ARUSHA, TANZANIA, The East African Community (EAC) is taking pro-active measures to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy sources across all its six member nations with the aim of developing sustainable economies through strengthened productive capacities.

The Head of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Department at the EAC Secretariat here, Owora Othieno, says that the EAC is working at removing all barriers which hold back easy access to such energy sources across the sub-region. A platform is being set up to discuss ways in which multi-stakeholder partnerships can facilitate work towards this end and build capacities which promote socio-economic development in an environmentally sound manner.

He says the East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE), in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the EAC Secretariat, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Sustainable Energy For All (SEforALL) and the Ministry of Infrastructure of the Republic of Rwanda, are organizing the first Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa next February.

The Sustainable Energy Forum will enable discussions about strategies that allow scale and support off-grid, mini-grid and grid-based solutions together, and harmonise RE & EE (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) policies, to upscale financing in RE & EE projects and technologies, to exchange knowledge and experiences, and to inform about regional programmes,” he adds.

“Furthermore, the forum will entail a workshop on sustainable cities, the Geothermal potential and projects in East Africa as well as a workshop on gender responsive and socially inclusive approaches to sustainable energy solutions.”

The SEF-EA 2018 forum is set to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, for three days from Feb 19 under the theme, “Fostering Socioeconomic Transformation in the East African Region through Equitable Access to Sustainable Energy for All”.

The EAC bloc is the second largest single regional market in Africa and economically one of the fastest growing regions in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.2 per cent per annum, well above the Sub-Saharan average. This is accompanied by population growth and urbanization.

The phenomena are magnifying the energy challenges of the EAC region. EACREEE said that the increasing demands to electrify and provide access to modern energy services are stretching the present utilised energy resources, hence the region faces an energy situation that is characterised by a high reliance on solid biomass for cooking and heating, low electrification rates and increasing demand for transportation fuel.


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Since 9/11, Western countries have increasingly invested in programmes to prevent transnational jihadism. These include militarised measures but also softer civic interventions under the banner of ‘countering violent extremism’ (CVE).

An example is funding social development programmes, implemented by civil society, with the aim of engaging and deterring individuals and communities from radicalisation.

An effective response to Salafist violence, threats, and underlying ideologies, is extremely important. But in the Horn of Africa, CVE programmes have failed to adequately engage with the root causes of religious extremism.

In some cases they have failed so miserably that we must ask: to what extent are they actually genuine efforts to address violence and militancy? Are they merely superficial gestures? And how did such a complex issue become the additional burden of NGOs already struggling with layers of political and legal restrictions and limited capacity?

The flame only burns those who touch it is a Sudanese saying that resonates today. Religious militancy is not a new phenomenon in the Horn of Africa. People have lived through this fire for the past 30 years.

In Somalia, thousands have been killed as a result of the brutal al-Shabaab insurgency, which has lured Muslim youth towards militancy by exploiting community vulnerabilities, including poverty.

Dodgy allies

In this region, religious militancy often disguises itself as an ideology for resistance against state corruption, ethnic and cultural biases. Meanwhile, counter-terror programmes often ally themselves with the same corrupt regimes.

The West considers Sudan, for instance, a collaborative partner � though it is itself an incubator of religious militancy as a result of repressive policies and laws.

Indeed, CVE programming has fallen far short of the mark � conceptually and in implementation. Even the language used is deeply problematic. Measures to prevent violent extremism is vague and ambiguous.

CVE programmes are clearly supposed to be ‘soft power’ projects in parallel to military counter-terror interventions. But what exactly do they mean by violent extremism? Is extremism acceptable if it is not violent? At what measureable point does an ideology become ‘extreme’? What countermeasures are acceptable?

And are these projects specifically focused on Islamic religious militancy, or violence based on other religions and ideologies as well?

These programmes have also been overly simplistic, largely ignoring driving factors of militancy and violence including injustices inflicted upon the region’s population.

The � largely flawed � operating assumption is that providing grants to NGOs to undertake development-style programming will lead to a shift in communities’ social identities, or erase those inequalities and injustices.

Last year, the International Organisation for Migration launched a call for proposals on CVE stating that it intended to provide small and quick impact support that capitalises on community-driven interventions aimed at mitigating risk factors that contribute towards violent extremism. These will be preceded by interactive and participatory community consultations.

But how can we think that transforming and influencing social and cultural identity can be accomplished through small and quick impact support?

Since the First World War, British and French colonialists, and later the US government, helped cement political Islam as a buffer against the Soviet Union’s expansion and to counter socialism’s influence in their quest for the control of the Middle East’s oil and gas.

Today states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran stress that Islam has only specific versions, of which they are the vanguards. Supposedly, Muslims all over the world must be either Shia like in Iran or Sunni Salafi like in Saudi Arabia.

Islam’s reform heritage

The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse. But, like other religions Islam is very diverse. Peoples’ experiences with it vary based on their specific historical and cultural contexts and perceptions.

The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse, which can be used to facilitate persuasive transitions in communities using their own religious guidance.

The Horn of Africa � which includes Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti � is close to the Arab Gulf region and thus it has been largely influenced by hardline Salafist ideology.

Here, the challenging religious context is further compounded by the complexity of social identity. Universal citizenship is not affirmed or applied by all states, to the disadvantage of minorities. Often, ethnic and religious affiliations also shape identity � as well as access to resources and services.

I recently heard the story of a donor-funded CVE project in the coastal areas of Kenya, which shows what’s at stake when NGOs, following donor agendas, forget that social and cultural change requires great effort, knowledge, and community ownership.

This project had proposed removing all references to jihad in the Qur’an in Islamic religion classes for Madrassa children � provoking anger and revolt from the local community over the presumption that it could intervene in matters of religious identity like this, amending and censoring material.

The wider struggle for democracy

Pursuing social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within. Years of experience challenging religious militancy and its impact on women has taught me that pursuing any form of social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within.

It is the role of people living in regions where militant Islam is rife to lead and decide on the best approach to countering it.

Trying to address injustices suffered under militant Islamists requires meticulous and tireless work � but it is one of the most effective approaches.

Women’s movements have also been negotiating and challenging discrimination within different sects of Islamic traditions, text and jurisprudence.

Academic Amina Wadud has contributed to a feminist reading of Quranic text based on equality and justice which counter traditional and militant readings. Addressing religious militancy’s impacts and drivers is also a core priority of the SIHA Horn of Africa women’s network.

This approach must be adopted by political parties too, and be connected to wider struggles for democracy, freedom of belief, equality and justice.

Unfortunately, most CVE programmes and other counter terrorism strategies can only be characterised as pursuing ‘quick-fixes’ and short-sighted and short-term gains.

Communities in the Horn of Africa must look inside rather than outside for solutions.

Within civil society, we must tackle prohibitions and fear of debate and critical engagement with Islam. Internationally, we need a new agenda, centred on liberation, to support movements relevant to the communities most affected by violent extremism.

Source: IRIN

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