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Stories from and

Unlawful Deals by 5 Biggest Ebola Contractors in Sierra Leone

Five companies are said to have misappropriated funds for fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone:

Here are the 5 companies who were awarded the biggest contracts to provide goods and services to Sierra Leone’s ebola response as listed in the Ebola Funds Audit Report covering the period from May – October 2014. The following contracts did not meet the country’s procurement laws and policies and documentation to support the awarding of these contracts were missing, and unaccounted for. This makes it possible for fraud, waste, and misappropriation of funds to occur therefore crippling the nation’s ability to quickly respond to the crisis.

A Presidential Birth Certificate Controversy Provokes Social Unrest in Gabon

Protests in Libreville, Gabon against president Bongo on on December 20 - via OpGabon with permission

Protests in Libreville, Gabon against president Bongo on on December 20 – via OpGabon with permission

Clashes broke out between police and the opposition in Gabon on December 20 stemming from questions about the legitimacy of President Ali Bongo. 

A recent book called “New African Affairs” by French reporter Pierre Péan alleged that President Ali Bongo has Nigerian origins. The book was slammed by the authorities, accusing the reporter of inciting racial hatred in Gabon. The clashes led to the death of one student and several arrests. Photos on social network of the protests and its impact on civilians were widely circulating on the Gabonese blogosphere, such as the following:  

True or false, recap of a tumultuous week-end in Gabon http://t.co/hu4r9iWtya #Libreville #obs #Bongo @cbainier 

Hungarian PM Receives Chocolates from Union Workers’ Children, Then Votes for Parents to Lose Jobs

Hungary's government monopolized the sale of tobacco goods in 2013, drawing criticism from all sides both for the monopoly and the restriction of the Freedom of Information Act that came with the secretive distribution of sales licenses for the goods. In a second round, Hungarian Parliament voted on Monday, December 15, 2014, to create a state-run national tobacco distributor. Trade unions protested against the law, arguing it would result in the loss of some 1600 jobs

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Photo from LIGA Trade Unions FB page, widely circulated on social networks.

Ahead of the vote, a trade union group sent bars of chocolate to Hungarian members of Parliament with pictures of children and a message asking the MPs to vote against the parents of these children losing their jobs. Vastagbőr blog reported that Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also received a bar of chocolate, ate the chocolate, and then proceeded to vote in favor of creating the national tobacco distributor, which would leave hundreds of people unemployed. Photos of Prime Minister Orban consuming the chocolate bar before the deciding vote are included in the blog post and other local media.

New Distribution of Colonies and Native Nations in Mexico City

On his personal blog Hbt, Olivera Herbert writes about a new district distribution (starting on October 2014) and the popular referendum about participatory budgeting 2015 (November 2014), that allowed us to assess and ellaborate a new Catalog of Colonies and Native Nations 2013 in Mexico City.

Herbert has prepared a chart of the 1,753 communities and 40 native nations and invites us to download it here, a *.kml file you can use on a free and open code SIG, such as QGIS. The author explains what a colony means geographically and the so called native nations:

De acuerdo a la Ley de Participación Ciudadana del D.F. la colonia es la división territorial del Distrito Federal y los pueblos originarios son asentamientos que mantienen la figura de autoridad tradicional de acuerdo a sus normas, procedimientos y prácticas tradicionales.

According to the Bill of Citizen Participation of Mexico City, colony is the territorial division of the Federal District and native nations are settlements that keep the figure of tradtional authority under its rules, procedures and traditional practices.

Herbert Olivera's account on Twitter is @oliveraherbert for further details.

This post was part of the twenty-eighth #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on November 10, 2014.

National Conference on Internet Governance in Ecuador

The International Center of Research in Communication for Latin America (CIESPAL, by its name in Spanish), the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), Association of Free Software of Ecuador (ASLE), Infodesarrollo Network, the organization Free Libre Open Knowledge Society (FLOK) and the Latinoamerican Agency of Information (ALAI) are hosting the National Conference on Internet Governance with the purpose of discussing the situation of Internet governance in Ecuador, regionally as well as globally. A number of national and international experts are part of the meeting:

National Conference on Internet Governance – Ecuador > November 27, 2014.

According to the schedule, during the event there will be discussions about Internet access, infrastructure and content with the participation of experts such as Pilar Sáenz (Fundación Karisma) and Carlos Correa (Creative Commons Ecuador and Technical Private University of Loja), among others. The moderator will be Pablo Escandón (CIESPAL). The second session, moderated by Valeria Betancourt (APC), will be about surveillance, privacy and security on the Internet, with experts such as Renata Ávila (Web We Want) and Pilar Sáenz. Marcelo Branco (Free Software Association, Brazil) opening the event. Julián Assange will close it with a reflection about the implications of governance on the Internet for Latin America.

The event is free and will take place on November 27, 2014 at Av. Diego de Almagro N32-133 Andrade Marín, Quito. You can sign up here.

Boko Haram Kills at Least 81 Civilians in Fotokol, Northern Cameroon

Northern Cameroon border, where Boko Haram operates

Northern Cameroon border, where Boko Haram operates

On February 4, Boko Haram conducted a particularly gruesome attack on the town of Fotokol in Northern Cameroon, right across the Nigerian border. Hundred of civilians are feared dead, 81 confirmed so far by the Minister of Defense. Local Human Rights Organization believes that close to 370 civilians were killed. Local testimonies mention scores of bodies in the streets with their throats slit.  The town of Fotokol has been subjected to battles between Boko Haram and Camerronian and Chadian armed forces recently: March 2014, August 2014 and October 2014. Cameroonian Blogger Noelle Lafortune reports that the attack signals that Boko Haram might be losing ground in the region:

Au front, la peur est en train de changer de camp. L'entrée en scène de l'armée tchadienne en appui aux armées camerounaise et nigériane semble être décisive, eu égard à la panique qui s'est emparée de Boko Haram.  La puissance de feu des forces coalisées a mis en déroute Shekau et sa bande. 

On the frontline, doubt might be switching sides. The emergence of the Chadian army in support of the Cameroonian and Nigerian military appears to be decisive, given the panic moves that has seemingly gripped Boko Haram. The firepower of the coalition forces routed Shekau (head of Boko Haram) and his gang.

Mexico: An Unsatisfactory and Late Presidential Address

On Thursday, November 27, 2014, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto addressed publicly Mexican nation to make a stand about the shocking events occured in Iguala and to announce a set of actions to be taken.

The address was a disappointment for most of the Mexican people, who expected more from their president. In this context, Fernando Vázquez Rigada responds ciítically to the presidential address and points out it was not only late, but it also lacked empathy towards the people. Furthermore, the announced mesaures weren't enough to face the current Mexican crisis:

La mención al combate a la corrupción fue blanda y retórica. Se asume el plan de la oposición, pero sin ser capaz de agregar nada ni de garantizar una nueva ética que se base en los mejores hombres, en las mejores prácticas, en un blindaje real e inmediato. Vendrá la implementación de las reformas por los mismos que han debido cancelar licitaciones, encubrir, coludirse.

Lo mejor fue la mención a la aplicación del modelo chino de estímulo al crecimiento. La pobreza no produce criminales, pero si divide y desgarra.

La nación esperaba el jueves a un ejecutivo y encontró a un legislador. Aguardaba a un líder que compartiera el dolor, que mostrara reflexión sobre sus errores propios, que asumiera los costos que le corresponden y, sobre todo, que inspirara a una sociedad harta y desconsolada.

The mention about fighting corruption was soft and rhetorical. The plan from the opposition might be guessed, but without the possibility of adding nothing on nor secure a new ethics based in new men, better practices, a real and immediate reinforcement. The reforms will be implemented by the same people who should have called off tendrs, concealed, colluded.

The best thing was the mention of implementing the Chinese model of growth boost. Poverty doesn't produce criminals, bit it does divide and rips up.

On Thursday, the nation was waiting for an ejecutive and came across a legislator. They were waiting for a leader that might share their pain, that might show some reflection upon his own flaws, that would assume the costs upon him and, above all, that might inspire a society that's fed up and inconsolable.

You can follow Fernando on Twitter.

This post was part of the thirty-first #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on December 1, 2014.

Serbian Government Agency Publishes Personal Data of Over 5 Million Citizens

Screenshot of part of the documents containing personal information of citizens that were available on the official site of the Privatization Agency of the Republic of Serbia. Image by SHARE Foundation, used with permission.

Screenshot of part of the documents containing personal information of citizens that were available on the official site of the Privatization Agency of the Republic of Serbia. Image by SHARE Foundation, used with permission.

A link from the official website of the Privatization Agency of the Republic of Serbia began circulating on social networks in early December 2014. The link led to 19 gigabytes of text files on the agency's site that revealed the personal information of over 5 million Serbian citizens who had registered for free stock of state-owned companies in 2008. The files included the full names of citizens who had registered, as well as their Unique Master Citizen Numbers (JMBG), a number given to each citizen from which a birth date, place of birth and other information can easily be deduced.

The link was caught on Twitter during the week of December 8, 2014, by the legal team of SHARE Defense, the think tank unit of local non-government organization SHARE Foundation that conducts research and offers legal aid in the realm of human and civic rights. The foundation's team analysed the documents and reported the issue to the office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection of the Republic of Serbia. The links were removed from the agency's website in the afternoon hours of Friday, December 12, but it is impossible to know who downloaded the information in the meantime.

Citizens have started reacting on social networks, many calling this an “unforgivable” offense by a government agency. Twitter user Vladan Joler tweeted a common sentiment:

The biggest security breach in the realm of information systems protection and citizens’ privacy to date in RS [Republic of Serbia] @ShareConference http://t.co/WO96P4IBTU

— Vladan Joler (@TheCreaturesLab) December 15, 2014

It remains unclear why the documents were published on the site, if by mistake or otherwise. The office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection took on the case immediately and it is expected that it will follow through with an investigation.

In the meantime, SHARE Foundation's legal think tank team has warned any and all who have downloaded the data that any use of part or all of the information in these files would represent a a criminal offense and has recommended that anyone who has retained a copy of any or all of the documents delete them permanently.

Updates on the 18th SAARC Summit On Social Media

The ongoing summit of the The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was covered by international media with different perspectives. However non-official initiatives such as 18th SAARC Summit blog, Facebook account, Twitter and Google+ account are aggregating updates on the summit for easy archiving.

Here are some examples:

11-Year-Old Girl Starts Petition Calling for Mexican President's Resignation

Captura de pantalla de la campaña Personas que quieren la renuncia de Peña Nieto en la plataforma Change.org

Screenshot of the people who want the resignation of Peña Nieto campaign on the Change.org platform.

Political activism is not exclusively reserved for young people and adults. This was demonstrated by Sofia, an 11-year-old Mexican girl who decided to collect signatures calling for the resignation of the president of her country, Enrique Peña Nieto. These are her reasons.

Peña Nieto no le ha respondido como se debe a los familiares de los estudiantes desaparecidos, se fue a China y tiene una casa de 80 millones de pesos.

Peña Nieto has not responded as he should have to the families of the missing students, he went to China and he has a house costing 80 million pesos (approximately 5.88 million dollars).

This initiative caused many positive reactions. For example, some decided to sign in order to demonstrate to Sofia and other Mexican children (as well as adults) that having a better country is possible, and to remind those who govern that people placed them there and that the people can remove them. Sofia's mother said:

Yo no tengo idea de cómo se destituye a un presidente. Pero ojalá pueda de verdad llevar esas hojas a alguna parte que ayude a Sofía a sentir que su esfuerzo vale la pena, que lo intentamos a toda costa. Fui incapaz de decirle que no lo hiciera, que era casi imposible. No puedo cortarle las alas. Esta generación viene con fuerza, con fe y determinación, y con un concepto de lo que es decente y justo que ya quisieran muchos para un fin de semana.

I don't know how to dismiss a president. But, hopefully one can take those papers somewhere so that Sofia can feel that her efforts were worth it, that we tried at all costs. I was unable to tell her not to do it because it was almost impossible. I couldn't cut her wings. This generation is full of strength with faith and determination, and with a concept of what is decent, something that many want for a weekend.

The petition was placed on the Change.org platform and already has 10,500 signatures at the time of this post.

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