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STATE OF THE CONTINENT

This category features articles, news briefs, commentary, editorials and essays focusing on Africa. You have probably heard about this already: Rising investments in Africa’s service sector, the unlocking of its vast natural resources and the sound economic policies pursued by African countries in the last two decades are spurring the rise of the continent’s middle class at a faster rate than population growth. Lifting many out of poverty. Yet tremendous challenges still abound and that is where sound ideas come in. 

The Bullet Pen champions a forward match in engaging our readers, writers and the community in unfolding the amazing talents that Africa can bring to the world table. And it starts here.

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Bondage in the Horn of Africa

Lee Mwiti

Same story from Luanda to Cairo. Early this month, a rookie judge under immense pressure from the Angolan government jailed 17 demonstrators for sentences of up to three months, without the option of a fine. Their mistake had been to call on 69-year-old President José Eduardo dos Santos — in power for 32 years— to step down. Lost in the furore was the sub-plot of journalists who had been assaulted and their equipment damaged while attempting to cover the September 3 demonstration inspired by the Arab Spring. In Freetown, presidential guards severely beat up four journalists covering a football match between Sierra Leone and Egypt, leaving one of them, a BBC correspondent, comatose. Events this September already suggest that 2011 end of year reports will be a bulky read. From The Gambia to Libya to Uganda to Somaliand, the theme has been one of governments and regimes steadily chipping away at an already restricted media space. Even South Africa this month withdrew a controversial “secrecy” bill that effectively criminalised investigative reporting after months of sustained public protests.  In Kenya, a mysterious September 9 break-in at the offices of independent publication Nairobi Law Monthly was seen as an attempt to intimidate the publishers of the boldly written magazine. Early this month, Cameroon journalist François Fogno Fotso was detained over a story detailing corruption by a tax official, as authorities demanded he disclose his sources.

Even in the newly independent nation of South Sudan there have been close to ten documented cases of attacks on the press this year. According to the CPJ, 2009 was the bloodiest year yet for sub-Saharan Africa journalists, with 12 of them killed in the course of duty.

Every September’s end since 2001, media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has religiously put out a statement highlighting the case of jailed Eritrean/Swedish journalist Dawit Isaac, one of the region’s longest serving prisoners of conscience.

And every time the consistent response by Eritrea nation has remained the same: Studious silence. On September 23, Dawit marked 10 years of incarceration since his arrest in 2001 when the Eritrean government shut down the independent press and rounded up journalists and reformists deemed critical of the regime. read more.

Africa Calling! Can mobile phones make a miracle?

Jenny C. Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti

Ten years ago the 170,000 residents of Zinder were barely connected to the 21st century. This mid-sized town in the eastern half of Niger had sporadic access to water and electricity, a handful of basic hotels, and very few landlines. The twelve-hour, 900 km drive to Niamey, the capital of Niger, was a communications blackout, with the exception of the few cabines téléphoniques along the way.

Then, in 2003 a Celtel mobile-phone tower appeared in town, and life rapidly changed…

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Boghuma Kabisen Titanji: Ethical riddles in HIV research

It’s an all too common story: after participating in an HIV clinical trial, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa is left without the resources to buy a bus ticket to her health clinic, let alone to afford life-saving antiretrovirals. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji asks an important question: how can researchers looking for a cure make sure they’re not taking advantage of those most affected by the pandemic?

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How to Write About Africa

 Anna Clark

In late January I arrived for my first day at the offices of Kenya’s Kwani Trust, the publisher of Kwani? (“So what?” in Swahili), the most renowned literary journal in sub-Saharan Africa. Just a handful of people work in the bright-yellow, two-story duplex near downtown Nairobi, circled by a grassy yard with eucalyptus, bamboo, and pineapple and palm trees.

Founded in 2003 by writers frustrated at the limited possibilities for circulating their work—among them was Binyavanga Wainaina, who had just won the Caine Prize for African Writing—Kwani is a literary agitator without peer. In addition to the journal, it publishes a host of novels, nonfiction books, and poetry collections and will soon be adding graphic novels…

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“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires…”

Nelson “Madiba” Mandela.

When a leader speaks, We at The Bullet Pen listens.


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