Stories from Quick Reads and Ethiopia
Don Osborne discusses a news feature on the Olivet Nazarene University website showing a map of “The Second Most Spoken Languages Around the World.” He points out key problems from the map:
The first issue is assuming that “The most spoken language in any country is often obvious; usually, it’s the official language of the country.” In Africa this often is not the case, if by “most spoken” one counts number of speakers. An example is Mali, whose linguistic profile was explored on this blog in discussing the long-tail of languages – Bambara is certainly more used than the official French.
Official language is a category that doesn't lend itself to ranking use of languages in Africa, beyond the (admittedly important) context of official use and its spillover to popular use. In the case of two countries at least, this runs into additional problems:
•South Africa has 11 official languages (the Olivet site incorrectly lists only one of them – Zulu – as official). So one of the official languages will be second most spoken. Perhaps that is Xhosa as indicated, but the model focusing on official languages hasn't worked here.
•Rwanda has three official languages (Kinyarwanda, French, and English), and Central African Republic two (Sango and French). Since the site doesn't consider these official languages in discussing second most widely spoken, it is reduced to stating that Swahili is “second” most used in Rwanda, and that indigenous languages are used in CAR – which doesn't tell us much.
Read part 2 of his discussion here.
Cyber Ethiopia explains why Google Docs in Amharic is an important internet security tool for Ethiopian bloggers and how to enable it:
The Ethiopian government uses many methods to spy on bloggers, but by far the most invasive involves the covert installation of malware on their computers, which captures keystrokes, stores passwords, takes screen shots, and can record audio and video in the room where the computer is located. This malware is usually spread by downloading and opening infected documents. For users who are concerned about Ethiopian government surveillance (but not US government surveillance, or surveillance by governments to whom Google supplies user datain response to court orders), one easy work-around is to open documents in Google Docs instead of downloading and opening them on your computer in Microsoft Word or some other word processing program.
Until recently, Ethiopian bloggers were unable to make full use of this advice because Google Docs did not support Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. Now Google has added support for Amharic to Google products, giving a vulnerable population a powerful tool that they can use to protect themselves from state-sponsored malware and surveillance.
Gershom Ndhlovu looks at the reasons why ailing African leaders wont step down:
There have been rumours, innuendoes and even insinuations regarding the health, or the lack of it, of Zambia’s President Michael Chilufya Sata, in office since September 2011. These have been spread by the largely unregulated online media that the Patriotic Front (PF) government is intent on controlling or even shutting down altogether.
The government has not particularly responded to these rumours apart from issuing one-liner statements refuting the stories about the health status of the 76 year-old head of state and veteran politician.
However, when Sata appeared at a May 1 Labour Day parade to receive a traditional salute from workers in the land, the appearance was very brief and only accompanied by a one minute address before getting into his motorcade for a three kilometre drive back to the presidential palace, a lot of people were convinced the President was not well.
Global Voices Advocacy started a Tumblr in early May to rally support for nine bloggers and journalists — four of them Global Voices members — who are currently being detained in Ethiopia because of their work. Allies from across the globe have submitted photos, messages of solidarity, videos and artwork to show their support for the bloggers’ release. On May 19, the #FreeZone9Bloggers Tumblr began trending on the social media sharing site. Submit a photo to the Tumblr or learn about other ways to support the campaign.
Ethiopians on Twitter are celebrating April Fool's day with fake news headlines that imitate the lies of state owned media. Says one Ethiopian tweep: “They broadcast black deceptions 365 days a year, and we are giving back to them dozens of false headlines as much as we can”. Follow and retweet #ETvDay.
Melody Sundberg analyses freedom of expression in Ethiopia after detained Ethiopian bloggers spent 100 days in prison:
Ethiopia is with its almost 94 million population the second most populated country in Africa. Nevertheless, it does not according to an interview with Endalkhachew Chala by Global Voices, have an independent daily newspaper or independent media. There was a need of an alternative voice and the Zone 9:ers therefore began blogging and using social media to write on subjects related to human rights. The name of the group, Zone 9, refers to the zones of the notorious Ethiopian Kality prison, where political prisoners and journalists are being held. The prison has eight zones, but the ninth “zone” refers to the rest of Ethiopia. Even if being outside of the prison walls – you are never truly free; any freethinking individual may be arrested. The bloggers wanted to be the voice of this ninth zone.
In the interview, Endalkachew says that the group had campaigns about respecting the constitution, stopping censorship and respecting the right to demonstrate. The group also visited political prisoners, such as journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu. They wanted to bring the publics’ attention to them by using social media.
Justice matters is a blog that reports on the trial of detained Zone9 bloggers and journalists in Ethiopia for expressing their opinions:
This blog contains the most current information about advocacy efforts, press coverage, and the legal status of the Zone9 bloggers in Ethiopia. It is dedicated to report on the trial of innocent bloggers and journalists. We believe in the power of accurate and factual reporting of the bloggers situation from the ground.
Beza Tesfaye describes how the Ethiopian government legalises political repression in the country:
It has been one month since the latest round of repression against government critics in Ethiopia began. Last weekend, the Zone9 bloggers and three journalists who were arrested in late April appeared in court. To date, very little information has been given about the crimes the bloggers and journalists are accused of committing or the reasons why they are being held practically incommunicado. Rather than indicting the prisoners during the recent court appearance, the presiding judge gave police an additional 28 days to investigate the case, sending the nine bloggers and journalists back to jail without officially charging them. It was the second time since their arrest that the court has delayed the process, and knowing Ethiopia’s dodgy laws around “crimes against the state,” it probably will not be the last time.
Beza Tesfaye explains why blogging is a threat to the Ethiopian government following the arrests of nine Ethiopian bloggers:
As I write this, I am eerily reminded that in Ethiopia, expressing your views can get you a first class ticket to prison.
From April 25 to 26, 2014, nine Ethiopian bloggers and journalists were arrested. As we celebrated World Press Freedom Day on Saturday, they were being detained in Addis Ababa’s notorious central investigation office. Though charges have not officially been filed, the group is accused of “working with foreign human rights activists” and “using social media to destabilize the country”. If prosecuted under Ethiopia’s controversial Anti-Terrorism Law, they could face the death penalty.
The arrests are part of a disturbing trend in Ethiopia, which has frequently ranked as one of the most repressive places for press freedom in recent years.
“Is Crimea referendum a good model for Africa?” asks Richard Dowden:
Africa’s arbitrary borders, mostly drawn by people who had never set foot in the continent, have always been an obvious target for renegotiation. But Africa’s first rulers, who foresaw chaos and disintegration if the nation states were reconfigured, ruled it out. “Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State” was one of the founding principles of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the African Union. Despite all the wars, internal and external, this principle has been pretty much adhered to by both presidents and people.
Loyalty to an African state is not always related to the ability of that state to make the lives of its people better. Patriotism, an emotional thing, does not take these benefits into account, even in countries where the majority of citizens are marginalised or oppressed by the government. Even in the catastrophic recent meltdown of South Sudan after just two years of independence, no one is advocating return to rule from Khartoum. In the dying days of Mobutu’s Zaire (now the DRC) I was astonished to find that people felt it to be a great country. I asked why Katanga, the rich south east province, didn’t secede – as it had in 1960. My suggestion was greeted with shocked surprise.