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Jan. 21 (GIN) – As developers rush to complete a dream city of soaring glass and steel high-rise buildings, luxury housing for 250,000 amidst a leafy boulevard with ritzy shops and tony restaurants, hopes for a better future are growing dim for the sister city of Lagos, the largest city in Africa with 21 million residents at last count.

Eko Atlantic, the new project, is rising on Victoria Island – now connected by an artificial land bridge to Lagos which sinks deeper into poverty as its neighbor’s income skyrockets.

Lagos, visited by the Portuguese in 1492, was the nation’s capital from 1914 to 1991. Today it struggles with aging infrastructure, unreliable electric power, fierce traffic jams and sprawling slums. Even in posh neighborhoods, sewage bubbles up from open ditches. Companies squeeze their headquarters into moldy midcentury ranch houses and turn off the lights at lunch to rest electric generators.

Two-thirds of the city’s residents live in “informal” neighborhoods, while more than one million of the city’s poor have been forcibly evicted from their homes over the last 15 years.

Eko Atlantic is a prime example of a trend towards walled-off cities for the very rich on a continent that is still home to the world’s poorest.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Martin Lukacs warned: “Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future – privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms.”

He continued: “Protected by guards, guns, and sky-high real estate prices, the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising… This is climate apartheid.”

Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey added: “Building Eko Atlantic is contrary to anything one would want to do if one took seriously climate change and resource depletion.”

The developers, a pair of politically connected Lebanese brothers who run a financial empire called the Chagoury Group, received a 78 year-seal of ownership of Eko Atlantic to recoup their investment.

The Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile, calls Eko Atlantic “one of the most inspiring and ambitious civil engineering projects in Africa,” according to the U.S. mission in Nigeria website.  Last year, former President Clinton participated in the ground breaking ceremony as did Ambassador Terence McCulley, and Consul General Jeff Hawkins, among others.

Woman To Lead Embattled Central African Republic As New President

Jan. 21 (GIN) – To the sound of cheers from the National Assembly building, the Transitional National Council of the Central African Republic on Monday tapped Catherine Samba-Panza, mayor of the capital city of Bangui, to be the country’s interim President and first woman to hold the post.

As the new leader of a country gripped by a ferocious sectarian war, Catherine Samba-Panza, 58, issued a call to the fighting groups, asking her “children, especially the anti-Balaka, to put down their arms and stop all the fighting. The same goes for the ex-Seleka. . . I don’t want to hear any more talk of murders and killings.

“Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion.”

Born in Chad to a Cameroonian father and Central African mother, Ms. Samba-Panza is a former businesswoman, corporate lawyer, and insurance broker.  She also led a reconciliation effort during a previous civil war.

Paul Simon Handy, of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, called her “a president who can unite both the country and the political elite” but warned: “I am afraid that this process will take longer than her period in office as interim president.”

The Central African Republic has been devastated by brutal fighting since a coup in March 2013 removed the unpopular president Francois Bozize. He was replaced by Michel Djotodia who suspended the constitution. Djotodia resigned this month under intense international pressure as the death toll mounted to over 1000 people and observers feared a genocide was in the works.

According to a New York Times report, “The state no longer exists in the CAR. Civil servants do not go to their offices, taxes are not collected, all the schools are closed. There is no budget, no army, no police force, no Parliament, no judges, no jails.”

Against these odds, Samba-Panza, no political novice, ran a successful campaign and beat seven other candidates for the post. Among them were two women and two sons of former presidents.

Now, her primary task will be to prepare the nation for elections in the coming year.  In addition she will need to temper the extreme animosity between the Christian and Muslim groups in the country.

Central African Republic has to hold a fresh election by February 2015 at the latest. France, however, wants the election to be held this year. Current law excludes the interim president from running.

“Everything we have been through has been the fault of men,” said Marie-Louise Yakemba, in a press interview. Yakemba, who heads a civil-society organization that brings together people of different faiths, added: “We think that with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”w/pix of Pres. Samba-Panza

Africa Was A Point Of Pride For Martin Luther King Jr.
By Rush Perez

Jan. 21 (GIN) – At a speaking engagement at Western Michigan University on Dec. 18, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recalled his first trip to Africa with his wife Coretta to attend the independence day celebration of the new nation of Ghana. The couple was invited by the new President, Kwame Nkrumah.

“We were very happy about the fact there were now eight independent countries in Africa,” he said. “But since that night in March, 1957, some twenty-seven new independent nations have come into being in Africa. This reveals to us that the old order of colonialism is passing away, and the new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being.”

Later, on Dec. 10, 1965 he gave a powerful speech at Hunter College in New York City, where he attacked the Apartheid regime of South Africa, as well as the governments of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and the Portuguese control of Mozambique and Angola.

True to form, Dr King utilized powerful language to make his points, beginning first with a deconstruction of the popular narrative of Africa at the time.

“Africa has been depicted for more than a century as the home of black cannibals and ignorant primitives….Africa does have spectacular savages today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa… whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern day barbarians.”

He went on to call for an international boycott of South Africa.

After the independence day ceremonies in Ghana, Dr King said in a radio interview that: “This event, the birth of this new nation, will give impetus to oppressed peoples all over the world. I think it will have worldwide implications and repercussions–not only for Asia and Africa, but also for America….It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice and that somehow the universe itself is on the side of freedom and justice. So that this gives new hope to me in the struggle for freedom.”

GHANAIAN JOURNALIST WHO INSPIRED YOUNGER WRITERS IS RECALLED  

Jan. 21 (GIN) – An accomplished and much-admired news writer from Ghana was recalled as “the face and voice of Africa – a new young, enterprising, international connected, ambitious Africa, with a can-do attitude.”

Komla Afeke Dumor passed unexpectedly this week at age 41 from cardiac arrest at his London home.

“He was not a praise-singer,” noted BBC Africa editor Solomon Mugera. “He was determined to present a balanced story, warts and all, and to show the human face behind the headlines.”

Dumor was a BBC World News presenter and the host of the Focus on Africa Program. He joined the BBC in 2006 after working for a decade as a journalist in Ghana. He was so popular in his home country that many Ghanaians changed their profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to show a picture of him.

After moving to TV in 2009, he anchored live coverage of major events including the funeral of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il,  the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the death of Nelson Mandela in December.

Born in 1972 in Accra, Komla Dumor received graduate degrees from the University of Ghana and Harvard University.

Even as a number of African countries were being heralded as among the world’s fastest-growing economies, Dumor wanted to dig deeper, recalled Mugera.

“He knew that a select few were wining and dining in five-star hotels and driving the latest luxury cars, while in the same neighborhood there were families struggling to live on $1 a day.”

The Media Foundation for West Africa, a regional independent, non-governmental organisation based in Accra, shared their deep condolences for the loss of “one of Africa’s best journalists.”

“Komla raised the standard of journalism in Africa, and brought a lot of pride to many Ghanaians and Africans when he joined the BBC Africa Service and later, the World Service…  He was an an illustrious journalist and a trailblazer for many young journalists in Ghana and Africa as a whole. .. We have indeed lost a talented gem in journalism, Komla, damirifa due! Rest in peace!” the statement concluded.

In the words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie:  “We have lost a star. Go well my discussant brother.”

Dumor leaves a wife, Kwansema Dumor, and three children. w/pix of K. Dumor

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