Back soon...

Will be back soon. Time for this and this.
The revolution was last night, did you miss it?

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Talking about blogging and G8 on BBC

John and I just got back from Bush house where we had two interviews for BBC Go Digital and BBC Kiswahili Service on blogging, journalism, G8, etc. Tomorrow morning (5:30am and 6:30am) I will be on BBC Network Africa talking about blogging at the G8 summit. That will be few hours before I leave for the US.

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BBC interview

This morning, John Kamau and I are going to have an interview with Colin Grant for the BBC programme, Go Digital. I am leaving tomorrow for the US. There is still a strong feeling of sadness all over London. I must admit, on my way here I was a bit scared.

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What do Scottish farmers think about subsidies...

I spoke with Scottish farmers about subsidies. Here is what they said...

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Final communique

It has come to an end. African presidents came, dined, wined, took photos, and left...not even a word to African journalist, to borrow a line from Fela Kuti, JUST LIKE THAT!

G8 leaders came, pretended to care about poverty, and issued this communique, which has been criticized by World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth.

I am still at Gleneagles, it is about 11pm. I will be heading to Edinburgh very soon.

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The African President who was not allowed to attend the G8 summit

I just found this article. I am not sure if I find it funny or sad. All the way from Africa to London, on the way to Gleneagles, but....

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If you could meet the G8 leaders for coffee...

What would you tell them? Read my piece on Panos Africavox.

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Voices from African Civil Society

We left in the morning for Gleneagles. The bomb attacks in London have shocked everyone at Gleneagles. We had a long, long day. Maura and I came back to the apartment around 1am. Earlier today I talked to few representatives of local and international organisations in Africa who are attending the summit to get the exact messages they have brought all the way from Africa.

Monica Naggaga is the policy coordinator for Oxfam Uganda. I started our conversation by asking her the reasons for coming to Gleneagles. “I am here to lobby the leaders of G8 to end poverty in Africa,” said Naggaga who mainly uses the media to get her message across to world leaders and the British public.

Naggaga's main message to leaders of the G8 is clear: African governments should be allowed to decide their own trade policy. “If they decide to open up their markets, let it be so, if they decide to protect domestic markets, let it be so.” She said with conviction.

On the issue of debt, Naggaga believes that what Africa need is better and appopriate aid “so that we can effectively deliver the Millenium Development Goals.” Better aid, according to Naggaga, means aid not tied to conditionalities, which usually amounts to giving money with one hand and taking it away with the other. She maintains that Africa requires extra $50 billion this year.

Naggaga also wants world's advanced nations to to commit themselves to a clear time-frame to phase out farming subsdies, which negatively affects African farmers.

Mulima Kufeksa Akapelwa, the head of deparment of Justice and Peace for the Catholic Centre for Justice, Development, and Peace in Zambia, is in Gleneagles to ask world's richest nations to extend debt cancellation beyond the 14 African countries that have benefitted from the first phase of the deal.

She wants debt cancellation to be accompanied by more and effective aid. She elaborates: “Africa does not benefit from aid designed in a way that huge chunk of the money comes back to the West as payment for consultants, technicians, and purchase of equipment.”

“Another critical area that we have raised our concern is trade. Africa will not be able to stand on her own if the international trade regime is not reformed,” she said, adding that fair trade alone will not help Africa. “Africa needs the economic capacity to give incentives to her people to be more productive, and also improve the necessary physical, telecommunication, and financial infrastructure and systems needed for high and quality productivty,” Mulima noted.

On the role of Africa in fighting poverty, she observed that more foreign aid cannot is needed even where it seems as if the problem is under Africa's control. She points out that corruption, which is one the the major problems in Africa, requires huge investment to wipe it out. Referring to her country of Zambia, in Southern Africa, she said, “Zambia reguires about $4million to install new technologies for tracking use of public funds. This is a lot of money for a country like Zambia but very crucial.”

After attending the 2003 G8 Summit in France, Caroline Sande, the Director of ActionAid, Southern Africa, promised herself that she was not going to attend more G8 summits: “Historically, these meetings are about rhetorics and sometimes leaders are only scoring points against each other.”

However, this year's summit, “is very unique and brings with it hope and optimism that has never been felt before.” Mass demonstration that took place in Edinburgh last week, Sande believes, showed that ordinary people are asking questions and at the same time Africans have started to critically sift through grand statements and look at small prints.

Despite her optimism, she will not be surprised if nothing significant comes out of the summit “since it will not be the first time Africa is one of the key issues of the summit with lots of promises made but not fulfiled.” She points to the contradiction within western governments such as the UK as an indicator of how difficult it might for promises to be delivered.

“Look, the Home Office wants to kick out asylum seekers from Zimbabwe, the Trade Department's policy papers talk about working towards opening up Africa's markets to British corporations, the UK is the second largest exporter of small arms to volatile regions of Africa, at the same time the Prime Minister leads other G8 leaders in ending poverty in Africa. How can you explain these contradictions?” She asks.

Another contradiction, she adds, is in the fact that members of the G8 want African countries to practice the pure form of free market economy while they forcefully protect their domestic markets.

Caroline has speficic messages from Africa for G8 leaders, “We need time-frame for impementing promises, solutions cannot be found in singular programmes; it is about a package of fair trade, better aid, debt cancellation and so forth.”

The basis of our message is that the lives of African people should be valued. “We dont see, for example, why plans to put every HIV/AIDS victims under treatment are targeted for 2010. Why not now? We are talking about human beings who will not be around in 2010,” she complained.

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Back from Gleneagles

We have arrived back to our apartment from Gleneagles where high priests of capitalism are meeting. We missed Bono and Geldof. We were busy eating and sipping not knowing what was going on the other side of the tent.

Maura, who was very disappointed for missing Bono, writes about rap music in Mozambique for Metro newspaper. Earlier today I was in Simon Mayo's BBC Radio Five Live Show talking about the power of protests. Right now Joel is on air discussing Africa and the G8 Summit.

I am going to write a short piece about my first day at Gleneagles for Panos blog before going to sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day, we are all going to Gleneagles early in the morning.

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We have arrived in Gleneagles

We have arrived in Gleneagles after over an hour drive from Edinburgh. We are drinking wine and eating Scotish food while talking to people. This is part of "Taste of Scotland Evening" with the First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell. I have met journalists from Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda and have just spoken to the minister of education and young people of Scotland. Will write more later.

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From London to Edinburgh

Everything seems to be happening extremely fast since I arrived in London last Monday to cover the G8 Summit for Panos London. We left London for Edinburgh last Friday. Other journalist who are Edinburgh for the same reason are Hilary Mbobe, Machrine Birungi, John Kamau, Maura Quartoze, and Salamatu Turay.
A lot has been happening in Edinburgh. Follow our coverage (photos, features, blog entries, etc) here and here. Metro will be featuring stories from us. We are going back to London this coming Friday. London gives me a feeling of being tightly squeezed by old buildings with thick walls, tiny cars, throngs of people running to catch the next train, narrow roads, and tiny bedrooms. London, in a way, reminds me of New York: rush, rush, rush…catch the bus…is it number 38 or 28? Catch the train…what time is the next train leaving?

Back in London we were able to meet different political and media figures. We met Hugh Bayley (Member of Parliament for York), the chair of Africa All Party Parliamentary Group. While seated on a side table in his office, he briefly told us the progress that has been made by his group in bringing to the attention of British politicians and policy-makers critical issues relating to Africa.

Last Tuesday, John and I went to talk to the former CEO of City Water, Cliff Stone, about the Tanzanian governement decision to deport him and cancel its contract with City Water. We did not have enough time to finish the interview; we might do it again face to face or over the phone before we leave the UK. We are still working in this story. The same day, we went to London School of Economics to a public forum entitled: Make G8 History. We got there a little bit late. But I was glad that we did not miss Tariq Ali, George Monbiot, and Mark Curtis.

On Wednesday we met Clare Short (Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood) at House of Parliament. Before meeting Clare Short, Francesca, Nicky, John, and I visited BBC online offices to see what they do. John, apart from blogging for Africavox blog, will also blog for BBC online.

On thursay, the day before we left for Edinburgh, we had informative discussions with two amazing and experienced UK bloggers. Paul Mason writes about our meeting. Rafael Behr talked about being the only blogger at the Observer and showed us the last public speech by Ceausescu. Colin Grant-Bu interviewed me for the BBC programme, Go Digital. He will conduct another interview with all of us next Monday.
You might be interested in visiting other G8 Blogs:

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John Kamau on G8 in the guardian newspaper

John Kamau, one of the african journalists who are blogging and reporting on the G8 Summit has an excellent article in the Guardian today.
Please visit the Panos G8 blog where we are reporting from an African perspective on what is happening, or not happening, here in Edinburgh. We also just learnt that we got media accreditation to actually brush shoulders with GW and his buddy, Tony.
Right now, a group of anarchists are demonstrating.

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Yes Men in Edinburgh

Another long day in Edinburgh, we attended some events in town where we got to see and hear Samir Amin, Walden Bello, George Monbiot, Trevor Ngwane, etc. We also spoke to a person from the World Development Movement about water privatization in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I think these guys made my day. On our way back we met a group of anti-war demonstators. We wanted to stay but it got so cold and we were hungry. I have to start working on my stories for Panos.

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blogging in tanzanian politics

Tanzanian's opposition party, Chadema, has blogs for its national leaders. I will be watching closely to see how they will use blogging technology in this year's presidential and parliamentary election.

Here in Edinburgh, we are about to start our day with a full Scottish breakfast. Remember visiting our new blog.

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Do I have to go back to London?

I just realized what makes me love Edinburgh. First, people are more relaxed (and drunk?). In London, everybody seems to be stressed about something. The whole city seems to be late for something. Many Africans I saw over there have permanent frowns on their faces. Greener pastures might not be that green. Lots of them seem to be somewhere else: thinking about the landlord?
Second, in Edinburgh it is easier for me to find my way around. Somebody from Panos said something about Edinburgh being a manageable city. I wonder if Mzizima, the largest city in Tanzania is manageable to visitors.

Right now, Live 8 concert on TV is in South Africa. A group of musicians are singing the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikeleli, which happens to be the same national anthem, in different languages though, in Zambia and Tanzania. We have been watching some of Live 8 performances. Whoever was deciding which performance was to be aired must not like African music. The few times they showed African musicians, it only lasted for 6 sconds.

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G8 security and GDP in Malawi

I was told by an activist from Congo DRC during Make Poverty History demonstration that the total cost of G8 Summit security is more than the GDP of a country like Malawi! Dont forget to get to read blog entries from African bloggers who are in Edinburgh.

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Make Poverty History demonstration

I guess there were over 200,000 demonstrators in Edinburgh earlier today. It was exciting and fun being among those thousands souls with banners, music, drumming, singing, etc. The last time I was in something like this was 2002 in New York at an anti-war protest.
Today I was busy tracking down African demonstrators. I met some activists from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, and Congo DRC.
Here are some photos.
For more detailed information about what is happening here from an African perspective read the new Panos blog.

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Eating "leaves" in Edinburgh

I just got back from a long walk around Edinburgh. It is 1:45am, the city is still bustling with activities, mostly kissing, smoking, and arguing. Everybody seems to be staggering from alcohol. And they speak something that sounds like English...Scottish english, I am told.

I met three Tanzanians as i was about to come back to the apartment. It is always such a great feeling meeting Kiswahili speakers in the Diaspora. "Are you here for this thing?" They asked me while pointing to a piece of cloth outside an old church, which says: Unfair trade costs Africa $2700,000,000 every year.
Strange, one of the three Tanzanian comes from my village!

Before we left for lunch yesterday, I wrote about Dr. Fackson Banda, the Executive Director of Panos Southern Africa, asking us to go where he can eat "real" food, not fast food. We went to a restaurant not far from where we leave (Sameer: "dont break anything, please dont touch anything...don't, don't, dont..."). Dr Banda's food ended up being too "real"! I havent laughed so much since I got in here last Monday. Dr. Banda ordered sauteed chicken pepper, thinking it was going to be a filling. Unfortunately, he did not see the word:salad. When his meal came, his salad, to be precise, he had to ask to see the menu again before he realised that his order was for people who like eating leaves (vegetables). In less than two minutes he had finished his leaves! I advised him that next time, instead of asking for menu, he should go to the kitchen to see for himself what he is ordering.

On our way back to the apartment, we laughed so hard while discussing Banda's "leaves."
"I grow vegetables in my backyard. I eat them for free, now here I had to pay the equivalent of 150,000,000 Zambian currency (Kwacha)" John Kamau, who also happened to eat "leaves" for lunch, did a quick calculation to find out how much Kenyan shilings he had used for "leaves" that left him even hungrier. He
grabbed a mint we got from the hotel from his mouth and threw it away in disgust. Banda looked at John while cracking with laughter, " You see, that damn thing does not even dissolve!"

Oh, I am tired. Tomorrow is a long day. I have to go to sleep. There will be a big march in town. Earlier today ohn told me that next week there will be 8 leaders of the so called "wealth economies," 10,000 arnachists, and 100, 000 activists!

There are so many police officers around the town, some roads have been closed and some shops on Princes (street/ avenue/road?) have been covering their glass windows with wooden planks, mainly because of anarchists. As I told you yesterday, I will be looking for anarchists for tomorrow.

**I learnt today that John Kamau from Kenya, who is with us, is also an accomplished musician.

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Live 8 on Technorati

We just arrived in Edinburgh. We are staying at a very beautiful apartment: large rooms, interesting artwork, big windows, etc. Well, we are about to go out to get some food. Dr. Fackson Banda, from Panos Southern Africa, says he doesnt want "fast food" but "real" food! Check out Technorati for info about Live 8 at: http://live8.technorati.com
More later. Down with neo-imperialism!

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