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In the Land of Diamonds, Botswana’s Ruling Party’s Sparkle Dims

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN)—The ruling Botswana Democratic Party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections this past week, ensuring a second five-year term for President Ian Khama, whose party has ruled Botswana since independence from Britain 48 years ago.

But the victory was hard-won. The recently united opposition coalition has eaten away at the number of seats held by Khama’s majority party. Of 57 seats up for grabs, the ruling party won 33, the Umbrella for Democratic Change took 14 and the Botswana Congress party nabbed two.

“I am thrilled to be part of this epic moment,” said Duma Boko, presidential candidate of the three-party UDC alliance after casting his vote. Friday’s poll saw a high turnout of the 800,000 registered voters.

Khama, 61, a retired army general, is an ascetic and increasingly authoritarian figure with an undisguised dislike of journalists and a callous disregard for the Kalahari Bushmen, or “San,” who, he says, have an “extinct” and backward way of life.

Of their ancestral homelands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, he said, “Look, this is a game reserve. The whole purpose of a game reserve is to protect and conserve the flora and fauna.

“Just because they have had this way of life for many years, and continue living a very extinct form of life, a very backward form of life, denying them and especially their children opportunities to grow with the mainstream of our citizens, they have to be moved into the modern way of doing things. Give them livelihoods which will allow them and their children to live better lives.”

A landlocked, southern African country of two million people, Botswana is the world’s largest rough diamond producer by value, with production of 23.2 million carats valued at $3.6 billion in 2013, according to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. De Beers, Lucara Diamond Corp. and Gem Diamonds are among the companies with operations in the country.

Diamond sales funded generous social programs over the years, such as old-age benefits and monthly food rations to all destitute residents.

Young people receive 10 years of basic education, following which they can choose one the seven technical colleges in the country, or take vocational courses in teaching or nursing. The best students enroll in the University of Botswana, Botswana College of Agriculture and the Botswana Accountancy College in Gaborone.

The Botswana International University of Science and Technology began accepting students in 2011.

Efforts to diversify the economy—bringing in value-added jobs beyond mining—were championed by the minister of Mines, Energy and Water Resources, Onkokame Kitso Makaila.

Those efforts paid off in the relocation of sorting and sales by De Beers from London to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, in the direct sales by state-owned Okavango Diamond Company and in an increase in auxiliary services, such as brokers, banks, shipping companies and grading laboratories that have set up shop in Gaborone.

Makaila, however, failed to hold on to his seat in the recent election, losing his constituency by 611 votes. The appointment of a new minister is pending.

Brown Loses Bid to Become Maryland’s First Black Governor

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By Glynn A. Hill
Howard University News Service

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—For weeks, possibly months, the talk had been about how Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown would soon become the nation’s third Black governor. Those dreams were dashed Tuesday night, as Brown, a Democrat, was narrowly defeated by Republican candidate Larry Hogan to win the Maryland gubernatorial election. Hogan’s victory, in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2 to1, was a huge upset.

Brown, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, was heavily favored when the election season began. Hogan, an Anne Arundel businessman, gained momentum in recent weeks, emphasizing his plan to cut taxes.

The defeat ends Brown’s hope, at least temporarily, of becoming the first African-American governor of Maryland.

“Tonight fell short of our campaign goal,” Brown said to a crowd at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Maryland in his concession speech. “But it does not and cannot diminish the work that each and every one of you all has done in our communities.”

Hogan is the first Republican to win the Maryland governorship since Robert Ehrlich in 2002. Before him was Spiro Agnew, in 1967.

Mike Brown, 45, is an electrician who has lived in Maryland his entire life. He believes Brown’s defeat is more about what Hogan did than what Brown didn’t do.

“More people came out for Hogan,” said a disheartened Brown. “I think Brown had a good campaign, but he lost.”

To some, the number of registered voters who went to the polls was the difference.

Holli Holliday, a chief consultant at Holliday Advisors LLC, follows Maryland politics as a political strategist. She said she believed that voter turnout, particularly in Maryland’s most populated counties, was the difference.

“The Brown campaign took Baltimore County for granted,” Holliday said. “There was not a lot of energy focused on the big counties. They should’ve focused on their backyard.”

Brown, who represented Prince George’s County while serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, held Prince George’s County, but lost Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Aisha Braveboy, the chair of the Maryland Black Caucus, said that Brown’s defeat is a wake-up call for Democrats not just in Maryland, but across the country.

“We had a message that didn’t resonate with the majority of voters who went to the polls,” Braveboy said. “Democrats haven’t done well reaching out to their base.”

Brown, the son of a Jamaican father and Swiss mother, attended Harvard University on a ROTC scholarship prior to serving five years of active duty before returning for Harvard for law school. He was elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1998, but continued to serve in the military.

Brown previously served two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates prior to taking his current post. Under current Governor Martin O’Malley, he’s led efforts to expand and improve health care, support economic development, and to provide better resources and services to Veterans.

Hogan not only criticized Brown for the “botched” rollout of the state’s healthcare exchange program under the Affordable Care Act, but he also made the race about taxes, and tried to convince voters that electing Brown was tantamount to electing Governor O’Malley again.

Clarevonte Williams, 22, a senior at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., said that Brown’s loss is disappointing because he had supported him since last December.

“Hogan had the numbers,” Williams said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Afro-Peruvian 'Cajon' to be Internationally Recognized

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By Karen Juanita Carrillo
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

The country of Peru has slowly come to recognize a treasure in its midst. The “cajon,” the traditional wooden box drum of Afro-Peruvians, was only recognized as a Peruvian national instrument by that nation’s federal government in 2001, and this was only because Spanish Flamenco musicians had begun using the instrument and praised its numerous rhythmic abilities.

The instrument is a wooden box or drawer that drummers straddle while tapping with an open palm or fingertips.

There are numerous theories about the origin of the cajon. Enslaved Africans in Peru are believed to have used old shipping crates and turned them into drums because there was a ban on African music, Spaniards believing it might help slaves organize uprisings. Another theory holds that the cajon is actually similar to boxlike instruments that were traditionally used in Angola.

The instrument was, for most of its history, solely relegated to the realms of Afro-Peruvian music. But today, with its national recognition, Peru promotes use and knowledge about the cajon in its schools and museums and through countrywide programs.

Nov. 1, the regional Organization of American States will give the cajon international recognition during a gala ceremony in Washington, D.C. The upcoming ceremony will also pay homage to recently deceased actor and musician Rafael Santa Cruz, as well as to singer Jose Escajadillo, who has written over 600 waltzes.

Santa Cruz died suddenly of a heart attack at age 53, just this past August. The author of “El Cajon Afroperuano” (Lima: Cocodrilo Verde Ediciones, 2004), Santa Cruz was a recognized promoter of the cajon. In 2013, he organized the gathering of 1,524 cajon players during the International Peruvian Cajon Festival. The 1,524 cajon players came to Lima’s Playa Mayor and set a Guinness World Record for most cajon players playing at the same time.

Eviction Plans in the Cards for Zimbabwe's Landless Poor

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

Oct. 20 (GIN) — President Robert Mugabe’s land reform initiative turned lives upside down in the year 2000 and now upside down again as the settlers who moved onto lands that white farmers once owned now find themselves facing eviction by the same government.

Approximately 8 million hectares of farmland owned by 3,000 white farmers in 1999 are now legally state-owned, according to the Valuation Consortium, a private, Harare-based body that collects information from evicted white farmers. According to the constitution, leases cannot be given to new owners until the dispossessed white farmers are compensated.

In the meantime, many of the new Black beneficiaries have neither security of tenure nor legal protection afforded to tenants and can be evicted at will.

This spring, the government announced a crackdown on settlers without proper ownership documents. “Those who settled themselves will be evicted,” said Douglas Mombeshora, minister of lands and rural resettlement. “Those farmers who have been staying for about 10 years should have their settlements formalized.”

Faber Chidarikire, minister of Mashonaland West, added, “People have been illegally occupying land and sometimes invading land which is not suitable for farming … Some people have settled on pastures, while others have invaded other people’s farms. We are going to evict these people.”

Deal or No Deal? Chibok Girls Still Held

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By Nayaba Arinde
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A myriad of stories is swirling around the Chibok girls.

April 14, armed men of Boko Haram (meaning “Western education is a sin”) kidnapped 276 school girls aged 16 to 18 from the village of Chibok in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno. There were reports last week of a cease-fire between the Nigerian government and accused kidnappers. Then hopes were dashed. Then there was news that the girls were about to be released. Then they weren’t.This past weekend, Boko Haram killed many villagers as they took another town in Borno State.

“Deal. Wait, no deal. Yes, deal. No, maybe,” mocked Ruth Evon Idahosa, lawyer and international activist. “In the wake of recent conflicting reports about the Nigerian government’s alleged cease-fire with militant group Boko Haram, those of us in the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls have been caught in the awkward arrhythmic dance between hope and hopelessness on the emotional roller coaster we have been forced to ride.

“As one of the campaign’s organizers, it is unfathomable that a little over six months later, the Nigerian government is still no closer to rescuing our daughters from what some of the 56 girls that courageously escaped their abductors described as a living hell.”

“The Nigerian government continued to contradict itself. Today it will talk about dialogue, tomorrow it will say it will destroy the sect, or that the sect does not exists at all,” AllAfrica.com Abubakar Umar Kari as stating. His comments come after six months of confusion. First Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan took weeks to acknowledged the kidnappings. Then the government said it never happened. Then they said they knew where the girls were but feared the girls would be used as human shields if the military went in with guns blazing. Then they said the girls had been freed, and then they said the girls were not freed. Confusion.

In the midst of this is the concern that Boko Haram may be an internationally created or funded organization set to undermine one of the most powerful countries on the African continent, especially as the controversial 2015 presidential elections loom.

Idahosa said, “Back in May when the Nigerian government brazenly announced to the world that ‘we know where the girls are,’ I, along with many other protestors around the world, were filled with hope that the nightmare would soon be over. However, as the hours turned to days, the days to weeks and the weeks to what has now been six months, the dance between hope and hopelessness continues to force an imbalance of unhealthy emotions that no human heart, especially the hearts of grieving parents, should have to endure.”

She concluded, “According to Nelson Mandela, ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ On the heels of Boko Haram’s apparent breach of the alleged cease-fire less than 24 hours after it was negotiated by the Chadian government on behalf of Nigeria in Saudi Arabia, we are left with what arguably reflects the tortured soul of failed government and despicable extremism. We are left to continue to grasp for hope in light of the apparent darkness which sometimes shrouds uncertainty. Nonetheless, we are also aptly reminded that faith in light shines brightest in this darkness and that although caught in the tangled web of hope and hopelessness, we can still choose to believe, even if solely for the sake of children who can likely no longer believe for themselves, in the annihilating power of hope.”

The #TakeMeOffMute campaign was recently launched in Nigeria to amplify the voices of young women and girls, along with the #NoChildSexAbuse and the #NoRape campaigns.

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BVN National News Wire