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OMG: Chinese firm to hand over new US$140m parliament building as a gift to Zimbabwe

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China is preparing to hand over a new US$140 million parliament building as a gift to Zimbabwe – the latest in a series of grand projects across Africa designed to deepen its influence in the continent, where it is the largest trading partner and lender.

The site at Mount Hampden, about 18km (11 miles) northwest of the capital Harare, heralds the start of a new city.

The 650-seat building will replace the current 100-seat, colonial-era building which Zimbabwean officials consider too small for the country’s 350 legislators.

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Sitting on the top of a hill, the imposing circular complex, which has been built by China’s Shanghai Construction Group, is fully paid for by Beijing.

The contractors said the facility was now ready to be handed over, 3½ years after construction started on a project that employed more than 500 Chinese technicians and 1,200 local workers.

“There is no doubt that the new parliament will become a landmark building in Zimbabwe and even in the whole of Southern Africa,” Shanghai Construction Group manager Libo Cai said on Wednesday.

Work on the new parliament has been completed. Photo: Xinhua alt=Work on the new parliament has been completed. Photo: Xinhua>

“It will be yet another milestone for the China-Zimbabwe friendship which keeps getting stronger year after year.”

The building covers a total area of 33,000 square metres (355,200 sq ft) and has two main buildings – a six-storey office building and a four-storey parliament building.

Cai said the building was fully funded by the Chinese government.

To ease congestion in the crowded capital, Zimbabwe plans to relocate the judiciary and executive branches, and some of its administrative units, to the site. A statehouse and official residences for the House speaker and Senate president will also be built there.

The new city will eventually become home to the country’s reserve bank, upmarket suburbs, hotels and shopping malls.

The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe said in a tweet that “thanks to the hardworking of the Chinese and Zimbabwean technicians, it [the parliament] is expected to trigger more mega projects in the Mount Hampden area and boost the development of a new satellite city”.

It is the latest in a series of similar Chinese-funded projects across the continent, where Beijing has also paid for the construction of palaces, sports stadiums and conference centres as part of a decades-old diplomatic strategy.

When Beijing first started establishing diplomatic relations with Africa between the 1950s and 1970s, it offered financial help and interest-free loans and sent over medical teams.

In return, those nations helped Beijing secure the Chinese seat on the United Nations Security Council in 1971, which had been occupied by the Republic of China government that fled to Taiwan in 1949.

Other recent projects include the Kenneth Kaunda International Conference Centre, which China Jiangsu International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group handed over to the Zambian authorities in late May.

The centre, named after the country’s first president, is expected to host the upcoming African Union midyear summit and was described by President Hakainde Hichilema as “a symbol of the unshakeable friendship between Zambia and the People’s Republic of China”.

China has also opened a new conference centre in Zambia. Photo: Xinhua alt=China has also opened a new conference centre in Zambia. Photo: Xinhua>

 

In Ethiopia, work on the US$80 million Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters is also nearing completion. The country also plays host to the ultra-modern US$200 million African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, funded and built by China as a “gift to the African people”.

Research by Paul Nantulya, from the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies at Washington’s National Defence University, has calculated that China constructed or renovated 186 government buildings in at least 40 African countries between 2000 and 2018.

Nantulya has previously described China as playing the long game, saying in February: “Its presence is felt each time an African walks into any of those buildings. China is creating a portrait of itself as an enduring partner that remains present and stands in solidarity with African governments.”

David Shinn, a professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and a former US ambassador to Ethiopia, said building diplomacy had long been an important part of China’s foreign policy, but it had increased in significance in recent years.

He said most of the construction projects were funded by loans but others had been gifts. Aside from the new Zimbabwe parliament and the AU headquarters, the latter also includes Kenya’s foreign ministry and Burundi’s presidential palace.

“This allows China to have considerable influence with the officials who benefit from the facilities,” Shinn said.

But, he said: “Chinese companies usually install all of the communications equipment. This raises potential security issues for the African recipients.”

In one major controversy in 2018, Beijing was accused of bugging the AU headquarters.

The French newspaper Le Monde, citing anonymous AU sources, said that for five years, data had been transferred nightly from computers in the building to Chinese servers and hidden microphones had also been found.

Beijing rejected the accusations as “preposterous” and baseless.

Stephen Chan, professor of politics and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said all the parliament buildings were of similar design and reflected the Chinese model of a circular central chamber.

The circular chamber in Zimbabwe’s new parliament is a design replicated across the continent without input from local architects. Photo: Xinhua alt=The circular chamber in Zimbabwe’s new parliament is a design replicated across the continent without input from local architects. Photo: Xinhua>

 

“In other words, the symbolism of government and opposition directly facing each other is sidestepped,” Chan said.

Likewise, he said airports were of the same design but those were tied to loans and were not gifts.

“So the two practices, of building diplomacy as gifts and the lending of money, have been in use side by side for some time and will continue to be separate practices,” he said.

“What building diplomacy neglects, however, is the use of African architects and African architectural imagination. It cancels self-reliance not only in building for oneself but self-expression in the imagination of Africa’s best architects.”

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This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Culled from the South China Morning Post  

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US senator urges Kenyan president to aid peaceful transition

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A visiting U.S. senator says he has encouraged Kenya’s outgoing president to participate in a “peaceful transition of power” amid the latest election crisis in East Africa’s most stable democracy.

“I’ll let the president speak for himself, but that was certainly a hope I expressed today,” Sen. Chris Coons told The Associated Press after his meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday. He said they discussed ways in which Kenyatta can play a “constructive peacemaking role” after leaving office.

Kenyatta has remained publicly silent since the Aug. 9 vote, adding to the anxiety as Kenya again faces post-election uncertainty and a likely court challenge by the losing candidate, Raila Odinga. Coons, leading a congressional delegation on a five-country Africa visit, was in Kenya in part to meet the key parties and urge that calm continue.

Sen. Chris Coons, second right, leading a U.S. congressional delegation, is accompanied by his wife Annie Coons, right, and Rep Dave Joyce, left, as he speaks to patient David Oduor, center, at his home, after visiting the Tabitha Medical Clinic run by CFK Africa in the Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. The delegation also met with current President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s new president-elect William Ruto, and opposition figure Raila Odinga who has said he will challenge his recent election loss in court. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Kenyatta had backed longtime rival and opposition leader Odinga in the close race against his own deputy president, William Ruto, who fell out bitterly with Kenyatta years ago. Ruto on Monday was declared the winner, but not before Kenya’s most peaceful election ever slid into chaos in the final moments.

The electoral commission split in two, each side accusing the other of trying to tinker with the results. It came as a shock to many Kenyans after an election widely seen as the country’s most transparent ever, with results from the more than 46,000 polling stations posted online.

Now Odinga almost certainly will challenge the results in Supreme Court. His campaign has seven days from Monday’s declaration to do so, and the court will have 14 days to rule. Odinga has urged supporters to remain patient instead of taking to the streets in a country with a history of sometimes deadly post-election violence.

After meeting with Kenyatta, Odinga and Ruto, Coons told the AP “I was encouraged that in all three meetings we heard a commitment to a call for calm and tranquility, to respect the legal processes established in the 2010 constitution.” He said the conversations were about the rule of law, the importance of free and fair elections and peaceful transitions.

“Obviously, the United States has had a very difficult experience with these issues for the past few years,” Coons said, referring to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as former President Donald Trump tried to remain in power. “I said in all three meetings we have things to learn from Kenya.”

Kenyatta told Coons that Kenya would uphold “its position of a shining example of democracy in the continent by maintaining peace during this transition period,” according to a statement issued by the president’s office.

Coons said he did not come to Kenya seeking anything like the handshake that Kenyatta and Odinga, after prodding, famously shared to end months of crisis after the 2017 election, whose results were overturned by the Supreme Court over irregularities, a first in Africa. Odinga boycotted the fresh vote and declared himself the “people’s president,” bringing allegations of treason.

This time, with Kenyatta’s backing, the Odinga campaign felt he would win the presidency after a quarter-century of pursuing it.

Kenyatta is stepping down after two terms, itself a notable act in a region where longtime presidents like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda have been accused of clinging to power through changes in term limits, manipulation of elections and crackdowns on dissenting voices.

The U.S. delegation is also visiting Rwanda, where human rights and violent tensions with neighboring Congo are almost certainly on the agenda following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit there last week. Coons said he looks forward to visiting again with Kagame.

Kenyatta has played a leading role in efforts to calm the Rwanda-Congo tensions and in trying to mediate in neighboring Ethiopia’s deadly Tigray conflict, with support from the U.S. Coons did not say what kind of peacemaking role he hoped to see Kenyatta play after stepping down.

Ruto’s public comments this week have been on domestic matters, not foreign, but Coons said the president-elect made an “expression of concern and intent in trying to help lead to positive resolutions” in such regional crises.

Coons also has played a role in trying to calm the Ethiopia conflict. But he told the AP the delegation was not having a meeting with Ethiopia’s government or the Tigray forces while in Kenya.

Coons, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and his delegation have already visited Cape Verde and Mozambique and will visit Tunisia as well.

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How thousands of freed Black Americans were relocated to West Africa

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In the 1800s, the American Colonization Society relocated thousands of freed Black Americans to West Africa. It led to the creation of Liberia.

  • The American Colonization Society’s mission was to relocate freed Black Americans to Africa.
  • Starting in 1820, thousands of Black emigrants were shipped to what would become Liberia.
  • The society’s segregationist ideology has a lasting impact on America and Liberia.

On December 21, 1816, a group of fifty white elites gathered in a Washington, D.C. hotel to discuss the future of freed Black Americans.

Following the American Revolution, the number of freed Black Americans had grown from 60,000 in 1790 to 300,000 by 1830. The American Colonization Society emerged as the solution, with the mission of shipping Black people to a colony in Africa.

African Americans depart for Liberia, 1896.

African Americans depart for Liberia, 1896. The American Colonization Society sent its last emigrants to Liberia in 1904.Digital Collections, The New York Public Library

The organization was the brainchild of the Reverend Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey. The ACS’ early supporters included some of the nation’s most powerful and influential men, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Francis Scott Key, as well as slave-owning US presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison.

“Can there be a nobler cause than that which, while it proposes to rid our country of a useless and pernicious, if not a dangerous portion of our population, contemplates the spreading of the arts of civilized life?” Clay said in his opening address.

Membership certificate of Rev. Samuel Rose Ely, dated March 1840. The Society’s president Henry Clay’s signature is visible at the bottom right.Library of Virginia

Colonization, the state-sponsored emigration and resettlement of freed Black Americans outside America, was widely supported in the US for religious, economic, and social reasons. Even after its dissolution in 1964, the ACS has left a lasting legacy of segregationist sentiment in both America and abroad, according to historians.

“The establishment of the American Colonization Society was a watershed moment in American history,” Eric Burin, a history professor at the University of North Dakota, said. “What you have is a powerful white organization propounding a vision of America as a white person’s country, and African Americans responding with a resounding rebuttal that it’s their country, too.”

A ‘miserable mockery’

The ACS attracted a diverse crowd of white individuals, including slaveholders who saw colonization as a way to remove freed Blacks, whom they feared would cause chaos by helping their slaves escape or rebel.

Many white Americans also believed that African Americans were inferior, and should be relocated to a place where they could live in peace away from the shackles of slavery. Abraham Lincoln held this belief, which led him to support a plan to relocate 5,000 Black Americans to the Caribbean in the 1860s.

The ACS also had a religious mission of Christianizing Africa to “civilize” the continent, according to historian Marc Leepson.

The initial reactions of the Black American community and abolitionists were nuanced. Some activists, like James Fortein, immediately rejected the ACS, writing in 1817 that “we have no wish to separate from our present homes for any purpose whatever”.

But some other Black abolitionists were cautiously interested in the notion of an emigration program. Martin Delany, who was dismissed from Harvard Medical School after white students petitioned against the inclusion of Black students, claimed that even abolitionists would never accept Black Americans as equals, and so the solution lay in the emigration of all Black Americans.

“We are a nation within a nation,” Delany wrote. “We must go from among our oppressors.”

But even Delany ultimately condemned the ACS’s hallmark plan to send Black Americans to Liberia, decrying it as a “miserable mockery” of an independent republic.

It led to the creation of Liberia

As the ACS grew, it sought to create a colony in West Africa. On February 6, 1820, 86 freed Black Americans set sail to the continent.

Map of Liberia, 1850.

An 1850 map of Liberia. Pencil annotations were made to change the report to “by the American Colonization Society,” and to add place names.American Colonization Society/Library of Congress

The initial expedition — and the expeditions that followed — proved to be disastrous as disease and famine struck. Of the more than 4,500 emigrants who arrived in Liberia between 1820 and 1843, only 40% were alive by 1843.

But the ACS, backed by funding from state and federal governments, continued to send more freed Blacks. In 1821, the society purchased Cape Mesurado from the indigenous people — by threatening the use of force, according to some accounts.

The land surrounding Cape Montserrado would later be known as Liberia, “the free land.” Its capital was renamed Monrovia in honor of James Monroe, an ardent supporter of the ACS.

The settlers developed an Americo-Liberian society that was strongly influenced by their roots in the American South, according to Burin. Americo-Liberians wielded vast socioeconomic and political power over the indigenous people — which planted the seeds for the Liberian Civil War of 1989.

“The Americo-Liberians realized they could essentially exploit the indigenous people for labor,” Burin told Insider. But it was a way for indigenous people to gain access to resources and education as well.

A lasting legacy of segregationist sentiment

Though the ACS eventually dissolved in 1964 after continuous opposition from abolitionists and a lack of interest by free Black Americans, historians said it shaped — and continues to shape — the country’s discussions of race.

“One of the ACS’ lasting legacies was the underlying ideology that drove the colonization movement forward: that Black people really aren’t Americans, at least not in the way that white people are,” Burin said.

The sentiment manifested itself in policies like Jim Crow-era segregation, and still has a grip on some Americans to this day.

A photo of children in Liberia, taken during an ACS mission trip in 1900.American Colonization Society Collection/Library of Congress via Getty Images

The second legacy of the ACS is Liberia itself. In 1847, Liberians declared the country an independent nation, becoming the second Black republic in the Atlantic after Haiti.

“The ACS founded a country that has had a distinctive influence over debates of freedom, slavery, and race today,” Burin said.

♦ Culled from the Insider

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OMG: 20-Year-Old Woman To Be Stoned To Death For Cheating On Her Husband

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A 20-year-old Sudanese woman has been reportedly sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery. Police arrested Maryam Alsyed Tiyrab in Sudan’s White Nile state in June. She was found guilty of adultery by a court on June 26.

Human rights activists continue to fight against the penalty as it violates domestic and international law. “The application of the death penalty by stoning for the crime of adultery is a grave violation of international law, including the right to life and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), based in Uganda. They added how Tiyrab was not given a fair trial and was not informed that the details she gave during interrogation would be used against her. Additionally, she was denied access to a lawyer.

Many groups and activists in Africa fear that the sentence of stoning marks the government’s attempts to roll back women’s rights. “The death by stoning case is a reminder that the criminal law reforms during the transition [government] were not complete, and that such harsh, archaic punishments are still officially on the books,” human rights lawyer Jehanne Henry said. She also added that the sentence “shows that harsh Sharia laws [and] penalties are still being implemented in Sudan.” Human rights groups are protesting for Tiyrab’s immediate release.

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