and therefore individuals still at large will sooner or later face the Court.

AfricaNews: Why bring the culprits to The Hague? Why can’t the ICC sit in the affected countries with their own prosecuting team and judges?

Fadi: The States Parties to the Rome Statute decided to have the headquarters of the ICC in The Hague (the Netherlands). In order to make the best use of the limited human and material resources allocated to the ICC, it is necessary to centralize the large number of services required. However, the judges can decide to hold audiences in the affected countries if they deem it appropriate and in the interest of justice, and if the security and logistic conditions are fulfilled.

AfricaNews: The trial of key Kenyan government officials involvement in the 2007 post-election violence is ongoing with this officials still in office wielding enormous political power. Is this fair on ordinary Kenyans?

Fadi: The ICC judges imposed a certain number of conditions on the six Kenyan suspects to ensure that they will not put in danger, by any means, the proceedings or the security of witnesses. The Court is monitoring the implementation of these conditions. In case a suspect breaches the conditions imposed by the ICC judges, the Court may decide to issue a warrant of arrest against this person.

AfricaNews: The US is not signatory to the ICC statutes, will the ICC ever investigate the alleged war-crimes in Afghnaistan, Iraq and Pakistan

Fadi: The ICC has no jurisdiction over Pakistan or Iraq. Neither of these countries is a State Party to the Rome Statute, and the situations in their territories have not been referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council.

Afghanistan is a State Party to the Rome Statute, and the ICC Prosecutor is conducting a preliminary examination of the situation in this country. If he decides to open an investigation, the persons suspected of having committed crimes falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction can be prosecuted regardless of their nationality.

AfricaNews: How effective or successful has the ICC been so far?

Fadi: The International Criminal Court was established after the Rome Statute entered into force, on 1 July 2002. It is now a fully functional institution: 115 States are now parties to the Rome Statute, six investigations have been opened, eight preliminary examinations are conducted, 15 warrants of arrest and 9 summonses to appear have been issued by the judges, five persons are in the custody of the Court and four trials are ongoing, eight other cases are at the pre-trial stage and thousands of victims are participating in the different cases through their legal representatives.

A lot of challenges are still ahead, but the Court is already an important element in the International Justice System by which the International Community responds to the world’s most serious crimes.

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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Africa