Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Burma: Standing Up with the Felonious Monks of Myanmar

Breaking News Update September 27th:

The dreaded violent crackdown by the military junta in Burma is in full swing. CNN International and other major news networks report that the military has opened fire indiscriminately on crowds of protesters and bystanders with automatic weapons yesterday and today. In an effort to corral and silence the 1000’s of Buddhist monks in the capital Rangoon and elsewhere across the country the junta has rounded up hundreds of monks and carted them away in trucks for questioning (beatings and torture).

Thousands more have been locked into monasteries and temples overnight to prevent the monks and nuns from hitting the streets today and going unedited into the World Live Web (the blogosphere). Myanmar security forces are presumably working feverishly to filter and/or shut down Internet access and close Internet cafes in order to stop the images and reports of their brutality against innocent monks and peaceful protestors from reaching the world’s eyes and ears. All to no avail for the mob (the bloggers of the world) have got wind of the atrocities and are all over this story.

What is also interesting to see is that news editors and producers have (finally) woken up to the fact that the world’s bloggers can be very helpful in a crisis like this where the professional media and press have been totally barred from reporting inside of a severely oppressed country like Burma. CNN TV anchors today are using text, photos, and interviews obtained from citizen journalists and blog authors who are on the ground inside of Burma as well as from people in the region and around the world.

In the online report ‘Myanmar junta intensifies crackdown’ the staff writer references the Burma and SE Asian news website The Irrawaddy but unfortunately links to the wrong URL. I notified about this error more than one hour ago but the website editors have not yet fixed the problem. The correct URL for The Irrawaddy News website is The Irrawaddy has exclusive breaking news and eyewitness reports about the crisis in Burma and is also asking CJ’s and bloggers to contribute their reports and photos. published the article Monks vs. Police in Burma, an eyewitness account of the battle for Shwedagon Pagoda, the centuries-old golden domed Buddhist shrine that sits at the heart of Rangoon built by the Mon people sometime between the 6th and 10th Century (500-900 AD). This ancient holy shrine is now cordoned-off by a ring of government soldiers and riot police presumably with the orders to shoot to kill. Here is an excerpt from TIME about the Battle for Shwedagon:

“The battle for Shwedagon began in ferocious noonday heat. The authorities had locked the gates of the pagoda, Rangoon's most famous landmark, by mid-morning to prevent the monks who had led the weeklong demonstrations against Burma's military rulers from gathering. Police and soldiers guarded the entrances. The eastern gate of Shwedagon is where thousands of monks would otherwise exit to start their march into downtown Rangoon. But today, hundreds of soldiers and riot police blocked their way.

By 12:30 p.m., hundreds of monks, students, and other Rangoon residents approached the police, stood in the road and began to pray. Then the soldiers and police began pulling monks from the crowd, targeting the leaders, striking both monks and ordinary people with canes. Several smoke bombs exploded and the riot police charged. The monks and others fought back with sticks and rocks. Many others ran, perhaps four or five of them bleeding from minor head wounds. A car was set alight — by the soldiers, some protesters claimed — and then there was the unmistakable crack of live ammunition: the soldiers were shooting into the air.

"They are not Buddhists," cried one student, who clutched half a brick in his hand, running from the smoke. "They are not humans. We were praying peacefully and they beat us. They beat the monks, even the old ones." An 80-year-old monk stood with the student, bleeding from a baton gash on his shaven head. “

End excerpt. Read the complete story.

Also checkout the photo essay Burma: 19 Years of Protest.

Another great source for reliable up-to-the-minute news and commentary about the political crisis in Burma is from the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma website. The DVB is a non-profit media organization that provides unbiased and accurate news to the people of Burma (and the world) via radio broadcasts and the Internet.

O.K., that’s it for today. I’m out of here for now.


Original post from September 26th

Today I had planned to post about a conference for black European women opening in Vienna, Austria but the images of protests coming out of Myanmar (Burma) are so powerful and inspiring that I feel I must say something about it right now.

Much of the world news this week has been dominated by the UN General Assembly meeting in New York City where over 100 “world leaders” are in attendance for the ceremonies and speeches about everything from the floods in Africa and climate change emergencies to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s disastrous and ridiculous debut at Columbia University.

But today the world’s attention is riveted to news about the 10’s of thousands of humble Buddhist monks and nuns and citizens of the oppressed nation of Myanmar who have decided that they have had enough of the brutal military regime that has ruled over them for more than 40 years. A regime that has robbed and raped the nation of Burma of precious natural resources until there is almost nothing left.

My message is for you, the defiant monks and religious leaders and citizens marching in Myanmar and those in the Burmese diaspora around the world:

Your courageous defiance of the military junta and their henchmen as you march peacefully by the thousands through the rain-soaked streets of Yangoon (Rangoon) and Mandalay and cities and towns across your country, this act has inspired millions of people around the world. We are watching and reading every bit of news that you can get out of the country at great risk to your very lives.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that many of Burma’s revered religious leaders and activists for democracy and justice will face severe punishment from the government soldiers and the police, perhaps even death. But unlike the violence by the regime against the students and citizens of Myanmar during the uprising of 1988 that took more than 3,000 lives, today the world is listening and watching closely thanks to your bravery and embracing of new technologies such as mobile phones and cameras and access to the Internet. This time the two-legged cockroaches that have caused so much suffering in your country for so long cannot hide behind news blackouts and the brutal suppression of free speech and a free press in Myanmar. This time you the people are both the newsmakers and the news reporters and the world can follow your every word and action LIVE as it happens.

I stand with the people of Burma today and everyday until you have thrown off the chains of brutal slavery and oppression. Live free or die trying to be free from this oppression; resist and defy peacefully. People who are suffering just like you under repressive regimes the world over can learn a great deal from your courage and peaceful resistance and your sacrifice in blood for a democratic and just future for your nation.

Many of the world’s leaders who have assembled themselves at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to loudly declare their support for human and civil rights and democratic values, rights that the people of Burma have yearned for for so very long, must hang their heads in shame before a world audience due to their collective paralysis to support you now in your desperate time of need with meaningful actions and measures against Burma's military dictatorship.

All decent and freedom-loving citizens of the world must stand up with the people of Burma in their fight for freedom from oppression and injustice. Victory in the end will surely be yours, you the good and great people of Myanmar.

Related articles and online resources:

Bush announces new US sanctions on Myanmar
China quietly reaches out to Myanmar opposition
FACTBOX – Global reaction to Myanmar protests
Chronology – 45 years of resistance and repression in Myanmar

Technology puts Myanmar protests in international eye

Associated Press
China nudges Myanmar on protests

CNN International
Myanmar crackdown, monks killed (text and video)

TIME Magazine
The Fighting Monks of Burma
Burma’s Military Solution

BBC News
Chinese dilemma over Burma protests
Burma’s hardline generals (news and opinions on Burma from around the world) (the human rights video journalism website)
Shoot on Sight: the ongoing military junta offensive against civilians in Eastern Burma

Global Voices Online
Myanmar: Voices from the region (reports from bloggers in SE Asia)
Myanmar (Burma) blog archives

Open Society Institute (Washington D.C.)
Burma Project / Southeast Asia initiatives

IPI – International Press Institute
World Press Freedom Review – Burma 2006

Xinhua News Agency (Chinese government-controlled news)
Myanmar issues curfew order in Yangoon
China believes Myanmar government can handle the situation

Myanmar (Burma) at Wikipedia

Profile of Burmese democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Africa: New Media and Information Technology Updates from Africans for the World

I must apologize to my regular readers for not posting as frequently to Jewels in the Jungle as I would have liked over the past few months. I’ve been extremely busy with work on new business initiatives and projects for emerging markets with a special focus on key African countries open and ready for foreign investment and business development.

I’ve recently had some very interesting communications with U.S. and European technology companies about new Web 2.0 tools and SaaS offerings (Software as a Service) that are the present buzz in the IT press and media. Having followed these often confusing developments and trends in IT over the past decade it looks as if many new startups and established technology companies are finally getting their act (and apps) together for use by SME businesses, government and the public sector, and other workgroups (i.e. bloggers) worldwide. There are many interesting new tools for networked-based and web service based (online delivery) productivity, content creation and publishing, communications, and collaboration.

For more about what is going on in this hot technology space see the Office 2.0 Conference 2007 that just ended last week in San Francisco and the O’Reilly/CMP Web 2.0 Expo held earlier this year. Berlin, Germany will be hosting the European launch of the Web 2.0 Expo 2007 and Tokyo, Japan will be home to the Asia Web 2.0 Expo. Both shows are scheduled for November 2007 so stay tuned to the news about these conferences and trade shows if you cannot attend.

The tech savvy folks at South Africa’s Rhodes University New Media Lab are wrapping up the 2nd Annual Digital Citizen Indaba (DCI). This year’s conference featured several impressive presentations by leading figures in the African blogging community who spoke and wrote about the use of new media technology in Africa. Don’t miss the latest news posted to the Digital Citizen Indaba 2007 blog (sponsored and hosted by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian) and the official DCI conference wiki.

Global Voices Online’s regional editor for sub-Saharan Africa Ndesanjo Macha delivered the opening address. Melissa Gardnier of the Rhodes University New Media Lab summarized Ndesanjo’s opening address in her post “From Rock Paintings to Blogging”. Top Kenyan blogger Daudi Were of Mentalacrobatics delivered a presentation titled Fractured Identities and then followed-up with a hammer titled “Who Owns the African Blogosphere”. Daudi’s piece is a Must Read for many of us who write about Africa as he addresses the heated global debates about who is African, what is African, who is an African blogger, where is Africa, who owns Africa and other nonsense from some people with an African identity crisis. Heck, the last time I checked with the experts on human origin and migration over the past 40,000 years every human being on Earth is an African. It’s just that some people are more African than others and race and skin color and geographic location and culture are simply pieces of the great human puzzle.

Here is the introduction to Daudi’s post because he lays it out so beautifully:

“Colonialists would often turn up at an African community and ask, “Who does that land belong to?” pointing to the vast fields around the village. Many times the reply from the villagers would be, “It does not belong to anyone.” The colonialists would then promptly set about fencing and craving [sic] up the land amongst themselves, which would enrage the Africans, which, in turn, would confuse the colonialists as after all they had been told that this land did not belong to anyone.

These exchanges highlight the differences in the cultures involved and the different understandings of what initially looks like a very simple situation. When the Africans tell the colonialists that this land does not belong to anybody, the colonialists would take that to mean that the land is unoccupied. “It does not belong to anyone” is taken to mean it is ownerless. That was a misunderstanding of what they had been told. For when the African said, “This land does not belong to anyone”, what they mean is this land does not belong to any single person or family. This land is the property of the community under the stewardship of those who currently occupy it. The Elesi of Odogbolu*, a Nigerian chief, told the West African land commission in 1912, that he “conceived that land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living and countless yet unborn”. In other words, “this land does not belong to anyone” meant this land belongs to everyone. It is occupied by us, but we do not own it, we are merely the current stewards holding it for future generations…”

End excerpt: Read more from Who Owns the African Blogosphere (Sep 11th)

Author’s Notes: Damn. The same thing happened in my country of birth, the U.S.A. Our own oft times bloody history of conflicts over land was a big misunderstanding between people from different cultures. A lot of good people died over lands that in essence never belonged to anyone or better stated belonged to those who were the appointed stewards of the land. Boy that could put U.S. real estate markets and the world economy into a downward tailspin if it would hold up in a court of law!

*For detailed information about the history of property rights in 19th Century Nigeria see “The Emergance (or Not) of Property Rights in Land: Southern Nigeria, 1854 to 1914” by James Fenske. Yale University Dept. of Economics has a download of the 170 page document (PDF) at the following URL:

In my recent communications with technology professionals about the use of their new communication and collaboration software I was proud to be able to point to the excellent work by East Africa’s new media & technology pioneers at Kenya Unlimited and the KBW (Kenyan Blogs Webring). The UK newspaper The Independent published a feature article in August about the movers and shakers behind this excellent social networking community and freedom of expression experiment in Kenya. The article highlighted work by our very own GVO pioneer Ory Okolloh on the project, the Nairobi-based government watchdog project to help the citizens of Kenya take a more active role in monitoring the activities of their national and regional government. Please read:

FCAEA: Foreign Correpspondents of East Africa Association (source: The Independent)
Boom in blogs gives Africans a voice on the Web, 08/02/07

Ory Okolloh, a Harvard Law School graduate and author of the Kenyan Pundit, M of Thinkers Room, and Daudi Were of Mentalacrobatics were interviewed for the article. Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online and a pioneer in providing inspiration and opportunities to bloggers worldwide, was also interviewed. Ethan is everywhere in the mainstream media these days, and that is a good thing for many international blog authors and their respective communities.

Of course there are other noteworthy social networking sites and blogger communities, blog aggregators, and citizen journalist-powered news & opinion websites springing up all over the Africa sector of the Sphere that may not be so well known to international news editors and technology columnists who are supposed to be on top of New Media developments worldwide.

Key Nigerian tech professionals and bloggers have done some remarkable work in supporting their large online communities at home and abroad and there are the new pan-African sites like African Loft and African Path and African Women Reblog which attract top international writers, professional and citizen journalists, and top blog authors that have rapidly growing readership (10’s of 1000’s) that spans the globe.

The UK’s Pambazuka News, where Sokari Ekine of Black Looks serves as Online News Editor has won a number of awards for their content and their technology, including the coveted Tech Museum Award (Microsoft Education Award category). South African startup Afrigator, a new African blog aggregator, was featured in a story last month on hot new non-U.S. startups in the Web 2.0 tech arena: See “It’s a Web, Web, Web 2.0 World” by Eric Schonfeld and Yi-Wen Yen of Business 2.0 magazine (a Time/Warner publication).

That’s it for today 'cause that’s enough for now and it is the beginning of the weekend over here. I promise to get new posts up at Jewels in the Jungle over the next couple (5-7) of days. Lots of interesting news and views and stuff about Africa’s new renaissance in the 21st Century are in the pipeline. Ciao Ya’all.

Related articles and online resources

The Independent (UK newspaper online)
Boom in blogs gives Africans a voice on the Web, 08/02/07 (a Nairobi-based government watchdog project to help the citizens of Kenya take a more active role in monitoring the activities of their government)

Ethan Zuckerman (co-founder of Global Voices and Harvard Law School Berkman Center fellow) writes about Ory Okolloh and the project in Kenya. Ethan’s personal blog it titled My Heart’s in Accra.

PBS Media Shift (Mark Glaser) on Ory Okolloh and the Mzalendo project

Ory Okolloh of the Kenyan Pundit (Harvard Law School graduate, a Global Voices pioneer blogger for Africans, and co-founder of The UK BBC radio program Outlook has just interviewed Ory re: the Mzalendo project.

Thinker’s Room (M is a leading Kenyan blog author, an IT professional, and co-founder of

Mentalacrobatics (personal blog of Kenyan Daudi Were featured in The Independent article. Daudi is also a key figure in the new media scene and citizen journalism initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa

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