Monday, 31 May 2010

An Open Letter - Freedom in the face of the Freedom Flotilla

When slavery was abolished in America after a 400 year long reign of forced servitude, degradation and culture cleansing... the world looked on and said never again. After the Jewish holocaust where millions of Jews were exterminated, forced from their homes and forced to live in unimaginable conditions... the world looked on and said never again. When African Americans alongside people of all different creeds and nationalities fought for equality during the Civil Rights movement... the world looked on an said never again. When African countries were granted their independence, when women fought for equal rights, when the Berlin Wall fell down and when Nelson Mandela took his first steps of freedom from Robben Island prison after 27 years of imprisonment and ended the apartheid regime the world rallied together for humanities sake and said never again will we sit back and allow such injustices to take place. Never again will we remain silent against the tide of opposition in the face of wrong doing. At all cost we must fight to preserve the very fabrics that hold us as humans together. We sit back at times and ponder how mankind in the past could have been so cruel, how people could have sat back and let these things happen, how it was even possible at all? The world even celebrated the first Black President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama as a symbol of this change.

Yet recent events show we have learnt nothing and things are still the same.

A freedom flotilla carrying 10000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the worlds largest open air prison camp filled not with prisoners but innocent civilians mostly made up of women and children, is ambushed leaving at the last count 19 dead, several injured and many more taken as prisoners of Israel. A freedom flotilla made up of over 500 people including Jews aimed at ending the blockade so that innocent people can have access to basic health care and food is in broad daylight and in international waters pounced upon like a warship. Is this what we have learnt from past events? Is this what the world has been reduced to yet again?

If we do not stand up and be counted for then we are part of the problem. In life sometimes we think that we are just one person and our one letter, or article, donation and even our face book or twitter status means nothing. But it does!! If we all just as individuals do something no matter how small we become a group of people doing something. In turn that group of people becomes an organisation. That organisation becomes the world!!!

So in this day, this time, in this generation, it is our turn... The world is in our hands!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Foreign Policy TV Leaders Debate - Ghana Speaks Out

Sitting huddled around the internet is how I find myself listening to the UK election candidate leaders TV debate. Myself with a dozen plus Ghanaians listening attentively to the issues being discussed in the second round of debates that focus on foreign policy. The burrowed eyebrows and serious expressions, the rolling eyes and deafening silence illustrates how serious these Ghanaians take the issues being discussed. They know more than anyone that the policies being outlined will if implemented have a profound impact on their lives, after all developing countries will be at the forefront of what is being discussed tonight.

Gordon Brown remarks that Europe should work together with America and the G20 to tackle climate change, but know mention of working with Africa or other developing countries like Bangladesh whom are at the forefront of climate change. This lack of regard for developing countries characterizes the mood of the debate. It becomes even more obvious how big the democratic deficiency is on the global level.

"David Cameron is the same person who wants to cut immigration and tighten borders yet UK citizens have literally a free reign to settle or 'emigrate' to developing countries. Which African can enter into Europe and walk freely before collecting a visa, yet UK citizens can pick up their visa's at most airports when they've arrived in the country but I do not hear them complain about that" Kojo Prah Annan remarks. Francis, another Ghanaian spectator adds in response to the expenses and corruption discussions that 'they should be able to fight the corruption in their country before coming to help us because corruption in the UK directly impacts us here in Africa. For example, Vodafone and Mabey and Johnson are cases that highlight how UK corruption is spilling over onto our doorsteps'.

For these Ghanaians the debate fell short on giving tangible solutions to the problems that they are directly experiencing as a result of UK foreign policy. Issues surrounding trade, climate change, environmental justice and British companies exploiting Africa are still issues they feel were neglected in the leaders TV debate. The debate may prove a PR success for the polls, but the real people at the forefront of British foreign policy still need answers.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

GHANA: Journey into the mountainous Volta

If one has not become accustomed to the idea of waiting then they will find it very difficult to conduct life in Ghana. Exercising patience is as vital a survival skill here as the constant urge to quench thirst in the burning tropical heat.

As I am writing this post I am sitting on a coach waiting to embark on the journey to Ho, Volta Region of Ghana. I have been sitting here patiently for the past hour waiting for the coach to leave – waiting, anticipating and desperately hoping it will leave soon. But the truth of the matter is that I have no idea when the journey will begin, the coach will leave simply when it is full, and until then all we passengers can do is wait.

The heat is not something that can described by the mere use of words, it is something that can only be experienced. It is as if I am trapped in a frying pan and slowly being cooked alive. With no air conditioning sweat drops like torrential rain from my face. After nearly two hours of waiting the female conductor in her yellow t-shirt and matching baseball cap alerts everyone that we will finally be leaving. The coach erupts into hustle and bustle as the passengers try and buy last minute refreshments from the traders outside the window who carry the goods on their heads. Finally the engine starts and the journey to the Volta region begins.

From afar the mountainous Volta Region can be seen. The picturesque mountaintops are clouded with what looks like smoke and from the distance it's hard to imagine that people actually live all the way up there. The journey into the actual Volta region is surreal. One minute the scorching sun is burning down with no remorse, the skies are clear blue and the landscape is a fair mixture of green and yellow hues. The next it is as if being transported into another world in the split of a second. The whole terrain changes into a thick lush green spread over to as far as the eye can be seen. The blue sky that was just there a second ago is instantly changed into a big grey sponge like cloud resembling an English country side. The only give away that we are still in fact in Ghana is the occasional palm trees that blow in unison against the forceful wind. The Volta Region resembles a world of its own, and in comparison to Accra could be another country altogether. We drive for what seems like miles without seeing a single house, just thick vegetation, mountain tops and fertile lands.

The rain begins to increase in its ferocity and the bullet sized raindrops have now been replaced with bucket sized ones. In an instance the water begins pouring through the roof to the dismay of the passengers who are seated directly under the leakage. Commotion breaks out as people begin shouting for the driver to stop and sort out the problem. The driver ignores the pleas. Unfortunately there are not enough towels to deal with the leakage and in the frustration a few begin to make their way to the driver to attack him for not listening. As to what anyone expects the driver to do is beyond me, but we stop again to the chorus of angry cries. I secretly wonder if we will ever arrive at all.

To be continued...

Monday, 19 April 2010

BBC Africa interview with David Amanor

With BBC Africa Journalist David Amanor

Standing outside the Use a UK Vote campaign mural situated at La Wireless, Labadi, Accra, GHANA

I will be uploading the BBC Africa audio interview shortly.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

My Near Death Experience in Ghana

Have you ever been on a fair ride and wondered why you ever tried to have a go in the first place? You know one of those rollercoaster rides that make your stomach literally fall out of your mouth but there is nothing you can do to make the ride stop. Hmmm well welcome to Accra, Ghana. Today I got in a taxi (well I thought it was a taxi - but it was really a wanna be Lewis Hamilton on something very strong) to get home. The sun had just set the air humid and the sweet smell of an assortment of West African food permeating through the air and straight into my nostrils... it had been overall a good day and I fancied nothing more than to get home and unwind. After negotiating the price and discussing where I was going with the driver I jumped in.

You see the thing about Ghana and Taxis is you never know what your going to get until the car starts moving. Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way!!!!!!!!! My driver seemed to think he was on an addition of Super Mario Cart as he swerved over pot holes, in and out of lanes and cut through cars with razor blade precision. Obviously I was at the back begging him to calm down which fell on deaf ears. By the time I reached home I had experienced 3 flashbacks of my life as I prepared to enter into my afterlife only to be brought back down to earth at the last second. So hear I am, alive, just about! So warning to you all, step into the taxis at your own peril or in the words of Forest Gump 'life (Ghana Taxis) is like a box of chocolate, you never know what your gonna get'.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Water Privatisation and Human Rights

Water privatization before I came to Ghana to work on the Use a UK Vote campaign was just a term we used in lesson to describe policies from the IMF and World Bank. We would debate endlessly about whether they should or shouldnt happen and on and on and on. Today I witnessed first hand the effects of these policies and learnt that the reality for those at the receiving end is much different than what is discussed in theory. Kojo, my colleague and the founder of Pan Afrika Nyemei took me on a tour around Labadi. Everywhere I turned I could see big Black barrels. I had seen them before but had not paid attention to what they actually do. I was told that since the privatization of water these barrels have replaced the water system that used to flow freely through the taps and into the homes of the community. Now people have to buy yellow canisters, fill them up with water and then walk the distance back to their houses. For some due to poverty, buying the canisters needed to access the water represents a problem and for these people water is now inaccessible to them. For others the inconvenience of the whole system has meant that many are not getting the amount of water they need. In a hot country like Ghana where temperatures of 34 degrees in winter is normal any restrictions on water present immediate problems.

The profits of the water privatization do not go back to the Ghanaian people but to multinational companies based in far off countries. When shareholder profits are placed on water then we're stepping into a territory that disregards the most basic and fundamental human rights of the individual - which is water as a human right.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Elect The Leaders Who Rule Us From Britain!

To mark the launch of the Use a UK Vote campaign we constructed a mural on La Wireless in La to raise awareness about the current unequal division of democracy on the international level. Getting the mural ready was exciting and adrenalin inducing as we had to get it completed within 48 hours. Jheeze… we hadn't even purchased the tools yet! But true to form and with the commitment of a great team the mural was completed within 24 hours and with time to spare!

The mural has been receiving so much attention and not just by people within the community but passers by as well as the media and politicians. Children stop and stare with wide eyes pointing fingers and wondering who are these guys and why are they here in Accra, Ghana? The mural really has been a great catalyst for starting discussion on the real subject matter of global democracy and the UKs role in shaping the international system.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Direct from London to Labadi

I arrived in the humid heat of darkness at approximately 11pm where I was picked up by Kojo and Richardson, two local activists from La, Accra. The humidity of the nights air soon brought the glow back into my face after a long day of flying and stop overs. After dropping my luggage off at my accommodation I was taken on a nights stroll around the La area to get a sense and feel of the community. With La you don't have to look far to see the disparities between the 'big men' as they are referred to here in their 4 by 4 SUVs and the majority who are barely making a livg to survive, the tin shack houses facing the luxury mansions opposite speak enough for that.

The night is peaceful and quiet with the occasional taxi and car speeding past. In the near distance a man can be heard shouting out loud passionately, it reverberates quickly in the still night as I look around curiously trying to figure out what the noise is all about. Kojo and Richardson do not even look up and keep on walking as normal as for them such outbursts are normal. It turns out he was praying.

Labadi, or La as it is more commonly known is a peaceful place at night. Around each corner a little secret awaits. On one street corner youngsters hang around laughing and dancing together. Music blares out of cars and tin shacked shops whilst others swag around with drinks in hand. On another street abandoned children sleep outside on the concrete floors. I am told that most of these children would not have had any food to eat today. They lay there innocent and oblivious to any other type of life. A life where they will have equal opportunities to all other children around the world. Its moments like this when the whole campaign is brought into perspective, when the enormity of the challenge ahead is put into clarity. What opportunity do these children have to live a life equal to that of any other child in the world in a system that favors a few at the expense of many? Global democracy is not just a fight for the issues of today … but for the lives and the issues that will be around tomorrow.

And so the journey begins... part 2

Wow, today is here! I’m excited, i’m anxious, i’m curious as to how the next 5 weeks will pan out. And that’s anxious and curious in a good way. I would like to say that I awoke at the crack of dawn where my belongings were neatly packed ready for me to embark on this journey. But that would be a lie. The fact is I haven’t slept a wink for the past 24 hours.

When we pull away from home en route to the airport the grey skies and drizzle beat away at the car windows. I at the back going over a million and one things in my mind, trying to imagine how this campaign will look like 5 weeks from now and all the lives that we have hopefully touched. To be part of the project that kicks starts the action to the debate on the inequality of the current international undemocratic system is a privilege that is hard to describe in words. Not just because if we get just one person to use a UK vote it will be the first time in history that someone from another country has voted in the UK general election, but because the symbolism it evokes of those who have been declined a seat at the decision making table standing up to say by any means necessary we will have a say in the destiny of our own lives.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Power of a Thought

Everything we do starts with a simple thought. This thought then turns into an act and this act has consequences far beyond our imaginations. When we seize to stop thinking then our possibilities stop too. And it is with this ideology that I am now embarking on a trip to Ghana to coordinate the Use a UK Vote campaign, the sister campaign of Give Your Vote which is currently going on in the UK.

The Use a UK Vote campaign challenges the very fabric of what we see as democracy today. Whilst democracy is the predominant ideology being promoted within states, on the International arena democracy holds a deafening silence. A few countries undemocratically decide what is best for the whole world often at the expense of millions of people whose views, concerns and needs are neglected with dire consequences. If we are to promote democracy on a national level then shouldn’t we promote it on an international level too?

Give Your Vote - Ghana, Afghanistan, Bangladesh

As of this Friday I'll be heading to Ghana to manage the Ghanaian leg of the Give Your Vote campaign for the next 5 weeks. Give Your Vote will give people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ghana the chance to vote in the UK elections. In our global village, decisions made in the UK parliament can have a big impact far from our own shores. When we complain that our political parties are all the same, that voting changes nothing, we're missing the vital perspective of vulnerable people in developing nations. People whose livelihoods can be destroyed by the stroke of a pen in an anonymous office in Whitehall. If we really believe in democracy, shouldn't those people have a say over who is in charge of their future? Archbishop Desmond Tutu who is our patron said: “I support Give Your Vote because it is exciting, brave and emphasises our common humanity. It is a radical call for a world where all human beings have an equal say in the politics that affect them."

How? From 15th March, you - the UK voter - can give your vote at and someone in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Ghana can use it to get answers from UK parliamentary candidates on the issues that affect them, and ultimately decide who to vote for.

On the eve of the election, Give Your Vote UK participants will receive a text message asking them to cast these votes. The decision isnt made by a charity or an NGO who think they know what's best for the developing world, but by the individuals who have to live with the consequences.

Friday, 5 March 2010

To Be Free

Freedom is one of those words that mean so many things to so many people. A word that some take for granted whilst others have never known freedoms sound. The birds are free. Well they are when there not being shot down from the skies. They glide through the air creating friction between the winds. They sing in the morning at the crack of dawn and no one can stop them. No one can stop the birds from singing. But for us humans, freedom is another story. For we, like the birds have been pre wired to sing. To smile. To laugh. To love. But our wires are tampered by life’s indiscriminate hurdles. Like a quiet storm the wave comes and splashes down on our freedoms. Drowning out our hopes and leaving fear and despair, loneliness and hate. Leaving a hopeless mass of happiness at the bottom of the ocean and replaced by the robotic existence we now call life. Soulless expressions. Botoxed hopes. Cosmetic freedoms masked by veneers.

Freedoms advancement comes when our basic pre wired rights cease to be tampered with. When like the birds we can glide through life without fear of the infra red light of the gun constantly aimed at our backs shooting us down. The advancement of freedom comes first and foremost with love of self. With the ability to seek the inner person we all hide inside and bring them to the surface, to let the world rejoice in the majesty of whom we have been preordained to be. Until that day we are just a mere carcass of potential enslaved by our own blindness. Enslaved by the rat race that has come to be our life.

The New Scramble for Africa - China fights for first place

The old age adage that history repeats itself is often one said in jest. But 150 years since the infamous Berlin consensus which signalled the carving up of Africa the world appears to be doing exactly that. But this time there is a new guy in town. Well actually a country, China. Chinese economic growth over the past 20 years has been impressive to say the least. With a growth rate between 8 and 15% year on year that other developing countries could only salivate at from a distance, China has asserted itself as the autonomous head of the south. In order to maintain this growth and feed its 1.2 billion populations China has fast accelerated its trading relations in Africa.

The Chinese economy has an eager appetite for all the resources of Africa - timber, iron ore, diamonds, copper oil, and other raw materials of interest for China’s industries. Stephanie Hanson, director of policy and outreach at One Acre Fund states “China now ranks as the continent's second-highest trading partner, behind the United States, and ahead of France and Britain”. China has already leapfrogged past the West in the last couple of years to become the largest manufacturer of Solar panels in the world. China has not gone unnoticed. Obama in his first state of the union address to America highlighted that exporting was paramount to both domestic and international We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are”. The real test for supremacy will be determined by the country that can get the resources to fuel exports. The new scramble for Africa has begun.

Monday, 15 February 2010

From The EU to The AU, Is Greece a lesson for Africa?

Many talk about the possibility of an African Union, similar to that of the European Union we have today. And yes Africa does have an African union, but I am talking more on the functioning and the stability of its institutions in a way that best benefits the continent and people of Africa. When these talks arise passion often merged with frustration engulfs the debate as people from all spectrums, journalists, country men, those from the Diaspora throw into the mix their reasons as to why Africa is not ready to follow in the “golden” footsteps of the EU. And so the tirade begins: “African leaders are too corrupt to even contemplate a viable functioning AU”, “Unlike Europe Africa does not have the institutions to embark on such an ambitious project”, “Africans are too busy fighting one another to even think about working together”, “the West have done everything they can to insure that Africa is not united and will never be” and so the debate proceeds. Back and forth like a yoyo until one by one the conversation fizzles out, a lot of talk that goes around in circles. The conversation resumes the next day and the days after, in bars, houses, offices, via emails around the globe. Africans and beyond searching for answers for the current woes besieging the continent. Their continent. Their homeland.

The EU forever the exemplar and beacon of hope to Africa is held as a pillar. And why shouldn’t it? On the EU website its key aim is for “Peace, prosperity and freedom for its 498 million citizens — in a fairer, safer world”. And who could argue that within the EU this has not been the case? After two World Wars in Europe, EU members have operated under an umbrella of safety and security whilst being able to freely move from one state to another. EU members work side by side to negotiate and work together on issues ranging from trade to security, from bananas to boats. However, the past few months has revealed that the stitching on the EU garment has begun to fray, and the quality of the fabric has started to pose questions. By this I am talking about the increasing possibility of Greece defaulting on its debt signalling a sharp halt to the prosperity of that nation and stoking frantic fears of lack of confidence in the Euro. According to Sapa-AP, Greek trade unions ranging from doctors to school teachers to tax officials have protested en masse via strikes at the threat of the government’s proposed slash in spending in an attempt to reduce the deficit to 9 percent by the end of the year 2010. At present Greece have a government deficit of approximately 12 percent (GDP) which is more than four times the limit for the EU and a public debt of e300 billion which equates to nearly 125 percent of GDP. The beginning of such protests is just a microscopic view of what awaits if Greece goes ahead with additional austerity measures being called for by EU leaders in unison.

Unemployment in Greece has already been increasing unsteadily with one in ten unemployed a figure that is rising sharply. The perceived threat of default on this debt has been deemed so severe that calls for the IMF to step in just like recently in Jamaica has reached so high that the Telegraphthis week wrote a whole article dedicated to the topic entitled "Greece doesn’t need the IMF" with a satire by line reading "Should the Eurozone hire Supernanny?". Ironically the EU does not see the IMF as fit for its institutions but Africa with its hopes of African Unity is riddled with the IMF and the conditionality’s that follow. Is there a lesson here? This threat of default is magnified by the fact that within the EU, United Kingdom included, member states hold large amounts of this debt which has created a sense of insecurity within Europe. If Greece defaults it creates a domino effect, impacting all EU nations, and threatening to derail the whole EU institution itself. Such a fate could render the EU worthless and infect the entire financial system. And although this has not happened yet, this saga has exposed serious weaknesses and limitations that Africa should be paying close attention to if it is to to attempt the European model. "Peace, prosperity and freedom" as stated on the EU website may not be in the bosom of the African Union as some may think?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Some call it fiddling, I call it corruption

The art of language is a beautiful thing. One of my undergraduate lecturers once told me that a persons use of words are like that of an artists palette. With words you can draw the most beautiful pictures and mask the most hypocritical obscenities.

Take for instance the jailing of Tom Wise. The 61 year old British MEP who after several denials finally admitted "fiddling" £39,000 worth of expenses and was sentenced to two years in jail today. There goes another British government official the public sigh in disbelief. The whole expenses scandal has erupted to reveal an endemic culture of "fiddling". Or has it?

When the same revelations of "fiddling" are revealed in non Western states it is called corruption by most if not all if the British press. Corruption in its purest potent form. But when the same instances occur on home turf it is called "fiddling". So why don't we just cut through the hypocrisy and call it what it really is - CORRUPTION!

Yes I said it. With or without the jailing of Tom Wise the MP expenses scandal has revealed that the government have a serious problem of corruption. Fiddling is something petty, corruption is not. £39,000 is not fiddling that is a lot of money from the tax payers pocket. Lets be equal in our appropriation of the English language and not try and mask the severity of the problem. Only until this issue of corruption is addressed honestly for what it is will the problem actually be able to be dealt with.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Is Dizzee Rascal the most influential Black person in London?

Rapper Dizzee Rascal

So before I begin let me just start by saying this post is not intended to be a personal attack on Dizzee Rascal, as the issue I am about to address is actually not his fault.

Ok, well picture this. I was on the underground today reading the Evening Standard newspaper whilst waiting to reach my destination. Flicking through the pages I came across an article on page 4 entitled “The 20 people who keep London leading in the world”. Amongst some of the figures were Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London; Stella McCartney, fashion designer; Mervyn King, Bank of England Governor and Lord Coe, London Olympic Organising Committee chairman. And then at number 18 my eyes gleamed on Dizzee Rascal, occupation rapper and most notably the only Black figure to enter the top 20 line up.

Subconsciously I screwed up my face. And then I started to ask myself why am I actually annoyed to see him there? After all Dizzee is doing it big. You know he came from the streets of East London and is now an award winning number one selling artist. But despite his success is he really London’s most influential Black person?

Where is David Lammy MP for Tottenham or Charlene White who presents the ITV London News? Furthermore what about Sherry Dixon, the editor of Pride Magazine or Idris Elba the critically acclaimed actor who has starred in Law and Order and most notably known for his role in The Wire and whose success is shamelessly ignored by the British media?

Is The Evening Standard really trying to say that the most influential Black Londoner is Dizzee Rascal? When without even scratching the surface I can name several Black Londoners who have far more influence than Dizzee with far more reaching positive effects. As I said at the beginning I have no personal qualms with Dizzee but it just winds me up when I read things like this from the main stream media that insinuate that the only thing Black people will ever be rewarded for is rapping and the images that this subsequently conjures up. If they really couldn't find a Black person that they felt worthy enough for the title then they should have left it vacant. But please spare the token figure, as it's insulting!

So I have to wonder who did they collect their data from (certainly not me or anyone I know)? What message are they really trying to send out? And do you agree that he is the most influential Black person in London?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

WOW... What a difference a year makes!

President Barack Obama

A year ago today I had managed to grapple about one hours sleep as I stayed up all night watching the results of the American Presidential election. Switching from BBC to Sky News I was in awe as I watched what was deemed impossible become a reality. And it seems I wasn't the only one as texts and phone calls came in from friends all through out the early hours of the morning who were hysterical that Obama had won yet another state. What is more revealing is that I am British, yet British people in their droves were equally anticipating this new chapter as earnestly as the Americans themselves. It was official; Obamamania had taken hold of the UK. Well, certainly the media.

Today I head to university and not one paper that I have read so far (I've read four) have commented that today is Obama's first anniversary. There is a deafening silence permeating through the airwaves, like that of a husband who has forgotten his wife’s anniversary. Now we know that this is definitely not the case with the media here in the UK, they definitely know what time it is!

So what does this silence mean? And most importantly what does it reveal about the changing attitudes towards Obama here in the UK. It means that people have finally cottoned on! Yep, that’s right. People have finally cottoned on to that big secret that a year ago nobody wanted to acknowledge but was right there in front of everybody’s face. So what’s this big secret that has left people disappointed? Obama is not (and I repeat) is not the son of God who has come back on earth to die for everybody's sins. He is a human being just like everybody else with all the good and bad that comes along with it. And it just so looks like *surprise - shock - horror* people are not too happy to acknowledge that reality.

I mean honestly with such expectations, should this silence really come as a surprise?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Eleven year old girl gives birth... on her wedding day

Korteza Zhelyazkova, 11
Yes you did read correctly! The eleven year old girl from Bulgaria pictured above has become one of the worlds youngest mothers after giving birth to baby Violeta. The eleven year old who concieved the child within just a week of meeting the 19 year old husband Jeliazko Dimitrov gave birth during her wedding day still in her wedding dress after finding out she was pregnant after her grandmother had noticed she had put on weight. She was rushed to hospital and gave birth 20 minutes later.
Kordeza admitted: "I haven't had sex education classes and I didn't know how to get pregnant. I'd never had a boyfriend and I'd never heard of condoms. Kordeza continues: "I used to play with my toys but now she is my new toy. She is so beautiful, I love her. Violeta is the child and I must grow up. I am not going back to school - I am a mother now."
Dimitrov the husband now faces six years in jail for having sex with a minor. Dimitrov added: "I'm scared. I want to look after my wife and child. Instead I may be going to prison. I made a mistake but I am not going to apologise for that because now I have beautiful Violeta".

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Writers Block and Me

I actually feel nervous. As if this is the first time writing a blog post. Thats how long I feel I've been away. And whilst the world has been moving back and forth like the waves of the sea I have been suffering from writers block! Aaaarghhh! I just have not been able to write a post. I refuse to let this condition beat me. So I am back and will be better than ever before. So watch out :)!


Friday, 12 June 2009

America Gets Obama, We Get Nick Griffin

Nick Griffin, Leader of The BNP

This year has been monumental as the world watched America, a land with a rich history of slavery and prejudice aimed at those who were of colour usher in President Barack Obama the 1st African American to reach the highest office in the land. The world stood still as it witnessed the tectonic plates of change clash against the tide of the past. The English media alongside many in Europe were in awe of the improbable outcome and were quick to chastise America for its past and equally praise her for its future direction.

Not one to be outdone the English media went into a huge debate about whether the same could happen here. Many said off course, if you have the talent then you have an equal opportunity against any British counterpart. Others argued it was nothing to do with race, merely the current beauricratic structure of the government which prevents raw talent rising through the ranks quickly enough. Others again thought that even though they may think its impossible, Obama has proven that nothing is out out of reach. I was one of the latter, until this week that is.

In the year that America ushers in their first Black President, we usher in the UKs 1st BNP MEP, the equivilent of the Klu Klux Klan, to represent us in Europe! However you look at it the meaning, symbolism and mood of many in the UK is clear. America has taken ten steps forward for man kind showing that prejudice will not get in the way if you have the talent, whilst the UK sadly are showing that we have a long way to go.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Some Positive TV

Have you ever noticed how the majority of news we hear on TV is negative? Well i stumbled across this online TV station and just had to share it! is a TV station all about focusing on positive news stories and showing all the positive things people do instead of just reinforcing the negative. And they have a really simple way of submitting stories too. Check it out.

I think that this is a welcome change.

My 5 Second Rant - I Didn't Give You My Number For A Reason

This one here got me a little more than mad. I'm talking about the new website and phone directory 118 800 that will connect the UK to millions of mobiles. Firstly, how can some business be making money out of my mobile number without my permission? And more importantly what about our privacy? If your anything like me who has a Blackberry with both Blackberry messenger, Yahoo messenger, Msn messenger, Facebook, email (all on my mobile) as well as the mobile number itself I find it hard to believe that in todays climate if someone really needs to get hold of you they will find much trouble.

Which means that if they really can't then maybe it is for a reason? Somethings are better left alone and me for one will definitely be making sure my details are of that database!

Monday, 8 June 2009

How Did Gordon Brown Become More Unpopular Than Bush?

Gordon Brown with his pal George Bush

So, what have these two fellas got in common? Well judging from the results of the European Elections quite a lot! They say that those who ride together, die together and Gordon Brown is definitely on the life support machine! Before Bush lost the last election he was hugely unpopular in the USA and abroad. In fact, he was so unpopular he couldn't wait to leave. Obama's Inauguration was hailed as the most peaceful Presidential handovers in recent times with Bush and Obama waving goodbye to one another enthusiastically, both content with their new found positions. However, despite Bush's turmoil he could still argue to being popular in many states in the US. He can still say that he won one election (the second one is debatable).

The labour party under Gordon Browns leadership finished third behind UKIP nationwide, polling a humiliating 15 per cent of the vote. It came fifth in dozens of areas including the South East of England, behind not only UKIP, the Tories and Liberal Democrats, but also the Greens. To add salt to the wound Gordon Brown has lost so many Ministers in such a short space of time he has started to make Bush's record look good. Gordon Brown has lost six senior Ministers in the past week and many are plotting to get him removed.

This is ironic considering that Gordon Brown not too long ago was the main instigator of the group that put pressure for Tony Blair to leave. And that's really the point. Some may argue that Gordon Brown is in this position because he is clearing up Tony Blair's mess. And some others may argue that those ministers who have resigned and the ones that are putting pressure for him to stand down are disloyal. This may be so, but honestly how can anyone feel sorry for him when not long ago he was one of the plotters himself. There's an old adage 'be careful how you treat people on your way up because you'll meat them on the way back down'. I think someone forgot to tell him this!

Bush for all his faults still managed to keep his party together. Gordon Brown on the other hand has brought about Labour's worst collapse in living memory and become so unpopular he has managed to outshine Bush.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Does Samantha Orobator deserve this?

Samantha Orobator

A pregnant British woman was sentenced to life in prison for heroin trafficking by a court in Laos today. A panel of judges found Samantha Orobator, 20, guilty of trafficking 680g (1.5lb) of heroin last August, when she was caught trying to board a plane to Thailand.

On the surface this looks like a logical outcome for a crime in a country that is known for its harsh sentences. Anyone, like myself, who has ever watched an episode of Banged Up Abroad (also on Youtube) will testify to the harsh consequences handed out for drug smuggling, especially in Asian countries. And Britons all over the world are locked up in unimaginable conditions as a consequence. So taking this in to context, on the surface Samantha Orobator's case is nothing special.

However, when a closer look is taken into account all sense of 'normality' goes out of the window. The facts are that she was arrested in August but was unable to speak to any legal representation for her defense for 9 months. She was even denied access to speak to any family, including her mother. For nine months she was locked up in the female section of the prison with know contact from anyone whilst protesting her innocents. At the time of writing Samantha is now 5 months pregnant. Wait. Yes, 5 months pregnant. But hold on she has been locked up for 9 months how could this have happened?

The circumstances under which Samantha became pregnant, four months after being jailed, are unclear. It appears she conceived in December despite being in an all-female prison. The story going out is that she used a syringe to impregnate herself with sperm from a male inmate in order to avoid the death penalty. But this alone raises too many questions.

"This case is not about babies, it is about heroin" chief government spokesman Kenthong Nuanthasing said with a tone of rising annoyance. She signed a statement to say she was not raped. She did not have intercourse with any man in prison. There is no male close to her during her time in prison. All the prisoners are women and all the guards are female.”

Asked who could have fathered the baby, he raised his eyes to the ceiling and said with an impatient laugh: “Maybe it is a baby from the sky like (the Virgin) Mary.”

So why was she made to sign a statement denying she was raped without explaining the truth of her pregnancy?

“We don’t want the outside world to blame us (for her pregnancy),” Nuanthasing said. “That is why we asked her to write a letter to certify that she was not raped and the baby inside her is not a Lao baby.”

Nuanthasing made it clear that in order to return home to Britain, Orobator will be expected to confirm at her trial the statement she signed in prison.

“She will tell the court — otherwise she will stay here,” he said. “Her court case will be dissolved.” So basically he's saying if she doesn't sign she won't be freed whether it is true or not.

Such a delay could mean Orobator’s trial being delayed until after she gives birth and Nuanthasing stressed that the threat of a death sentence could still be invoked as she is only exempt from the death penalty while she is pregnant under Lao law.

“Nobody can guarantee she will not face the firing squad,” he said.

The government insists Orobator is being held in an all-female prison. In fact, Phonthong Prison on the outskirts of Vientiane holds male and female prisoners in separate blocks and has both male and female guards living in shabby quarters in the grounds outside.

As soon as I read about the case of Samantha Orobator, I knew it must have been a prison guard who got her pregnant, a French former inmate who spent five months in the same prison over a business dispute said.

Female prisoners are fair game for the guards there. They weren't exactly raped but they were coerced into sex with promises. The guards would tell them they could get them off the death penalty or get them or shorter sentence, or make life inside more comfortable for them, the former inmate said. There is no humanity and no compassion in that place.

I have been shocked by peoples responses to this case. Comments I have read on blogs and the mainstream media seem to believe that she managed to sleep with an inmate, maybe had consensual sex whilst in prison with a prison guard for a favour, or used a syringe and impregnated herself with an inmates sperm to avoid the death penalty. In any case an overwhelming majority of the views i read point to Samantha being complicit.
Has anyone looked at the conditions of the jail she's being held? She has know contact with her family, doesn't know when her trial is, doesn't know whether she will live or die, Is in a foreign country and can not speak the language... and the first thing on her mind is to seek a lover within 16 weeks of incarceration? Yeah right!

Whatever you think of Samantha the fact is this case has been flawed from day one and raises many questions. By know means do i condone drug smuggling and if she did it then she is subject to the laws under that jurisdiction. However, she like others around the world who are in vulnerable situations should be entitled to have there human rights upheld and at the very least have access to fair representation from the beginning. The treatment she has received from the Laos authorities is unacceptable. The treatment she is receiving by the British public is unacceptable. Guilty or not, does Samantha Orobator really deserve this?

Air France 447 Reminds Us That Life Is A Gift

Relatives await news

It is so sad and I really can't stop thinking about those who lost their lives on Air France 447 from Brazil to Paris. I remember a movie I watched a while back about a guy who survived a plane crash and ended up on an abandoned island only to be found 4 years later. I keep thinking that someone must have survived. Surely? We live in an age where the haves and the have nots couldn't be any bigger. Where millions go hungry whilst others enjoy unimaginable wealth. But when something like this happens we are reminded about the things that matter most. We are reminded that know matter what we own in a flash of a second it could all be gone. We are reminded that nothing really matters apart from our loved ones and our lives. And we are reminded that life is a gift, something we should not take for granted.

I can not imagine the pain that the families are going through and send both my condolences and prayers. And I do so hope that we find out exactly what happened in order to prevent further tragedy's in the future.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Diversity Paves The Way For A New Image Of Briton

Briton for many across the globe is seen as a grey country with a lot of posh White people. And not forgetting we have a Queen too. I can not recall the amount of times I have been in America and people have been shocked that there are Black people in Briton (with the exception of Naomi Campbell of course). I'm always having to point out that London in particular is probably one of, if not the most diverse place in the world. 

And that is part of the beauty of the dance group Diversity who won Britons Got Talent on Saturday. They are of all ages, hues and sizes and help to show a more realistic image of todays Briton. What a beautiful gift to the Queen!

Well done Diversity!

Monday, 11 May 2009

A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words - Ghana Through My Lens

At an Accra market

Weija Kaswa, Accra

East Legon, Accra


East Legon, Accra
East Legon, Accra

A Business Complex

NPP presidential candidates campaign posters still hang

Midday traffic

Accra Mall

Teenagers selling fruit on the road side

Children skipping in the street

Minister Akua Dansua at her desk

Taifa, Accra

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Ghana Minister for Women and Children's Affairs Ms Akua Dansua Speaks About Her Term So Far

Ghana Minister for Women and Children's Affairs Ms Akua Dansua

I take a seat in the Ministers waiting room alongside five others. People seem to come and go but still my name isn't called. A lady in a smart grey suit goes around with a notepad finally taking the details of the people waiting. I sit patiently watching BBC Africa on a fuzzy TV. After at least an hour of waiting the man sitting opposite me has fallen asleep whilst the lady on my left keeps nodding off every so often. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just fighting back the boredom and tiredness. After an hour and a half of waiting I ask the secretaries politely when I will be seen. The secretary to the right barely manages to lift her head and responds "just wait".

Finally, after nearly 2 hours of waiting I am called and I follow the secretary as she leads me to Ms Akua Dansua.
Ms Dansua and I

Hi Ms Dansua and thank you for taking the time out to meet with me. What are the main issues you feel are facing women and children in Ghana today?
In the political sector there is a lack of effective representation of women in the decision making process. If you don't have adequate representation you can't influence any decisions on policy, which subsequently have serious repercussions for women which cascade to all other sectors including economic and social.
In the judicial sector most women are ignorant of the laws that exist. Because they do not know about the laws that are there to protect them their rights are not protected. In addition, it is expensive to access legal services and again many women do not know about the legal aid that is available to them. Many of these issues stem from lack of education as many Ghanaian women are illiterate. These I would say are the key issues facing Ghanaian women today.

What are the main challenges you are facing so far and how do you aim to overcome them?
There are a lot of red tapes! We also lack the capacity in terms of human resources to fast track the things we want to do. It is frustrating as we want to do things quickly to help those we represent then realise we lack the financial capacity. We are talking to the government and key individuals to overcome these challenges.

How will your tenure differ from the previous administration?
I came to meet a Ministry that had been running for 8 years. It was a good idea but needed restructuring to suit todays challenges. These challenges include the empowerment of women in the political and economic sectors, reducing teenage pregnancy, child labour and prostitution.

Coming from a Journalist/Media background what made you decide to go into politics and how easy was this transition?
My decision to go into politics was driven by the experiences i had growing up and also in my professional life. Whilst working in Nigeria as a journalist I realised the difficulties facing women. It was a very paternalistic society where women had to work thrice as hard as a man to be treated equally. I participated in a conference in Beijing and this made me decide to go into politics to do something for my country and for women.

As a role model to so many young women, what advice would you give those who want to enter into politics in Ghana?
Nothing is easy for a women in this world. You have to work very hard and persevere. It takes serious commitment. If you know what you want work hard to achieve it. It takes serious sacrifices to move up the ladder as well as taking a toll on your health, family life and leisure. But these sacrifices have to be made in order to bring about real change.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Touch Down In Ghana

As soon as we touch down I am greeted by the tropical air of Ghana. It is 5am and the sun has not yet arose. The sky is filled with hues of red, purple, black and slight oranges and yellows. The morning seems still. In fact i feel like a thief in the night, sneaking in whilst everyone is asleep.

The bus ushers us the passengers to the passport check points. There are three standing points, Ghanaian nationals, Business/diplomatic and International. Clutching my British passport I head to the International check point and look over at those speedily going through at the Ghanaian stand. Does my passport really make me that much different to them I wonder? As I am called up to the check point the attendant takes a look at my surname on my passport and then a look at me. After a few brief questions he smiles, nods and says Akwaaba "Welcome".

By the time i get through baggage the sun is wide awake. And as we drive home I feel lost. I can't remember anything, the scenery looks so foreign and unrecognizable. It dawns on me that my memory of Ghana was from the eyes of a child who is now returning as a women. In my memory the palm trees were so tall I thought the head touched the heavens. But driving by today they look modest but beautiful nevertheless.

I actually feel somewhat sad to be be back, because all that i thought i knew i don't.

I am told that today is Bank Holiday so know one is at work. Every time we stop at a traffic light people of all ages try and sell us stuff. On the streets of Ghana you can get anything from shaving razors, clothes, pens, credit to Banku and tilapia (a Ghanaian dish)! And there products seem to be in demand or they know their target audience very well. I wonder to myself that if these guys on the streets of Ghana can get it right then what is up with these BBC Apprentice candidates who are supposed to be England's smartest and brightest? hmmmm!

Ghana smells beautiful, looks beautiful and the atmosphere is so welcoming. It feels good to be on this journey.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Obama's First 100 Days - My Next Journey Begins

100 days ago I was situated at Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC itching with excitement as I bore witness to the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Packed like a tin of sardines I made my way alongside millions to be part of the moment where the past confronted the future and a new era begun. Where dreams of so many finally bore fruit. 100 days ago I witnessed an improbable dream, I witnessed The Inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Today, 100 days later the American people are assessing their Presidents first 100 days in office. As I hear his achievements and goals for the future I wonder what i have achieved for myself in these last 100 days and what goals can be set for the next? 100 days on from the most historic day of my life I am sitting on my suitcase trying desperately to close it as i prepare for my next trip. 101 days later I am heading to Ghana, the birth place of my parents and a place I have not stepped into since i was 10. A place where despite such a long period of absence I still feel a strong sense of ownership, like a student who lives on campus and has been a way for a while, I now feel like i am going home. 

Monday, 2 March 2009

Lekota Speaks Out On Jacob Zuma

    Mosiuoa Lekota and I

On Mosiuoa Lekota's first worldwind stop in the UK as President and Leader of the Congress of the People (COPE), the main opposition party of South Africa I had the opportunity to hear firsthand about COPE and its divorce from the ANC. When Mr Lekota arrives he greets me in Setswana, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. I smile and politely nod, and so he repeats himself. My colleague explains that I do not speak the language and we come to the agreement that the next time we meet I shall be fluent! If anyone ever doubted, Mr Lekota is a fiercely proud South African and comes across as a calm man who takes no nonsense at all.

Mr Lekota first began by explaining what lead him to present his "divorce" to the ANC. He states: "The ANC were veering away from the initial core objectives of the party such as rule of law, freedom of choice before the people, equality before the law and were unwilling to listen to voices that were talking about this. In such circumstances I could not comply in what I saw as a betrayal". He explains that the main issue regarding the divorce centres on principle rather than personality "The issue is about principle. People do not join an organisation on the basis of liking each other but based on mutual principle".

In regards to Jacob Zuma, Lekota believes that facing charges of rape and corruption is a principle that he cannot support and does not send a good message to the people of South Africa. As a result Mr Lekota does not believe Mr Zuma is the right person to lead South Africa. Despite Mr Lekota being the Leader of COPE surprisingly he will not be running for president. Instead, Mr Lekota wants to act more as a mentor to those that are rising up the ranks and share with them his wealth of experience in politics. I could not help but feel deep admiration for this as we are all too familiar with many leaders within Africa that feel it is there birth right to stay in power and are unwilling to help others rise to the ranks.

South Africa's new COPE party expects more than 20 percent of the vote in the April general election and hopes opposition parties will together be able to unseat the ruling ANC.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Derrick Ashong Thursday Touches Down in The UK & Heads Straight To Parliament

Derrick N. Ashong (aka DNA) a Ghanaian born Harvard graduate is an artist, activist and entrepreneur. DNA rose to prominence in 2007 during the American primaries when a reporter approached him outside the Kodak theatre in Los Angeles and began aggressively asking questions as to why he supports Obama. Many have accused the reporter of initially targeting Mr Ashong (who was dressed in jeans and a baseball cap) based on a preconceived stereotype that his attire must therefore equate to a lack of knowledge about Obama's policies, and that the real and only reason a Black man that looked like him could possibly support Obama is because of his race. If this was the case then boy did the reporter get it wrong!!! DNA owned the interview and has received over one million views on Youtube since! Very impressive for a guy who was just chilling by the roadside!

The security to get into parliament was very tight. Once through, my friend and I located the Grand Committee room (where the talk was held) and made our way to the front to take our seats. As we settled DNA came over, said hi and thanked us for coming. Dressed in his trademark casual attire consisting of jeans, top and his signature African choker he comes across as a very polite, warm character and has a presence that makes you feel instantly relaxed and at ease.

DNA's core theme centered on how art and the media can be used to facilitate positive change within society. He states: "Art and media can bridge the gap, teaching people how to embrace their own differences and commonalities". He goes on to talk about Africa and gives his perspective on why Africa is in it's current situation, adding: 'No society can develop without an understanding of it's own worth", he adds that for any country to develop the people must "believe they have the power to save themselves and believe there is something worth saving", both factors he feels are missing in large quantities throughout Africa and the Diaspora. What is impressive is that instead of just talking about the problems he also spends equal time discussing tangible and measurable solutions. DNA believes that there is an extremely important topic that seems to be neglected when discussing Africa and its development. That is that an overwhelming amount of natives that leave to go to foreign countries to learn new skills need to remember that they have a bigger obligation than just themselves, and put long term benefits over quick rewards by investing back into their native lands. I definitely agree that this area of discourse is not discussed as much as it should be.

One of the best parts of the talk for me was when Mr Ashong announced and explained the concept of a new reality TV show based on social responsibility. The unique show, which will be piloted on The Oprah Winfrey Show this summer, helps people deliver change within their society whilst teaching others to do the same. This is done by sending a production team to the successful candidates country and assisting them to make the change within 6 days. On the 7th day there will be a big party to celebrate the achievement and people from all over the world can tune in to watch the development live and interact . The great thing is that it empowers people of all ages and nationalities with the confidence to seek and deliver the change they want without having to solely rely on the government. Imagine extreme house makeover. Now, imagine extreme society makeover!

I left Parliament feeling very uplifted with an amazing sense of self-obligation that in order to change the things in society that i do not like i myself must stand up and do it. In the words of Derrick Ashong: "some of the changes we seek can be made by we the people."

This guy is definitely one to watch!!!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Tomorrows Valentine

As I walk over the foot bridge from Waterloo's South Bank towards Charing Cross I see the sun setting before my eyes. Birds flutter around, and the water of the River Thames moves like that of a silk dress caressing the body of a woman.

Today, I envy the River Thames. The way the water comes and goes on its own clock. No apologies for its comings and goings. Free to do as it pleases, whilst I am a bystander looking on, a slave to this broken capitalist world.

South Bank has always been my favourite place in London. And as I glance back to see what I have left behind I see lovers entwined.

Today is St Valentines day and couples brazenly express their love. What would usually be a quick peck from a partner as he or she hurriedly goes about their business has today become a long and sensual kiss. What would usually be two married couples walking side by side, sullen and empty, has today sparked a furnace as Mr and Mrs now look lovingly in each others eyes, remembering all the emotions felt as if they were back at the early stages of courtship.

But what will tomorrow bring when that of a new one replaces today's sun? When the St Valentine shop display posters are replaced with Easter ones? When Mr postman comes on Monday bringing another reminder of an unpaid bill? When Monday mornings air brings with it last weeks problems? When life goes back to what it was before today stood still?

Will love still reign or will things just go back to being the same? One day set as a reminder, but will today's fire remain?

Friday, 13 February 2009

Alexandra Burke signs $3.5 record deal

X Factor winner Alexandra Burke has signed a $3.5m (£2.4m) US record deal, her spokeswoman has confirmed. Burke, 20, who became the first British female solo artist to sell a million copies in the UK of her debut single Hallelujah, has agreed the deal with Epic Records.

The singer is flying out to the US to meet Simon Cowell and the rest of the team who will help with her launch.
Burke's X Factor predecessor Leona Lewis also signed a huge US deal. She has been working with the man who discovered singer Whitney Houston. Clive Davis, 74, also mentored Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake.

In April 2008, Lewis became the first UK female solo artist to go straight to number one in the US album chart. Burke took the title on the fifth series of The X Factor, after previously auditioning but failing to get through to the live shows.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Alexandra Burke turns down Lionel Richie tour

Alexandra Burke has had to turn down an opportunity to support soul legend Lionel Richie in his up and coming UK March tour. If she had accepted this could have been the launch pad that she needed to catapult her to superstardom in the US. A source said: "Simon Cowell and all at her label Syco are determined to do what they did with Leona and shelter her away.

"They want Alexandra to be able to concentrate on making a brilliant album.

"Touring with Lionel would of course been a massive opportunity, but it's alot of work and stressful preparation for that sort of thing.

"Plus at the moment Alex does not have any real songs of her own.

"She'll be performing covers on the X-Factor tour but is itching to get on with original material."

I'm really looking forward to Alexandra's album. The UK has made a big come back in terms of
producing real musical talent that can compete against the states. I'm confident Alexandra will slot right in with the greatest.
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