Martin Luther King JR’s work still resonates across Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Streets. Schools. A bridge in Burkina Faso. The name of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. can be found across Africa, a measure of the global influence of the American civil rights leader who was shot dead 50 years ago after speaking out against injustices at home and abroad.
A school for poor children that is named after King in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, took as its motto, “Have a Dream,” borrowing a line from one of King’s most famous speeches.
“Martin Luther King stood for human rights and equality, so we wanted a way of inspiring and motivating our students,” said Robert Mpala, the school’s founder.
n rural Liberia, a West African nation founded by freed American slaves, one official spoke proudly of a privately owned Martin Luther King School. “Martin Luther King was a great man. We still follow his dream,” said J. Maxime Bleetahn, director of communications at the Ministry of Education.
Africa’s push for independence from colonialism, which mirrored King’s own movement for racial equality in America, attracted the civil rights leader’s attention and support.
King first set foot on the continent in March 1957 to attend celebrations marking the West African nation of Ghana’s independence from Britain.
After he returned to Africa in November 1960 to attend the inauguration of Nigeria’s first president, King said African leaders had told him “in no uncertain terms that racism and colonialism must go, for they see the two as based on the same principle.”
The parallels between King’s efforts and Africans’ quest for independence were perhaps strongest in apartheid-era South Africa, where racist laws oppressed the majority black community for decades.
In December 1965 King delivered a speech in New York denouncing South Africa’s white rulers as “spectacular savages and brutes” and called on the U.S. and Europe to boycott the nation, a strategy the West eventually embraced and that helped end white rule.
King was unable to visit South Africa after being denied a visa. But years later a bust of King was slipped secretly — by diplomatic pouch — into a South Africa still in the grip of apartheid.
American sculptor Zenos Frudakis said the U.S. government approached him about creating a bust of King that would be installed in South Africa for “political impact.” As it was barred by South Africa’s government from being displayed in a public space, the sculpture was dedicated in 1989 at the U.S. Embassy, visible to people outside the embassy fence.
People who were part of the struggle against apartheid spoke at the sculpture’s dedication, and Frudakis said he was impressed “as they were risking their lives to bring equality and freedom to everyone in South Africa.”
Today, the bust of King remains on display in a vastly different South Africa, which was transformed after anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990 and elected the country’s first black president four years later.
Mandela was keenly aware of King’s contribution to equal rights and mentioned him when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize along with South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, F.W. de Klerk, in 1993.
“Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war,” Mandela said. The Nelson Mandela Foundation plans to mark the anniversary of King’s assassination.
King’s inspirational speeches on love and justice, as well as his insistence on non-violent resistance, continue to resonate among some intellectuals and political activists in Africa, where many countries are now ruled by strongmen or democracy is in decline.
The civil rights leader was frequently cited by Ugandan activists last year as lawmakers moved to pass a bill that could keep the longtime president in power for many years more.
“We as a nation must recognize what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as the ‘the fierce urgency of now,’” one opposition activist, Mugisha Muntu, said at the time. “We too must make our voices heard.”
The new president to avoid the “ethnic cleansing”
Sierra Leone’s new president in an interview with The Associated Press is pledging to avoid the “ethnic cleansing” of clearing out government posts for his supporters.
Julius Maada Bio spoke the day after winning the West African nation’s runoff election. The former opposition candidate and military leader now faces the challenge of helping the country of 7 million people recover from the devastating Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016.
The election was the fourth since Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war ended in 2002, and concerns about potential divisions along ethnic, political or regional lines remain fresh.
“No Sierra Leonean should feel threatened by my ascension to power,” Bio said Thursday. “I am not going to discriminate. National cohesion is very much a part of my program.”
Defeated candidate Samura Kamara has said the former ruling All Peoples Congress party intends to take “appropriate legal action” against the election results, saying they “did not reflect the will of the voters.”
Any registered voter has seven days to petition the Supreme Court over the results. Bio was swiftly sworn into office before midnight Wednesday, minutes after results were announced.
Bio told the AP that Sierra Leone should proceed with life as normal.
“Attacking anybody is not necessarily … is not going to change the result of this election,” he said.
With his win, his Sierra Leone Peoples Party takes power for the first time in a decade.
The new president now faces a parliament that is dominated by the APC party. Outgoing leader Ernest Bai Koroma with the APC had served two terms and was barred by the constitution from running again.
The election had caused tensions in Sierra Leone as a member of the then-ruling party filed a legal challenge to the results of the first round of voting and a temporary injunction was issued, stalling preparations. The high court later lifted the injunction but the runoff vote was delayed by a few days. The opposition under Bio called the court challenge a delaying tactic.
“It has been a very difficult journey to get here,” Bio said.
The way ahead won’t be easy, either, he added. People will need to be convinced that he means what he says about unity and a lack of favoritism in government.
He acknowledged that his background as military leader also has caused some skepticism among Sierra Leoneans, but he remained optimistic.
“I remember when (former U.S. President John F.) Kennedy said he will land a human being on the moon, everybody said he was dreaming. When I said I will come back to the statehouse using the ballots, everybody said, ‘You only know bullets.’ So, it’s a dream come true.”
Africa’s scientist encouraged to become the next Einstein
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — South African geneticist Vinet Coetzee held up a malaria-diagnosing scanner that she said can be developed for use in Africa’s rural areas without the need for blood samples or lab tests.
“This can be rapid, affordable and non-invasive,” she said. “It can reduce health inequality and bring us one step closer to a world free of malaria.”
The prototype was among the research projects highlighted at the Next Einstein Forum conference last month in Rwanda to encourage the development of young scientists across Africa. Organizers called it the largest-ever gathering of scientists on the continent.
“We can go from a dark continent to a bright continent,” said Nigerian chemistry professor Peter Ngene, who described how he plans to use nanotechnology to store solar energy efficiently in hydrogen batteries.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the current chair of the African Union, opened the gathering by linking scientific progress to Africa’s development at large.
“Knowledge economies are prosperous economies,” he said. “Today, more than ever before, adequate math and science proficiency is a prerequisite for a nation to attain high-income status and the gains in health and well-being that go along with it.”
The president added: “For too long, Africa has allowed itself to be left behind.” As the continent catches up it cannot afford to leave out women and girls, Kagame said, urging Africans not to accept the global gender gap in science as inevitable.
“The movie ‘Black Panther’ gives positive role models of African women in science,” said Eliane Ubalijoro, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, who pointed out the large number of women at the conference. “We are creating Wakanda right here!”
Africa lags behind the rest of the world in scientific output, but research on the continent is growing rapidly and a few countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali have increased their research and development spending efforts “to the level of a middle-income economy,” according to the UNESCO Science Report .
The Next Einstein Forum began in 2013 to help the continent move forward and now sponsors 19 African science fellows, along with an Africa Science Week at schools in 30 countries. At the conference the forum launched Scientific African, a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal to publicize new research.
The forum is an offshoot of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which provides full scholarships for students to earn masters’ degrees in mathematics at centers in Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. More than 1,500 students from 43 African countries have graduated from the program since 2003, with 32 percent of them women.
The program to encourage Africans to study mathematics is the brainchild of South African-born physicist Neil Turok, who grew up as his parents fought apartheid, the country’s former system of racial oppression.
“My parents took pride in combatting injustice and they were thrown in jail. It was difficult for me personally but it was good for my studies because I threw myself into my work,” he told the conference.
Turok attained international success in physics and mathematics, collaborating with Stephen Hawking, teaching at Princeton and becoming the director of the Perimeter Institute, an independent research center for theoretical physics in Canada.
Challenged by his father to do something for Africa, Turok founded the mathematical institute in 2003. A decade later, the Next Einstein Forum was launched.
“We can draw strength from hardship,” said Turok, who said he believes the world’s next Einstein can be an African. “When Africans enter science in large numbers, with their diversity, backgrounds and motivation, they will make massive, transformative discoveries. Those discoveries are just waiting there to be made.”
Albino girl forced to drink brake fluid before her murder, court hears
Witbank – Gabisile Shabane, a 13-year-old girl with albinism who was kidnapped with another child from their home in Hlalanikahle in Mpumalanga, was forced to smoke dagga and drink a vehicle’s brake fluid mixed with beer shortly before she was murdered, the Witbank Magistrate’s Court heard on Wednesday.
“Accused number one [traditional healer Thokozani Msibi] mixed brake fluid with beer and forced Gabisile to drink it. She was also forced to smoke dagga with accused number two [Brilliant Mkhize],” State prosecutor Fanie Mavundla said.
He was reading an affidavit while opposing bail for Mkhize, Themba Thubane and Knowledge Mhlanga.
He said the evidence in the affidavit was obtained by the police from State witness Thulani Thobela, adding that the affidavit came from investigating officer Colonel Ngina Masombuka.
Mavundla said Shabane’s headless body was found buried in a shallow grave in Cullinan, east of Pretoria, in February, with some parts missing.
“The missing parts are the arms, heart, lungs, vagina, uterus, ovaries, all the abdominal organs and the bladder. The head, one arm and a part of the vagina were later found at the home of accused number one,” said Mavundla.
Msibi, who was also in the dock on Wednesday, was denied bail by the same court on March 6.
Shabane and 15-month-old Nkosikhona Ngwenya were kidnapped from their home on January 28, allegedly by three men who entered the house through a broken window.
Ngwenya’s body was found on the side of the N4 freeway in Mpumalanga in the third week of February.
Mavundla said Shabane was killed so that Msibi could use her body parts to create muti for Thubane and Mhlanga to make their business — a private college — thrive. Mkhize wanted Msibi to make him rich through the same muti, he added.
Defence lawyer, Mzamo Sibisi, for Thubane and Mhlanga, disputed the evidence presented by Mavundla, saying it was unconstitutionally obtained by force.
Magistrate Darleen Venter postponed the matter to Thursday for a judgment.
African News Agency/ANA
North Korea tells U.S. it is prepared to discuss denuclearization
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea has told the United States for the first time that it is prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets President Donald Trump, a U.S. official said on Sunday.
U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit, the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The communications, still at a preliminary stage, have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea apparently through its United Nations mission, and intelligence officers from both sides using a separate backchannel, the official said.
Until now, the United States had relied mostly on ally South Korea’s assurance of Kim’s intentions.
South Korean envoys visited Washington last month to convey Kim’s invitation to meet. Trump, who has exchanged bellicose threats with Kim in the past year, surprised the world by quickly agreeing to meet Kim to discuss the crisis over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.
But North Korea has not broken its public silence on the summit, which U.S. officials say is being planned for May. There was no immediate word on the possible venue for the talks, which would be the first ever between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader.
The U.S. official declined to say exactly when the U.S.-North Korea communications had taken place but said the two sides had held multiple direct contacts.
“The U.S. has confirmed that Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” said a second U.S. official.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House welcomed the communication between North Korea and the United States, with one official saying the development was “positive”.
“We are aware contact between North Korea and the United States is going well,” said another Blue House official on condition of anonymity.
“We don’t know, however, up to what extent information is being shared between the two.”
On Monday, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton is due to begin his role as Trump’s national security adviser, while on Thursday Senate confirmation hearings begin for Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. Both have taken hawkish stances on North Korea.The second South Korean official said the South’s National Security Office head, Chung Eui-yong, could speak with Bolton over the telephone as early as Tuesday.
Questions remain about how North Korea would define denuclearization, which Washington sees as Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
Some analysts have said Trump’s willingness to meet Kim handed North Korea a diplomatic win, as the United States had insisted for years that any such summit be preceded by North Korean steps to denuclearize.
Tension over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile surged last year and raised fears of U.S. military action against Pyongyang.
But anxieties have eased significantly since North Korea sent athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. The neighbors are technically still at war after a 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire, not a truce.
North and South Korea will hold their first summit in more than a decade towards the end of April.
The two Koreas have been holding working talks since March to work out details of the summit, like the agenda and security for the two leaders.
Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping in a surprise visit to Beijing in late March, his first trip outside the isolated North Korea since he came to power in 2011.
China has banned the export to North Korea of some items
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has banned the export to North Korea of some items with potential dual use in weapons of mass destruction, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website.
The list of items reflects a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted unanimously in September over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.
The ministry gave details of 32 materials, technologies and forms of equipment with potential use related to weapons of mass destruction, including particle accelerators and centrifuges.
In addition, it outlined bans on items with potential dual use in conventional weapons.
The announcement of the export bans comes amid a tightening of exports from China to North Korea. China’s exports of fuel to North Korea slowed to a trickle in February.
North Korea has told the United States that it is prepared to discuss denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula when its leader, Kim Jong Un, meets U.S. President Donald Trump.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s work still resonates across Africa