Impressions from Famine Walk 2013

From Left: Joe Murray (Afri), Salome Mbugua (Akidwa), Fergal Anderson (Food Sovereignty Movement), Gary White Deer (Choctaw Artist), Declan O’Rourke (Musician) and Michael Wade (Delphi Lodge). Photo: Derek Speirs

2013 marked the 26th Afri Famine Walk – this walk having taken place every year since 1988. About 200 hundred people took part in the walk in atrocious weather conditions. The Walk leaders were Fergal Anderson of the Food Sovereignty Movement, Salome Mbugua from Northern Kenya and Choctaw Gary White Deer. We had music from Declan O’Rourke and Emer Mayock.

The Walk is an expression of respect, remembrance and solidarity with those who gathered in Louisburgh in search of food in March 1849.  It is also a walk of solidarity with all who have died and continue to die as a result of poverty and hunger in Ireland and throughout the world today.

This year’s walk had added significance because for the first time it retraced the exact route taken by the people in whose memory it is organised – an estimated 600 people who gathered in Louisburgh in March 1849 in the hope of meeting ‘commissioners’ who would certify them as paupers, which would entitle them to a ration of food or admission to the workhouse.  However, the commissioners failed to appear in Louisburgh and the message was conveyed that they would meet the people in Delphi Lodge instead. Continue reading “Impressions from Famine Walk 2013”

Impressions from Sustaining Activism’s Fire: Caring, Campaigning, Creating

Report by Andy Storey

The words of the Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam came to mind as I listened to the contributions here today:

Participants were invited to record their expectations of the event at the start of the day
Participants were invited to record their expectations of the event at the start of the day

‘I think despair has to be earned. If you were to say to me the world is damaged beyond repair, suitable only for the rubbish heap, I would want to see a record of what you did to change things, to repair it. You are not allowed to make that statement unless you have tried a hundred times to make things better — if you have failed again and again and again I might be willing to respect your opinion. I can’t take empty complaints seriously. The fact of the matter is that if you are the kind of person who has tried to alter things a hundred times, you would still say, “Let me try one more time.” You would never give up. Only the complacent ones, the bourgeoisie, the privileged ones, would say, “Throw this thing called life onto the rubbish heap.” ‘

Abjata
Abjata Khalif spoke about his campaigning work with the Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network

I was also reminded of the words of a relative of mine who, upon hearing that I was spending much of yet another weekend doing campaigning work, asked: ‘why do you keep doing this, when it doesn’t change anything?’. Well, as we have heard here today, it does change things, sometimes at least. But even if it did not, the journey itself is often its own reward – for many of us here today this is where we enjoy being, where we feel at home. And we are here to, as Rose Kelly put it today, help find out how better to traverse that journey safe and well. We agree then with Abjata Khalif when he says that ’activism is a calling’, albeit few of us have been called to do anything that requires his courage and his ability (again using the words of Rose) to ‘live in right relation’ with his community and his environment. Continue reading “Impressions from Sustaining Activism’s Fire: Caring, Campaigning, Creating”

Famine Walk 2013: Opening The Gates – Sowing New Seeds

Famine Walk 2013: Opening The Gates – Sowing New Seeds

Opening the Gates - Sowing New Seeds

Saturday May 18th 2013

From Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge, Co. Mayo

Registration from 12.45pm; Walk beginning at 1.30pm

Walk Leaders: Gary White Deer, Salome Mbugua, Fergal Anderson

Music: Declan O’Rourke

 

For the first time since its inception in 1988, the Afri Famine Walk will complete the journey from Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge – the exact route of the original ‘journey of horror’ of March 30th/31st 1849. The immediate cause of what became known as ‘the death march’ was the news that two ‘commissioners’, Colonel Hogrove and Captain Primrose, would arrive in Louisburgh and certify as paupers the people who had gathered to meet them, thus entitling them to a small ration of meal each. Several hundred people assembled in Louisburgh but the commissioners failed to appear, having decided to see the people in Delphi Lodge instead. The people set out on their 11 mile walk along mountain road and pathway in driving snow and bitter cold. When they finally did manage to meet the commissioners they were refused either food or tickets of admission to the workhouse and so they began their weary, dispirited return journey. Many – some say hundreds – died along the way, many of whom were buried where they fell.

On May 18th, 2013 people will again assemble in Louisburgh and walk to Delphi Lodge carrying with them the names of those definitely known to have died on the same route in 1849 – Catherine Grady, Mary McHale, James Flynn, Mrs. Dalton and her son and daughter and the Dillon family – as well as the names of people who have died in modern famines throughout the world. This time the gates of Delphi Lodge will open in welcome. Symbols of life, a tree and potatoes (of the non-genetically modified variety), will be planted. Continue reading “Famine Walk 2013: Opening The Gates – Sowing New Seeds”

Shamrock Shame and Shannon: Short film

A short film made by Dave Donnellan on behalf of Afri to highlight the volume of military traffic through Shannon and the implications this has for Ireland as a supposedly “neutral” country. Afri board member, John Maguire, describes Shannon: “as much a war port as an airport”.

Shamrock Shame and Shannon

There was a dramatic photo-call at Dáil Éireann on Easter Monday highlighting opposition to what the justice and peace organisation Afri is calling “the shameful handing over of Shannon Airport by the Irish Government to the US war machine”.  Actors Donal O’Kelly, Raymond Keane and Dylan Tighe – dressed as a US soldier, a Guantanamo detainee and an Irish politician – marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by dramatically enacting outside the Dáil what Afri coordinator Joe Murray calls “Ireland’s fawning welcome to illegal warriors and its cold indifference to illegal rendition for torture”.

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From left to right: Donal O’Kelly as an Irish politician, Dylan Tighe as a Guantanamo Bay prisoner and Raymond Keane as a US marine in a protest action to highlight the use of Shannon airport by the US military on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. Photo: Derek Speirs

The actors dramatised how ‘official Ireland’ warmly embraces the US military, while turning a blind eye to the kidnap and torture of civilians.  “This may seem like a ‘stunt’”, said Mr Murray, “but its aim is deadly serious – to use the medium of drama to highlight what standard media coverage of the issue now routinely ignores, namely that we have made ourselves complicit in war crimes and the worst violations of human rights”.

Note: Afri Statement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War

“As we embark on Ireland’s own decade of remembrance it is crucial to reflect on the last decade and more of complicity in disastrous and immoral onslaughts on Afghanistan and Iraq.  Even if these wars were not illegal – lacking UN authorisation – they have proved catastrophic for the populations and environments involved and in their bitter legacy of resentment and enmity.  As a Security Council member in 2001-02 Ireland failed utterly to express our Constitution’s commitment to  “the pacific settlement of international disputes” (Art. 29.2), thus abetting the undermining of UN authority on foot of unfounded claims about weapons of mass destruction.  Our failure to confront the so-called War on Terror is also revealed in the indifference of successive governments, and the Garda, to the evidence of Ireland’s involvement with illegal rendition flights for torture.

This complicity has been detailed by Shannonwatch, and criticised by the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and, this year, the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative.  The call from our own Human Rights Council in 2007 for an effective inspection regime for all relevant flights has been met with callous indifference.  The new Chief Executive of Shannon Airport has recently declared that military traffic “has been in the DNA of Shannon for many years… [;] it’s lucrative and we are certainly going to go after it as much as possible.”  This obscene metaphor blithely ignores the real genetic legacy of war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam.  And no-one checks whether equally appalling weaponry, such as depleted uranium, currently flows through Shannon’s bloodstream.

Official Ireland’s line is ‘whatever you do, say nothing, hear nothing, see nothing.’  But in the real world, DNA is a complex of different strands.  Ireland’s ‘DNA’ contains a vital strand of peacekeeping, non-aggression and friendly co-operation.  This has been shamefully suppressed by our political establishment and police authorities, all-too-conscious of their imagined role among the high and mighty, all-too-contemptuous of basic human rights at home and abroad.  Our conniving in illegal aggression and the denial of human rights is a lamentable stain on Ireland’s role in world affairs.  The continuing pressure for further aggression in Iran and elsewhere makes it urgent that we as Irish citizens hold our government to account, not merely to correct a vast historic injustice but to prevent even more death, destruction and denial in the future.”

Is Collusion with Torture and Killing Part of Shannon’s DNA?

Press Release, 24th January 2013

U.S. soldiers passing through Shannon Airport

The justice and Peace organisation Afri today expressed revulsion at comments made by the head of the Shannon Airport Authority, Rose Hynes, to an Oireachtas committee yesterday. When asked about Shannon’s reliance on military traffic, Ms. Hynes replied: “Military traffic has been in the DNA of Shannon for many years. It is something that is important, it’s lucrative and we are certainly going to go after it as much as possible.”

Afri coordinator Joe Murray condemned Ms Hynes’ failure to take any account of the moral and ethical challenges such ‘lucrative’ business poses. He cited evidence from Amnesty International showing 50 landings at Shannon of aircraft involved in rendition/torture up until 2005, with further such cases since recorded by the NGO Shannonwatch. “Is Ms Hynes saying that collusion with torture is part of Shannon’s DNA?” Mr Murray asked. Continue reading “Is Collusion with Torture and Killing Part of Shannon’s DNA?”

Féile Bríde 2013: Dreaming for the Earth

Feile Bride 2013

Féile Bríde 2013

Dreaming for the Earth: Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change

Saturday 2nd February, Osborne Centre, Kildare

The wonder and awesome beauty of our planet is also a reminder of her fragility, uniqueness and the urgent need to protect her. Our planet home is blessed with sufficient abundance to care for all but is increasingly reeling and groaning from relentless exploitation and abuse.

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, describes his experience of seeing the Earth from space: “suddenly from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth…home.”

Continue reading “Féile Bríde 2013: Dreaming for the Earth”

Tapping Renewable Energy

Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network, a non-profit media organisation based in arid and remote northern Kenya region held one day training and distribution of solar lamps to pastoralist students from far flung Atheley Primary school in Garissa district of North Eastern Province. The training targeted 100 students from drought ravaged and disaster prone village of Atheley that hosts hundreds of climate and conflict displaced families.

Atheley village is located in remote arid region of northern Kenya that borders war-torn Somalia and Ethiopia and the area has no communication or transport infrastructure. Recurrent conflicts and prolonged droughts, high illiteracy level, disasters and humanitarian crisis affect general development of the village.

The village hosts hundreds of families displaced by climatic shocks like prolonged drought, famine, armed conflicts as result of resource competition, flash floods during rainy season, drying water wells and diminishing pastures for livestock, armed cattle rustling necessitated by forced pastoralist restocking, hostile weather in grazing areas that contributes to community displacements, disruption of livelihoods and local traditional barter trade system and closure of traditional markets. Continue reading “Tapping Renewable Energy”

Traditional Birth Attendants in Garissa, Kenya, now using Solar Lamps

Abjata Khalif, from Afri’s partner organisation, the Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network, writes about the introduction of solar powered lamps to assist in the work of midwives in Sankuri in Kenya.

Abjata Khalif (right) presents a solar powered lamp to a midwife in Sankuri, Garissa, Kenya.

Hasna Muktar, a traditional birth attendant in remote far flung Sankuri village in northern Kenya prepare her ‘’traditional delivery room’’ ready to offer deliveries services, behavioural change education and other consultation to pregnant women in the village.

Sankuri village is 300 kilometres from main Garissa town and the area has poor communication and transport network forcing residents to use donkey carts and camel to ferry patients to hospitals. The journey takes seven days to main Garissa town and most patients die on the way before receiving medical attention.

The mode of transport and duration it takes to main hospital is not favourable to women experiencing labour or are ready to deliver. The seven days journey is a recipe for obstructed delivery that causes fistula and mother and child death.

But Women in Sankuri have their set of rules and guided by cultural beliefs that traditional birth attendant has the prowess to offer good abdominal palpation , offering ‘’traditional ante natal care and safe delivery services without hassle of going to Garissa hospital and in hand of midwives serving many women at ago.

As the scorching sun set in the horizon, group of eight heavily pregnant women walks into Hasna expansive compound housing her ‘’delivery room’’, consultation room and traditional training room where she educate both pregnant and other women on behavioural change and family planning.

Her traditional facility is built with sticks and grass and the only source of water is from shallow well and no running electricity to light the facility that offered safe deliveries for last twenty five years. Continue reading “Traditional Birth Attendants in Garissa, Kenya, now using Solar Lamps”