Thursday, June 30, 2016

Standing Up For a Friend

As we began monitoring more closely Immigration Reform and its impacts on the African immigrant/refugee community, on June 30, 2013, Trinity UCC’s Africa Ministry, hosted a panel discussion addressing Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Its Impact on Black Immigrants.

One of the keynote speakers on the panel was Alie Kabba, an advocate for social justice on behalf of minority immigrants and refugees in Illinois (and nationally), and a friend of Trinity UCC,. Today, we ask each of you: Are you willing to stand for our friend?

Brother Kabba is the current Executive Director of the United African Organization, the largest African organization in the U.S. Mr. Kabba is also the first African to be elected President of the Board of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights.

Born in Sierra Leone, Mr. Kabba never forgot his people. At the young age of 19, he was forced into exile – due to his outspoken resistance to injustice, corruption and the one-party dictatorship of his country. Upon arrival in the U.S., he studied Political Science and Public Policy Analysis at the University of Illinois, Chicago. 

Mr. Kabba is a fearless and dedicated servant to the minority immigrant and refugee community and to the people of Sierra Leone.  As a proud Grand Chief Patron Member of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), he has joined 9 other aspiring candidates for the role as flag-bearer of the SLPP, campaigning for the Presidency of Sierra Leone. 
This past December, upon arriving in Sierra Leone for a 3-week kick-off to his presidential campaign, he was arrested on trumped up charges.  Once released, the government seized his legal documentation, preventing him from being able to return to the U.S.

While efforts by federal, state and local advocates is ongoing; there is still much help needed! Mr. Kabba was originally scheduled to be in Sierra Leone for only three weeks; the trip has now lasted 6 months and has caused a severe financial burden. Clearly, the government’s attempts were to derail Mr. Kabba’s presidential campaign. Yet, to their utter dismay, their efforts have only increased Mr. Kabba’s national profile and raised the awareness of the ruthlessness of their actions.

How can I help?

There are a number of ways to support Mr. Kabba and to ensure his safe return to the U.S. The simplest way is to contact the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) to thank them for the work they’ve already done and to strongly urge that they continue their support. Below are the names and contact details for three entities needing to hear from all of us:
  • Jason Hughes (Sierra Leone Desk, U.S. Department of State) - +1 202-647-2637;
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Assistant Secretary, U.S. Bureau of African Affairs)  +1 202-647-4440; and
  • Sierra Leone Embassy (Freetown) - +232-99905008 or by e-mail: consularfreetown@state.gov
To discover other ways to support of Alie Kabba while he is still detained in Sierra Leone, please visit:  www.AlieKabba.com

For additional information, feel free to also visit the official United African Organization web page.   www.uniteafricans.org


Lynda Holiday Lawrence
Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team

Friday, May 27, 2016

God Moves Powerfully in Mauritania!

Biram Dah Arbeid and Brahim Randhane

In your prayers, please take a moment to thank God for powerful movement toward justice in Mauritania, as we celebrate court verdicts of innocence and guilt in the battle to end slavery in that corner of Africa.


On October 12, 2014, Trinity United Church of Christ hosted Championing Freedom: An Interfaith Initiative to End Slavery in Mauritania. This forum was the culmination of diligent efforts by a partnership of Trinity UCC’s Africa Ministry, Masjid Al-Taqwa, and the Abolition Institute (collectively known as Championing Freedom).

A significant outcome of our efforts led to a City of Chicago City Council Resolution denouncing slavery in Mauritania, and acknowledging the work of Championing Freedom.  This document was presented at the forum, and an original copy was also delivered to the world renown Mauritanian anti-slavery leader, Biram Dah Abeid (who has visited the U.S., including Trinity UCC, as a guest of Abolition Institute).
 
As Mr. Abeid’s international profile increased, so has the Mauritanian government’s concern. In December of 2014, during a public rally in protest against slavery and racial discrimination, the government arbitrarily arrested Mr. Abeid and his colleague Brahim Randhane.  They were both charged with “inciting hatred” and sentenced to 2 years in prison.

With help from numerous national and international protest actions (including phone calls, email campaigns, fundraising, social media campaigns, rallies, etc.), on May 17, 2016 the Mauritanian Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr. Abeid and Mr. Randhane. 

This ruling is all the more incredible and historic, when considered in the context of another ruling by the Mauritania Slavery Courts just the day before, when they convicted and sentenced to prison a slave-owner.  This ruling included a demand for “meaningful restitution” to the enslaved women, who had been victimized by this perpetrator. This was the first time there has been a conviction for slavery that culminated in the actual imprisonment of the perpetrator!

Our celebration is that much sweeter because the legal fight to free Mr. Abeid and Mr. Randhane was led by a lawyer of SOS Esclaves (the leading Non-Governmental Organization fighting slavery in Mauritania), Maitre Mohameden Elid, a brother of Haratine ethnicity – the ethnic group most often enslaved and oppressed by Mauritania’s elites.

While the struggle to end slavery in Mauritania is nowhere near over, this victory is a major paradigm shift in the way cases are being handled by the Mauritanian courts.  Quoting Mauritanian-born, New York activist, Bakary Tandia, the victory of Maitre Elid is the “equivalent of Thurgood Marshall winning the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.”

For more information on fighting slavery in Mauritania, visit the following web sies:


Lynda Holiday Lawrence
Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team