8 creative ways to break up respectfully

In the beginning, it’s always exciting and full of expectancy. You can’t wait to see your partner and share beautiful moments together.

By Nancy Okere

Trust me, the happiness and excitement of a new relationship can be overwhelming.
However, your peace is costlier than gold and nothing new equals to forever. Time begins to reveal how your ideas, visions, values and interests aren’t well matched.

Your heart no longer beat like a durbar drum and forever seems too long to be with such partner. You want to get it done with but there is a challenge.
Your partner has been exceptionally doting and generous. You think of  the many magical treats and feel guilty for wanting to break up. You are stucked and overdue to move on but don’t know how.

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Truly, every situation is different. There’s no all-fit-size way to avoid hurting someone’s feeling but there are subtle points to keep in check when thinking about having a break-up conversation. Below are some points you might have to consider.

Breaking-up guides:

  • Break up in person: Breaking up through Facebook or Whatsapp message might be a very bad idea. Tone can be lost in messages and, even on phone, but doing it in person signifies recognition of the importance of the relationship.
  • Choose the best time of the day: This means you shouldn’t be in a hurry, reserve few hours for this. Don’t forget to meet with your partner in a safe and tranquil environment.
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  • Prepare what to say before the break up conversation: You can start by mentioning what you admire or value about the person and then saying you want to break up. You don’t have to beat around the bush but try to be gentle, warm and frank. Give reasons why you feel the relationship is not working and why it would be better if you both drift apart. Try to avoid playing the blame game. At least, it would help to prevent a damaged self-esteem, and besides, nobody is void of making mistakes.
  • Prepare to accept your partner’s reaction but be firm with your decision: Be patient enough to hear from your partner. They might agree and they might not agree. They might be silent or get angry. They might want to negotiate or ask a lot of questions. Stay calm, put up with their attitudes but be clear that your mind is made up.

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  • Suggest ways on how to deal with the aftermath in order for you to have space to heal: It could be not calling each other for a week or months. It could be severing contact for a while but be wise to choose with the best strategy.
  • Make positive remarks about your individual future: You could say “We would be great and still know ourselves”

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  • Appreciate your partner for every kind disposition they have offered and apologize for hurting them.
  • Give your partner a warm hug and say goodbye.

If this captures your present situation and you’re looking at giving it a try. I suggest, you Shoot!

And oh, cheers to a better relationship ahead!


Correction: This story was published initially with the title “8 subtle ways to break up respectively”. It has been corrected.

In October, people in Abidjan marched to denounce sexual violence against girls in the Ivory Coast.

African the new target for child sexual exploitation

Researchers draw link between weak regulation of travel industry and rising levels of sex tourism and online sexual crime.

In October, people in Abidjan marched to denounce sexual violence against girls in the Ivory Coast.
In October, people in Abidjan marched to denounce sexual violence against girls in the Ivory Coast. Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

Weak laws regulating sexual exploitation in travel and tourism are turning the African continent into a “new frontier for child sexual exploitation”, according to a new report.

The study, by the African Child Policy Forum, sheds light on the continued rise of child sexual exploitation, including new forms such as “tourism marriages” and cybersex.

The travel and tourism sector is facilitating “sexual services” involving children within entertainment amenities, the report found, citing the rise of massage parlours and upscale restaurants targeted at foreign customers in Africa.

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In Egypt, “tourism marriages” between young girls and male tourists were reported, predominantly among families from poorer backgrounds, who received financial payments for providing their daughters.

The report pointed to inadequate law enforcement in the travel and tourism sectors, and weak internet regulation, as contributory factors in the rise of child sexual exploitation in Africa.

In Senegal, the study found online sexual exploitation has resulted in “young girls being recruited into pornographic films and bestiality”.

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Shimelis Tsegaye, one of the authors of the report, said: “Very few African countries have laws criminalising online sexual crimes, and those that do frequently fail to enforce them adequately. Many children are unsafe even within their own homes.

“Grooming, sexting, sexual extortion and live streaming of child sexual abuse – sometimes with the connivance of parents – is made possible because very few African countries have laws to protect children online.”


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In Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Eswatini(formerly Swaziland) and Zimbabwe, 22-38% of girls and 9–17% of boys have experienced sexual violence.

The report found that programmes set up to fight against child sex exploitation often ignore or fail to include male victims. Patriarchal attitudes mean boys are not categorised as victims of sexual exploitation, said the researchers, and are also less likely to report sexual exploitation. As a result, they often remain hidden from statistics, the report said.

This propagates inter-generational patterns of violence. “Two out of three boys who experienced sexual violence in childhood [are] more likely to perpetrate sexual violence against a partner in adulthood,” said the report.

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Children with disabilities are among those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The absence of sexual and reproductive education and health services in accessible formats has put disabled children and adolescents at greater risk of manipulation.

“Sexual exploitation among children with disabilities goes unreported because of the mistaken belief that children with disabilities are asexual and cannot understand their own bodies,” the study said. In Cameroon and Senegal, more than half the children with disabilities who reported sexual exploitation had been raped.

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“Progress on tackling child sexual exploitation remains woefully slow and inadequate,” said Dr Assefa Bequele, the African Child Policy Forum’sexecutive director.

“African governments must urgently pass laws that explicitly define and prohibit sexual exploitation, that recognise boys as victims of sexual exploitation, and that prohibit child sex tourism and online exploitation.”

A woman flees as a riot police officer beats her with a baton during a protest over fees at the University of Nairobi. EPA/Dai Kurokawa

Why decades of Kenya police reforms is failing

Images and video of Kenyan police officers brutalising a student during a recent protest at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology circulated widely on social media and resulted in a public outcry. The officers involved were promptly interdicted and are under investigation.

A woman flees as a riot police officer beats her with a baton during a protest over fees at the University of Nairobi. EPA/Dai Kurokawa
A woman flees as a riot police officer beats her with a baton during a protest over fees at the University of Nairobi. EPA/Dai Kurokawa

By Tessa Diphoorn

Assistant Professor , Utrecht University


In another case that has received a lot of media attention, a former police informer and five police officers were charged with the murder of a lawyer and his client. During trial a confession by the police informer emerged revealing graphic details of the double murder.

News reports of police officers involved in various crimes also habitually surface as public scandal. And according to a recent survey conducted by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, police abuse in Kenya showed a “significant increase” over the past six years, rather than a decline.

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Several social justice centres in Nairobi also stress that police abuse has become worse. They have documented an increase in police harassment. They have reported that it’s rampant in many of Nairobi’s more impoverished neighbourhoods, where police officers habitually raid houses and execute random arrests.

All this has reaffirmed the notion among Kenyans that police misconduct is not exceptional. Rather, it is structural and part of everyday policing. This realisation is far from recent – or new. Efforts at transforming the Kenyan police have been ongoing since the early 2000s, but seem to have had minimal impact.

Last year I conducted research on police reform and I interviewed police officers stationed in various parts of Nairobi. It became evident that various forms of misconduct were interpreted as a part of everyday police work.

My findings echo scholarly research conducted in other countries that claim that the problem lies with police cultures. In some police forces a certain modus operandi cultivates and perpetuates attitudes that condone various forms of misconduct. A sense of impunity also often sets in.

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As I found in my research, many police officers saw misconduct as a part of their work and some didn’t want change. Additionally, many were scared to speak out against their colleagues – a factor that’s been supported in findings elsewhere.

Attempts at reform

A range of measures, interventions, new structures and laws have been introduced over the past 20 years. The ultimate objective has been to create a democratic and accountable police service that isn’t politicised or involved in crime.

Police reform was a crucial part of a programme under president Mwai Kibaki’s government between December 2002 until April 2013. The initiatives were designed to transform the security and justice sector. At the time, many viewed the state police as functioning as an instrument for control by – and for – the political elite.

In 2004 a task force on reform was founded by the state police.

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The reform programme was ambitious and encompassing. But it didn’t lead to substantial changes. This became particularly evident during the widespread violence – in which police were deeply implicated – that occurred after the presidential elections in 2007-2008. An inquiry concluded that 1133 people died and that over 400 of these deaths were the result of police actions.

A few years later, more concrete legislative changes followed. This included the National Police Service Act first published in 2011. This entailed transforming the Police Force into the Police Service and resulted in a wide range of changes, including organisational and command structure ones. More specifically, changes centred around unifying two previously distinct police units to enhance collaboration and provide better service.

In addition, two oversight bodies were created. For internal oversight mechanisms the Internal Affairs Unit was set up under the National Police Service Act. The internal unit is responsible for handling police (mis)conduct internally and, although it is supposed to act as an independent body, its director reports to the Inspector General (IG). The main goal of the unit is to receive and investigate complaints against police officers.

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For external and independent oversight, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority was established. The authority is required to investigate police misconduct, especially deaths and serious injuries caused by the police, review the functioning of internal disciplinary processes, monitor and investigate policing operations and deployment, and conduct inspections of police premises.

These two oversight bodies were created to ensure that police officers were monitored in their everyday affairs.

Added to these were a range of other initiatives, such as police officer vettings and the revamping of a community policing programme. Social justice groups, along with several other human rights organisations that form the Police Reform Working Group (PRWG-Kenya), supported many of these attempts at police reform.

Despite all these efforts, police brutality continues.

Answer lies with police themselves

As my research found, several police officers said they were scared to speak out for fear of repercussions. Speaking out can lead to isolation and exclusion. It can also result in the denial of promotions or outright punishment, such as being transferred to a hardship area.


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Another factor – solidarity – seems to have been in play too. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority survey also reported that police officers often cover for each other when involved in crime.

The answer to end police brutality therefore largely lies with the police themselves, from the level of top leadership to the constable stationed at the charge office. Simply stated: officers need to realise that police violence is outright bad policing.

To achieve this, a change in mindset needs to happen. This needs external support, from donors and civil society, for example. And it can be guided by additional monitoring, as is being enforced by both oversight bodies.

Yet the change essentially needs to be driven from within. Police officers need to begin to see police misconduct as detrimental, rather than beneficial. This can be promoted by, for example, revamped training curricula, yet it essentially demands inspirational leadership that penalises misconduct and sends a signal to all officers.

Lagos men date boring ladies – believe me, it’s not funny

You know how we use to feel Lagos men are not faithful, they are cheats and all that stuff the ladies over here do say? I don’t think we are hearing them from the right source, we should consider changing our sources as well.

By Omawunmi Adegoke

Over the weekend, I was with some new friends at the mall, some of them I have met in conferences and corporate events, others I met in some fun events as well, so we put things together and decided to hang out at the mall.

During the hang out I decided to pitch a topic of discussion which was accepted and heads on. It is for the men alone, ladies? we just listened.

What do you all think is the major reason men always engage in a conversation, some times romance and more times intimate with more than one lady other than their girl friends?

Omawunmi Adegoke

Felix – Bored, we are bored!

So I will go first. You see, I am going to be straight on this, because as for me, I do that a lot, not because I want to, but because I have no option since I am bored. Nigerian ladies just want you to interview them.

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I close late from work, stressed and all, I need my woman close to engage in some what conversation, fun, romance or something more exciting, but you see, it doesn’t go beyond “How are you, have you eaten, what did you eat, etc”, that type of conversation makes me bored and if I am that bored, I easily jump into any other interesting conversation from any other lady online, and you know how these things work, some times it leads to something else, because you end up being used to it and love happens, just because your woman allowed it.

Ahmed – Too relgious to fault

I know some sees such opinions as not relevant, but believe me, religion is one of the reasons a lot of relationships fail in Lagos.

Nigeria is highly religious, and you see Lagos and neighboring states having the headquarters of of some of the biggest of them all, it’s a factor I have considered to be the reason some women don’t really understand how to keep a man aside telling them about ‘no sex, romance or dirty talks till marriage’ and all.

Men will always be men, whether church or not. You can deny, as a man that you don’t get aroused some times by even mere thought of it, or that you don’t feel a thing, or even not catching feelings and want to ease off some times. Not like I am trying to justify pre-marital sex, romance or the dirty talks that makes you want to jerk off some times (I also grew up in a Muslim Family that doesn’t permit that), but you see, men are always men, and some times, they are desperate and in the mood, and if you can’t help but begin the talk of ‘no dirty chat’ with them, they are likely going to embrace whoever gives them the sauce of the moment.


Dan – Same thing every day

I understand we have this kind of lifestyle in Lagos that make us to repeat same thing almost every day in Lagos, and believe me, that point by Ahmed is one that fuels it all. We talk about work, do some bit of ‘amebo’, talk about church and all, but then, as I push a bit to romance, the next I get is ‘You know it’s not right, we should be clean till marriage’, and that is it. Are you for real? I want to free my head some times, you have nothing for me, you have no story and the conversation is getting so boring. We are here already, we can’t be this boring all the times because of religion.


I remember one day my then girl friend visited, OMG. she wore a kind of clothe that covered her all up, with a trouser. jeans actually. You can only see her arms and feet. When I asked her why, she said because she don’t want to do anything. I was stunned. We eventually engaged in kind of kissing, and each time my hands goes to the body, she holds it back and warn me. But for real, I know it’s difficult, but we can actually do stuff without have the sex really, but this is boredom at its pick.

Bright – We are running from the interviews

This same thing I want to say is just an issue for every man in Lagos. We are interviewing the ladies, we are not chatting. You just have to learn how to ask the questions and let them answer, if not, there is nothing else to do. They expect you to be the sweet guy that brings the fire conversation, and if you mistakenly run out of gist? it’s over for the moment.


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We want the fun, we are human too, so we move to whoever brings it some times. Most times it’s not like we want to cheat, but you see, this things makes it difficult to avoid when your woman can’t also keep you up like others do. they don’t want you to chat with anyone else, but they can’t, on the other end, engage you to the point where you don’t have to.

So, tell us, why do you think Lagos men, or, I don’t know, maybe Nigerian men engage more women in a conversation aside their women?

Omawunmi Adegoke a graduate of Mass Communications from Lagos state University and an academy writer for The Bloomgist’s Column 60.

Nigeria must do more on child rights

Nigeria is not doing enough to protect children

It is 30 years since countries across the world adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child . Yet, to date, the terms it sets out to protect children remain far from reality in many countries.

Nigeria must do more on child rights
Nigeria must do more on child rights Shutterranger/Shutterstock

This is true in Nigeria too, even though its federal government ratified the convention in 1991.

After years of complex negotiations, Nigeria passed a new law – the Child Rights Act – 16 years ago. The law was designed to bring the country into line with the provisions of the convention. The act deals with a range of threats that children might face. This includes child labour and other forms of exploitative practices.

Nigeria has also passed other non-specific child laws that protect children. These include the Labour Act and the Trafficking Act.

Despite these additional statutes, huge gaps remain.

The biggest is that the Convention on the Rights of the Child incorporated through the Child Rights Act does not apply across the country, only 25 states have adopted the Act.

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The reason for this is that Nigeria is a federation comprising 36 legally equal states and the Federal Capital Territory. Each state has an independent legislature. Certain laws, including those that pertain to children’s rights – even after they’ve been passed by the federal government – don’t become effective until they’ve been adopted by the lawmakers in each state.

The reason for the hold up in the 11 states is that they disagree with provisions in the act which they argue are in conflict with religious and cultural norms. All 11 states are in the northern part of Nigeria.

Objections

Nigeria’s population is roughly split between a majority Muslim north and a largely Christian south, with a small fraction of the population identifying with indigenous African religions. But it’s important to note that the country can’t be neatly divided into a Muslim north/Christian south binary, as there are pockets of Christians in the north, just as there is a sizable number of Muslims in the south. On top of this, worshippers of traditional African religions cannot be tied to any particular region in the country.


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The states that have yet to sign the Child Rights Act have laid down specific grounds for rejecting the law.

The major objections include the fact that the act:

  • prohibits child marriages.
  • prohibits marriage to members of an adoptive family, and
  • defines a child as anyone below the age of 18.

The prohibition of child marriage in the statute responds to dominant practices whereby younger girls are married off to older men, which often skews power relations in favour of those men. Evidence suggests that domestic violence by an intimate partner is usually more widespread among girls than among older women who are able to provide informed consent.

Also, there is often a strong correlation between child marriage and exposure to health risks, including complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The Word Health Organisation, for instance, notes that adolescent pregnancy is one of the major contributors to maternal and child mortality.

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Complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth are regarded as the leading cause of death among girls 15 to 19 year old globally. Apart from its health consequences, adolescent marriage could also have socioeconomic effects on girls.

With regard to education for instance, leaving school could be the rational choice for pregnant girls, which could, in turn, deny them economic opportunities and perpetuate a cycle of poverty. The WHO estimates that child marriage reduces future earnings of girls by around 9%.

The 2008 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey  estimated that 48% of girls in northern Nigeria were married off by the age of 15, while 78% were married before their 18th birthday. The survey put the median age of marriage in the north-western region at 15.2 years of age. The most recent demographic survey released last month, does not include this data.

Regarding the prohibition of marriage to adoptive parents, it is worth noting that although the concept of adoption is generally not recognised under Islamic law, the provision of the Child Rights Act on this subject is considered by many states in northern Nigeria to be far reaching.

Under Islamic law, “kafalah” is the principle governing relations between parents and adopted children. It draws a distinction between biological and non-biological children, and considers the latter as maintaining blood relations to their original family, and consequently may be married to members of the adoptive family.

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Therefore, political leaders in northern Nigeria perceive the Child Rights Act as challenging a practice legitimised by religion – Chapter 33: 4–6 of the Qur’an generally affirms as valid a marriage between an adoptive parent and an adopted child as there is no blood relations between them.

However, this practice could well mask child exploitation. Parents could use their position of power subjectively, thereby exposing children to similar risks associated with child marriage. Childhood and vulnerability are intrinsically tied together, and every child must be accorded legal protection. Moreover, it is important that child rights laws apply equally across Nigeria, as opposed to the current practice where children within the country are subject to different legal standards simultaneously.

The way out

All is not lost. Nigeria’s Labour Act and the Trafficking Act could offer some protection to children across the country, especially in the areas of child labour and child trafficking.

Nevertheless, the vulnerabilities of children and their susceptibility to exploitation for example, through child marriage, demand more sustained efforts. Pressure should continue to be exerted on the 11 states that have yet to re-enact the Child Rights Act to take the best interest of children into account.

The deadly consequences of curbing reproductive girls’ rights

It’s a hot mid-August morning, and Lydia Wambui’s bright green overalls are soaked. She’s standing knee-deep in Nairobi River, using a metal rod to catch rubbish lazily flowing down its murky waters.

The Komb Green Solutions volunteers discovered nine foetuses and newborns in just one 350-metre section of the Nairobi River as they cleared rubbish from the water CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

‘More babies will be dumped in gutters, and that is to say the least’

By  Louise Donovan & Nasibo Kabale, in nairobi


“Sewage, bottle-tops, needles – people chuck everything in here,” she says, wiping sweat off her forehead before adding: “We also keep finding babies.” 

Two months earlier, the 37-year-old volunteer spotted a blue plastic bag amongst the garbage. She immediately felt anxious: “You have to open it even though you fear what you’ll find.”

Inside was what she believed to be a recently aborted foetus, several syringes and blood-stained cotton wool. “I’m a mum, I have two kids,” she explains. “It hurts.”

In one 350-metre section, nine foetuses and newborns have been found this year by Wambui’s clean-up team, Komb Green Solutions. After police said the parents could not be identified, the team buried the babies – including two sets of twins – in a makeshift grave.

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Clean-up volunteer Lydia Wambui says she is often anxious about what she will find in the river CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

This week more than 6,000 people are in Nairobi for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a global summit on sexual and reproductive health

The original event, 25 years ago, kick-started the global movement to recognise reproductive rights as human rights. And today speakers touted huge gains in global access to contraception, health services and a reduction in maternal deaths. 

Yet the Nairobi riverbanks tell a story of unfinished business. On Tuesday, the first morning of the summit, the Komb Green Solutions team found their ninth body: a baby boy floating down Nairobi river. 

“Progress is slow,” explains Angela Nguku, Executive Director at the White Ribbon Alliance, when asked about the impact of the ICPD’s goals on Kenyan women. “The government makes a lot of promises but doesn’t deliver.”

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Abortions are illegal in Kenya, unless a woman’s life or health is in danger. Safe procedures at clinics cost roughly 20,000 Kenyan shillings (£150, one third of the average monthly salary), whereas unsafe abortions are roughly a tenth of that price. If you can pay, you often risk your life on a concoction of chemicals. If you can’t, you can quickly become desperate.

Komb Green Solutions volunteers undertaking prepare to clean up the Nairobi River near the Korogocho slums CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

Every day, 320 women are hospitalised – and seven die – as a result of dangerous ‘quack’ abortions in Kenya, says Marie Stopes, the international family planning charity. More than half of girls between 15-19 who want contraception say they can’t get it, according to a data study by the Guttmacher Institute

“Women and children are still dying,” says Nguku. “Why do we bury our heads in the sand?”

This year, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko asked police chiefs and county officials to investigate the “worrying trend” of bodies found in the river. He has accused hospitals of illegally dumping foetuses and babies. Yet little has changed, says Fredrick Okinda, Komb Green’s chairman, and the issue isn’t exactly new. It’s not just the city’s rivers: babies are also found tucked into dustbins, dropped down pit latrines (long drops) or discarded by roadsides. 

“If you live in Kenya, you’ll have heard many stories about abandoned babies,” explains Nelly Bosire, a Nairobi-based obstetrician-gynaecologist. “But the problem is bigger than it should be – and bigger than we are talking about.”

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Young women from the poorest communities are most impacted, says Bosire. Cases frequently occur around informal settlements, where contraception is difficult to access. In Africa’s biggest slum, Kibra (formerly referred to as Kibera), 50 per cent of 15-to 25-year-old women are pregnant at any one time.

Dorothy, a 27-year-old pastor, spends much of her free time wandering the streets of Nairobi’s sprawling shanty-towns. By August of this year, she had stumbled on 12 abandoned infants. Some were just several hours old, clenched fists revealing them struggling between life and death. Of those she rescued this year, eight died; four lived.

“Blood is the one consistent thing,” she says. “It’s almost like the mum is still around, like she’s not quite left yet.”

Dorothy, who requested that her name be changed to protect her identity, used to keep a tally of the total but gave up several years ago. “It was demoralising,” she says, shaking her head. “Now I just count per year. When the year ends, I peel off the paper, throw it away and move on.”

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Nationally, there is no centralised data system to keep track of the total, and official data is difficult to source.

“For police located near the river, [an abandoned infant] is so common it’s not an incident to report,” says Muteru Njama, the Managing Trustee of Change Trust, an organisation that deals with adoption and children’s rights in Kenya. He estimates roughly 7 to ten are discovered each week. “But it doesn’t even make the news.”

Five years ago, 23-year-old Mercy Atieno almost died from a botched abortion. Now, she helps other women with family planning advice CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

Pamela Dochieng, a Marie Stopes midwife, says she receives an abandoned newborn every three to four days in their Kibra clinic. Dorothy, meanwhile, believes the number of abandoned babies is rising. 

“No one really knows the true scale of what’s happening,” adds Njama. 

Five years ago, 23-year-old Mercy Atieno dropped out of school. Her family was in financial trouble, so she turned to ‘survival sex’ with local men in exchange for money. After receiving the wrong abortion medicine from a local quack doctor in Kibra, she became seriously ill. 

“I bled so much,” she says, tears filling her eyes. “I felt like my stomach was being cut into pieces. I got better but everyone knew – my neighbours, my family – and I felt like dying. I wanted people to know me for something impressive, not the lady who nearly died from an abortion.”

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This was Atieno’s fifth abortion in two years. Yet she’s not alone: almost half a million abortions were conducted in Kenya in 2012 – the most recent data available – with one in four women and girls suffering complications.

Contraceptive use is lowest in Africa

Proportion of women aged 15 to 49 using modern contraceptive methods, 2018

Women are petrified, says Tabitha Tsaoyo of Kelin, a legal NGO in Kenya. “Firstly, contraception is often scarce. Young girls are then being forced to carry pregnancies to term because they’re scared of going through an unsafe abortion and dying. Desperation leads to dumping,” she says, before sighing heavily. “We’re giving them no other choice.”

What’s more, confusion around the law has led to uncertainty over when the procedure is allowed. Police use this grey area to frequently target both women and health providers in slums. 

“Police want money,” explains Tsaoyo. “They will put you on a bond for about 50,000KES (£375). Then they’ll say: ‘we can drop this case if you pay us.’”

According to the Annual Crime Report, between 2010 and 2018 there were 348 cases reported to police for ‘procuring abortion’ – the offence that both women seeking abortions and medics are typically charged with. Abandoning your baby can fall under two categories – ‘infanticide’ or ‘concealing birth’ – of which 108 cases were recorded last year. 

The Family Care Medical Centre in the Kibera slum CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION

Just 40-minutes north of Nairobi lies The Nest children’s home. Away from the city’s hectic hustle, a quiet calm washes over the lush green trees. Edna Ouma, a 29-year-old social worker, shows us around their ‘Baby Village’ – an airy, red-bricked building dedicated to caring for abandoned infants. Twenty-one babies currently lie fast asleep inside. It’s nap time. 

Their capacity is 25, but sometimes they take in more. Today, half the children belong to imprisoned mothers (this is home’s main focus), while the other half were dropped off by the police, a ‘Good Samaritan’ or simply left outside their large green gates. 

In some respects, these babies are the lucky ones. Or luckier. If no family has been traced after six months, The Nest receives a letter from the police and they can begin contacting adoption agencies. Kenya’s Children’s Department also makes a provision for mothers to give their babies up for adoption if they so wish. The system, however, is not widely publicised. 



Similarly, Nairobi-based gynaecologist Dr Jean Kagia set up rescue centres – known as ‘kiotas’ or ‘nests’ in Swahili – for young pregnant girls. She describes herself as pro-life, viewing abortion as a social not medical problem and, according to Bosire, is “plugging the gap” for vulnerable women. 

“It’s tricky,” begins Ouma. “The reasons vary, but the mothers I’ve spoken to often say they didn’t want to do it. They needed to work to feed their family. Maybe they dropped their baby off in daycare, but didn’t make enough money that day and they were afraid to come back. Women find they’re left with no other option.”

Each case is different, says Ouma, but The Nest is keen on counselling women and helps with employment opportunities so “they do not need to repeat the same thing again.”

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The issue is undoubtedly an economic one. As Sofia Rajab-Leteipan, a human rights lawyer based in Nairobi puts it: “poor women are being targeted.” But she, and many experts believe the problem is much bigger than that. “Looking at abortion in isolation isn’t going to help anyone. The entire system is failing women.”

Access to health services is key, she says, but it’s more than just the range of services available. Cost, a women’s knowledge of contraception and her ability to make decisions about accessing it all need to be addressed. “If there are barriers on all these things, women will become pregnant, they will have unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, which will result in unsafe abortion and dumped babies,” she explains. “It’s a chain.”

What’s more, the US has dramatically reduced funding for maternal health and family planning in Kenya under President Trump’s administration. The total dropped from £32 ($41m) in 2017 to £6.8 ($8.8m) just one year later.  

Lydia and the rest of the volunteers say the trauma of discovering dumped babies is taking a toll on their mental health CREDIT: EVANS HABIL/THE DAILY NATION 

Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), the country’s first and largest reproductive health organisation, lost roughly $2.2 million in response to the Trump administration’s passing of the “global gag” rule in 2017. FHOK has now closed two clinics, eliminated all free outreach services, and laid off 18 staff members. 

Only 2 per cent of their services were abortion-related, according to FHOK’s Amos Simpano. 

“Dumped babies are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Elizabeth A. Bukusi, a Kenyan doctor who is also a research professor at the University of Washington in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Global Health. “Do these young women even have enough bus fair to get to a healthcare facility?”

Back at the river, life has been disrupted once again. In what’s fast becoming a disturbing routine, the Komb Green Solutions team are preparing to take this week’s body, swaddled in a paper bag, and bury him with the others. The deaths are, unsurprisingly, beginning to take a toll.

Lydia was off that day, but she heard what happened. “It’s so sad,” she says quietly. “We really can’t go on.”

  • This story was a collaboration between The Bloomgist, The Telegraph, The Fuller Project for International Reporting, And Kenya’s The Daily Nation.

Why our love for snacks is making us fat

We’re told there isn’t, but our love of eating between meals has made the UK the nation with fattest people in Europe – and we’ve touch with what it feels like to be genuinely hungry

At the end of the summer Ali Catterall, 49, sent a tweet celebrating his fasted blood sugar count dropping below the key figure of 48 mmol/mol, when he ceased to be technically diabetic. The tweet says he will be celebrating with a box of Maltesers. It was a joke, but Catterall’s story is far from funny.

“Like a lot of people with solitary sedentary jobs I already had a tendency to snack my way through the day.” A respected writer, a couple of events in 2018 left him both injured, grieving and depressed. “I decided to kill myself by eating.”

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Technically a snack is a small amount of food between meals. This could be an apple, the pious handful of raw and unsalted almonds, or it could be, says Ali Catterall, “My thing: chocolate milk,” and if he was out, “KFC and McDonalds. Industrially made snacks were my main substance of abuse because they’re so easy, grab them, eat them and get an instant rush.”

The truth is, even if your snack is a banana or nuts, unless you are not just peckish but actually, genuinely hungry, many experts now believe there is no such thing as a healthy snack. Yet many of us seem to have lost touch with what it feels like to be genuinely hungry.

Mintel’s report into Consumer Snacking earlier this year points out that only half of snackers are driven by hunger. The rest are driven by “cravings” and “emotional needs” and the use of “snacks as an antidote to busy lifestyles.”

Could our endless snacking be at the root of the explosion in obesity?

Dame Sally Davies in her stinging child obesity farewell report as Chief Medical Officer seemed to think so, and she suggested that snacks be wrapped in plain paper like cigarettes and that eating be banned on public transport, junk food be banned from anywhere near schools.

The UK is now the nation with the most overweight and obese people in Europe, and we are also the most frequent snackers. The Mintel Report shows 66 per cent of British adults snack at least once a day and 37 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds say they regularly snack instead of having a proper meal.

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In the US, the unrivalled Land of Snacks, a place where one in three kids will grow up to have Type II diabetes, (one in two if they’re Latino), 91 per cent of consumers snack multiple times a day and, according to food industry analysts, Hartman Group, 50 per cent of all ‘eatings’ are in snack form. Nearly 10 per cent never eat a proper meal at all. Snacking is big business. Estimated values of the global snacking market lies somewhere in the region of $161,937,000,000 – that’s trillions, isn’t it?

Dr Aseem Malhotra, Consultant Cardiologist at the Lister Hospital and a founding member of Action on Sugar says people don’t need to snack: “People only need two to three meals a day to get full nutritional and energy requirements – providing they eat real food. The food industry that deliberately produces highly addictive cheat ultra-processed junk that encourages overconsumption. I tell my patients if it comes out of a packet and has five or more ingredients, avoid it.”

The food industry has responded to critics and the boom in healthy eaters by investing in so-called “healthy” snacks, with added fibre, vitamins and reduced sugar. The global healthy snacks market is expected to be worth nearly 33 billion in 2025. Yet examine the ingredients and many of these snacks are not actually healthy at all.

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Is it sensationalist and babyish to blame snacking for the obesity crisis? Nutritional Consultant and author, Ian Marber, says: “Snacking suits some people. But in general, it’s been oversold to us by the food industry as a solution to a hunger problem that didn’t really exist in the first place.

“It’s all about something to “keep you going” as though we will expire if we don’t eat every two hours which is nonsense. If you think back to the language used in the 60s and 70s when obesity levels were between 1-2 per cent, snacking was discouraged because it might ‘ruin the appetite’ and the appetite was something to be enjoyed.”

But there is a more complex arc to the anti-snacking story and that is one of if the body is asked to process food constantly then a person’s insulin resistance can be affected. Not everyone subscribes to this. Most people talk about calories in and out.

Read more on Lifestyle


Nutritional therapist Kim Pearson, who specialises in weight loss, is bold about the frequency of eating being an issue not just in terms of calories, but also the constant triggering of the insulin response. The majority of her clients are obese and pre-diabetic. She is sympathetic about the compulsion to eat for reasons other than hunger.

 “Of course, a snack can have its place. If you’ve eaten a decent lunch but aren’t going to be home until late don’t starve yourself for the sake of not snacking. But there is a difference between mindful snacking and mindless eating, which is what a lot of snacking is. The snacks that most people eat have no place in our life, aside from a very occasional treat. Even those that look healthy, like breakfast biscuits or energy bars will still raise your blood sugar and trigger an insulin response. Even eating something like a banana or a pack of raisins.” This is where it starts getting controversial. A banana, bad? “The odd banana’s fine, of course, it is, but if you’re constantly excessively raising your blood sugar levels with carbohydrate-heavy foods, then it has the potential to lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Smart choices, particularly ones with healthy fats like olives or sugar-free nut butter are not likely to raise blood sugar levels significantly.”

Jo Murdoch, 48, a signwriter from Wakefield, went from nine stone to over eleven in three years when her family was going through some difficult times, “The snacking arrived with the stress. It’s like being a smoker, I needed something in my mouth all the time. My body was telling me I was hungry, but nothing really left me satisfied for long…in the afternoons I’d get the shakes because I’d eaten so many carbs all morning.”

Jo Murdoch went from nine stone to over eleven in three years when her family was going through some difficult times. CREDIT: LIZ MCAULAY 

She got control of her eating with a diet called Jane’s Plan that was delivered to her door, “It was a relief to know I could eat that and only that. It was a struggle at first. Food is everywhere, and if food has taken over your life for emotional reasons you don’t realise you’re doing this habitual eating, but putting on weight had sent my blood pressure up, I was pre-diabetic, my hips hurt. I retrained my eating habits. Now I see kids going in to Greggs or to MacDonalds for their after school snacks and it horrifies me.”

Saying all snackers will become overweight is like saying all national treasures will turn out to be paedophiles. Clearly, it’s not a priori. Two friends with IBS stood up for snacks, “If you’ve got even mild IBS, eating a big meal can mess you up for days and snacking becomes more of a necessity than anything.”

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One very lean friend said, “I have a very physical job and am always picking at food.“

To call a clear causal link between snacks and obesity and/or diabetes is also problematic for academics. Dr Ada Garcia, Lecturer in Public Health Nutrition, at the University of Glasgow says, “There is not enough evidence. If you feed a child every other hour there will be a state of insulin resistance but you could not possibly do a robust study like this on children. It would be cruel.”

Several people said their addiction to snacking was a result of it being the only way to eat in their workplace. “My diabetes arrived with the menopause,” says Poldark actress Beatie Edney. ”On set though, I’ve had a lifetime of no break, no set meals, just eating willy nilly. I am having success reversing diabetes with 16:8 intermittent fasting and a low carb diet. But what made a big difference, was simply, stopping snacking.”

7 local dishes you need to try as you visit Nigeria this Christmas

Nigeria is located at the western part popularly referred to as the Giant of Africa because of her large population, its economy, different ethnic groups, different languages and her wide variety of cultures.

By Asogwa Precious

The Nigeria cuisine is known for it’s richness and Varieties especially when it comes to her native food. It is mostly consists of different spices, and herbs. It’s a well all known fact that Nigeria dishes are over priced and packaged abroad and might not give you that local homemade or unique taste you crave for.

Some of these food can make you home sick, if you’re a Nigerian living Abroad or planning on Visiting for the first time. Here’s a list of some mouthwatering Nigeria dish you shouldn’t miss! 

African Salad

Popularly known as ‘Abacha’ is a mouthwatering dish mostly common eaten in the Eastern part of Nigeria. It is made of shredded cassava. Abacha is Rich in nutrients as ingredients such as crayfish, garden eggs, potash, stock fish are used to prepare this local dish. This scrumptious dish is one of my favorite Nigeria dish.

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Ewa Agoyin

There is a saying that Ewa Agoyin isn’t complete without agege bread. This local dish will most likely make you a beans lover if you’re not because of it’s unique taste. It’s a local dish in the southern part of Nigeria and it is best served with bread, yam or fried plantain. It is made of beans which is usually soft or smashed.

Nkwobi

This is a lip smacking dish you shouldn’t miss on your stay in Nigeria. No words can do justice to this delicacy which is common among the Igbos. It is made using cow leg, cow head or any assorted meat. It is very delicious. If you have never eaten this delicacy, you have been missing out. Just a taste will make your taste buds crave for more.

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Banga soup with Starch:

Banga soup is made out of palm fruits, a local dish that is common among the Delta region, mostly the Urhobo’s. And it is also loved and enjoyed by a lot of tribes in Nigeria, for instance the Edo’s, This delicious meal can be served with Eba, starch or any choice of swallow.

Tuwo Shinkafa

A popular dish among the northerners, this is made with soft rice which can be served with miyan kuka or any delicious soup of your choice.

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Afang

It is one of the most delicious dishes common among the Efik and the Ibibio’s of akwa ibom states. It is a stew made with Afang leaves (okazi, Eru) as known in other tribes and assorted meat of your choice. It can be eaten with Fufu, Pounded yam, Eba, or any swallow of your choice. Rich in nutrients, Afang soup can be made vegan.

Nigeria Jollof

Nigerians know that just like fried rice there’s no party in Nigeria without it. It is referred to as the mother of Nigeria dishes. It is known for its unique taste and aroma. It is made using long grain rice. This is my favorite kind of rice and I always look forward to eating it. It can be served with any assorted meat/chicken, it also goes well with Moi Moi and salad vegetables.

Let us know which Nigeria dish you miss and will like to try as you visit this Christmas.


Asogwa Precious is a Bloomgist writer, and is currently studying Economics at National Open University of Nigeria Abuja.

Awa Florence, 50, fears the she won't be able to get all the cancer treatment she needs.

Cancer in Senegal: ‘I sold everything I have to pay for treatment’

“It’s really expensive. When all this started, I had to sell everything I owned,” says cancer patient Awa Florence.

Awa Florence, 50, fears the she won’t be able to get all the cancer treatment she needs.

“I don’t have anything left. I’m a widow and I don’t have the means to pay for further tests.”

The civil servant from Senegal’s capital city, Dakar, was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year.

Cancer is a growing problem in Africa and Senegal is the latest country to try to improve patient care by subsiding chemotherapy in all public hospitals.

The government says the drugs will be free for women suffering from breast or cervical cancer and up to 60% cheaper for other types of cancers.

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Some of the essential drugs needed to treat the side effects of chemotherapy will also be covered, Khady Mbaye Sylla, director of public hospitals, tells the BBC.

‘Like new tyres’

But cancer often requires more complex treatment than just chemotherapy alone, and that costs more money, which patients have to pay for.

“It’s a bit like getting new tyres. For your car to work, you still need to buy gas, to have roads, a driving licence,” says Dr Ben Anderson, director of the Breast Health Global Initiative.

“When I first saw the invoice I started to cry,” Ms Florence says

Cervical cancer and breast cancer are the biggest causes of cancer deaths among women in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Yet it is only in recent years that prevention and control of these diseases have become a matter of public health.

In 2011, the WHO said that non-communicable diseases were “an impending disaster” for some countries, pushing millions of people into poverty.

So, Senegal’s efforts should be lauded as “an excellent step”, says Dr Anderson.

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Presentational grey line

Cancer in Senegal:

  • Most common cancers: cervix (17.8); breast (16.7%); liver (10.2%); prostate (9.1%); stomach (5.2%)
  • Number of new registered cancer cases (2018): 10,549 – from a population of 16 million
  • Number of registered cancer deaths (2018): 7,571

Source: WHO

Presentational grey line

Until recently, healthcare for Africa’s women has been designed primarily around acute, infectious diseases and pregnancy-related complications.

But with increases in life expectancy and also what doctors term “risky health behaviours” – poor diets, lack of exercise, using alcohol and tobacco – the burden of cancer has been rising on the continent.

One of the few oncologists working in Dakar tells the BBC that to effectively reduce cancer mortality, much more can and must be done.

“We need to subsidise cancer treatments entirely, from early detection to palliative care,” says Dr Mamadou Diop.

In addition to chemotherapy, patients often need surgery, and some need hormonal therapy or radiotherapy.

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These are the scans which showed that Ms Florence has cancer
These are the scans which showed that Ms Florence has cancer

In Senegal, a course of radiotherapy can cost about $250 (£195) and surgery $330. That is after the patient has undergone required tests and examinations that can cost up to $1,600.

For women like Ms Florence, who earns about $80 a month, it is just too expensive.

Ms Florence is hopeful the new measure could help women like her, but also has some reservations.

“They say it’s for free, but we don’t know if we will need to fill out paperwork here and there, and if we need to buy drugs urgently…,” she says, her voice trailing off.

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“Will the government pay for radiotherapy that costs $250 or scans that cost $130? If the government pays all that, then yes – it’s a good thing.”

Lack of data

In the meantime, she has sought help for her medical bills elsewhere.

“When I first saw the invoice I started to cry. I told my doctor I couldn’t pay it and he put me in touch with the Anti-Cancer League who were able to help me.”

“I have an appointment soon for radiotherapy and I’ll bring the results to the doctor who will tell me what to do next,” Ms Florence says.

“Chemotherapy is really hard. I would prefer him to tell me I don’t need to do it again… The side effects are painful and you’re supposed to eat healthy food, fruits, but it’s hard when you don’t have the means.”

Senegal’s Anti-Cancer League organises free cancer screening days

Despite the announcement from Senegal’s government, Dr Diop believes there are still many cancer sufferers across the country who aren’t receiving any treatment at all, with many people not knowing they have it.

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Overall the five-year survival rate across different cancers is as low as 10 to 20% in low-income countries, while in richer countries it averages between 80 and 90%, says Dr Prebo Barango of the WHO.

Factors include:

  • lack of information about early signs and symptoms of cancer
  • late diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • weak or non-existent referral systems
  • geographical distance from care and treatment
  • catastrophic costs of treatment and medicines
  • weak healthcare systems and instances of abandoned treatment.

(Source: WHO)

A key challenge across many African countries, however, is the severe lack of data when it comes to cancer prevalence. This makes it harder for policy-makers to assess and act upon.

Dr Barango says about a third of all cancer cases could be prevented by avoiding key risk factors.

More on Special reports


Most African nations have “stepped up prevention of cancer risk factors”, he says, implementing tobacco control programmes for example.

Efforts are being made to widen access to cervical cancer screening and pre-cancer treatment in cost-effective ways, Dr Barango adds.

Cervical cancer is the most common form in Africa yet can be largely prevented through vaccination and screening, according to the WHO.

Numerous countries – among them Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Ethiopia and Malawi – have introduced the HPV vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer into their national immunisation programmes.

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As it stands, most cancer patients in Africa are diagnosed at a late stage and the prognosis for a positive outcome is reduced – even in cases where treatment is available and affordable, says the WHO’s African regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

If more money were spent raising public awareness on the early signs of common cancers – and urging people to adopt healthier lifestyles – experts believe that many more lives would be saved.

The APC winning strategy and a lesson for PDP

Winning elections in Nigeria requires no rocket science, as is often carelessly touted that ‘the best riggers are those who win elections’. Nevertheless, to rig election to win takes strategic planning. It cannot be said enough that attempts at rigging the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi cut across all the parties. So, it is safe to say that the modus operandi for politicians to win elections in Nigeria today is largely through rigging.

By Gbenga Adesanya


In both Bayelsa and Kogi elections, PDP rigged, but APC seemed to have learnt how to be better at it. However, it cannot be said that rigging was the main tool All Progressives Congress used to win the elections in both states.

One cannot easily forget the lessons of 2014 election in Ekiti States, where Dr. Ayodele Fayose of Peoples Democratic Party defeated Dr. Kayode Fayemi of All Progressive Congress who happened to be the incumbent governor at the time. Everyone laughed when Dr. Fayose and PDP went on rampage with the popular “stomach infrastructure” campaign, while Dr. Kayode Fayemi relied on his gentlemanly antecedent and style. The result was an eye opener for APC, and that clearly came into play in Bayelsa and Kogi states elections. APC did not shy away from giving out gifts and money to potential electorates just as PDP also did. That way, the votes of a section of the electorates who believe in what they see before they can vote, was already divided between the parties. No gentleman tactic.

Another vital strategy was the choice of candidate for APC in the person of David Lyons who is a known oil magnate based in the South South state, but more importantly, a popular philanthropist whose generosity helped a lot of Bayelsa youths and women, especially in area of empowerment and job creation. Lyon is widely loved in Bayelsa, and was strategically positioned to challenge Douye Diri of Peoples Democratic Party who relied on the incumbency of Seriake Dickson, and his own profile as former Commissioner, house or representative member, and a current senator.

All Progressive Congress knew that Seriake Dickson, in spite of his failings in Bayelsa, still had a large followership, and adding that to Diri’s profile which has a major support along Sagbama, Kolokuma and Opokuma areas, was very dangerous. Though Lyons also had his own support in Southern Ijaw, Nembe and Brass, the APC played a smarter hand by exploiting the rancour in Bayelsa PDP, and especially the rumoured conflict between Dickson and the immediate past president of Nigeria. Dr. Goodluck was quietly engaged by the APC, and he was in Abuja for an unannounced meeting with President Buhari just few weeks to the election. It is also of note that Eunice Jonathan, former president’s mother, also welcomed the APC candidate to her home at Otuoke during the campaign. In Goodluck alone, the APC drove a massive nail into PDP’s coffin in Bayelsa State.

In similar vein, the ethnic card that played out in Bayelsa also came into play in Kogi wherein Edward Onoja, an Igala, was fielded as deputy governor, thus dividing the votes PDP had counted on to bring Musa Wada, also an Igala, to power, while the Egbira people who never had any love for the Igala, massively voted for their son, Yahaya Bello, thus increasing the odd against PDP.

In retrospect, one cannot but notice that, though APC lost in Anambra in 2015, a state controlled by All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), they have learnt from their past mistakes and they have been making inroads into the state with  meticulous planning along same line as noted in Bayelsa where it was, initially, an anathema for APC to contest an election, least of winning. In readiness for the 2021 election, of note was the significant move by APC to of bring in old members like former Anambra state governor, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju and other old heavyweights like Senator Ikechukwu Obiora.

Of note, also, was another factor that would be easy to overlook in both elections, but which played a massive role in APC’s win. The number of APC governors who rose to join the campaign trains in both states, led by the APC ‘poster boy’, in the person of the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who is very popular and beloved across the length and breadth of the country, was a big boost as the move altered the thinking of the Bayelsa and Kogi people to believe APC might just be the party that would offer them the most dividend of democracy.

Clearly, APC has a mission, to capture the South South, and with the win in Bayelsa, Anambra might just be an icing on the cake if APGA relies on the power of incumbency. If the business of political party is to win election, APC is surely taking its business very serious, and the wins in Bayelsa and Kogi are a warning to Bayelsans.

Gbenga Adesanya is a Bloomgist Columnist

In Rwanda, a private conversation can cost you your freedom

The country I still call “home” will next year host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Welcoming the leaders of an organisation committed to democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law should, in theory, be a proud moment for a small African nation with a haunted history.

However, the country concerned is Rwanda, and CHOGM’s choice of venue betrays the very principles the organisation embraces. Whatever it once pledged, the Commonwealth’s newest member – Rwanda only joined in 2009 – shows little interest in upholding a charter whose articles guarantee freedom of expression and peaceful dialogue.

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Nothing better exemplifies President Paul Kagame’s intolerance of open debate than the case due to be heard in Kigali’s Court of Appeal on November 15.

Retired Brigadier General Frank Rusagara and his brother-in-law Colonel Tom Byagabagamba will be appealing prison sentences of 20 and 21 years respectively. These harsh verdicts were handed down not for murder, or their role in spearheading some mass atrocity, but for critical remarks the two men are said to have voiced during purely private conversations. 

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame CREDIT: REUTERS

Frank is my father, Tom my maternal uncle. My father played a key role in writing the new constitution introduced in the wake of the 1994 genocide: my uncle was among the first 27 young refugees in the Rwandan Patriotic Front armed struggle to make their way to Rwanda in 1989. Idealists to the core, both men have dedicated their lives to serving their nation.

Any one of their former military colleagues can attest to the spirit of self-sacrifice and dedication with which they always carried out their duties. Their biggest misfortune – especially in the case of my father, known for his irreverence and sense of humour – seems to have been their readiness to “tell it like it is”.

At one stage my father, the prosecution says, described Rwanda as a “banana republic” and said, referring to the President, “our guy is finished”.

It seems there is no space in modern Rwanda for honest opinion. If you don’t like what you see happening around you, keep it to yourself. And that applies to conversations with family and close friends, too.

According to the prosecution, their crimes were “inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image, criticising the government, alleging state involvement in assassinations of opponents, and complaining about foreign and economic policy”. Arrested in August 2014 , they have been held in solitary confinement and between April 2017 and May 2019 were granted no access to lawyers or allowed any visitors.

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Under President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has become a strangely silent place, where even private conversation can be policed and personal opinions have been eradicated. The effect is stifling, for freedom of expression, the basis of democracy itself, lies at the core of every human’s being. There is no better method of stripping away an individual’s humanity than suppressing their freedom to express themselves.

How is this done, in practice? The key lies in Rwanda’s structure of local government. The smallest unit in Rwandan society is “nyumba kumi” – translated as “10 houses”. Under the late President Juvenal Habyarimana’s rigid system of control, a local official was appointed to monitor every 10 houses, noting what each citizen did, who he or she associated with, and what they were heard saying. Habyarimana’s memory may be reviled by the current government, but his system of surveillance lives on.

More on Special Reports


President Kagame wins praise abroad and funds from his Western donors for his leadership. But in modern Rwanda, politics is a no-go area outside the privacy of your own home, whether you find yourself in a bus, taxi, restaurant or bar. The perception – sadly, quite correct – is that everyone is listening and taking silent notes, including the person with whom you might be having a conversation.

Rwandans instinctively know this. When outsiders break the rules, they can come a cropper. Kasha Nabagesera, a prominent gay activist in Uganda, made the mistake of referring to President Kagame as a young dictator following in his big brother President Yoweri Museveni’s footsteps within earshot of a co-pilot on her Rwandair flight.

In her Facebook post she recounts how she found herself being arrested on arrival in Kigali “on suspicion of drunkenness and misconduct”, handcuffed, repeatedly interrogated and eventually deported with instructions never to return. Even non-Rwandans, it seems, are watched and spied upon to ensure they toe the line.

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In April 2019, Rwanda’s Supreme Court scrapped Articles 233 and 154 of the old penal code which had criminalised anyone who humiliated, insulted or defamed those in public office, while making an exception for the President of the Republic. President Kagame took issue, saying there should be no special treatment accorded the head of state.

The continued detention of Frank and Tom – deemed a violation of international law by a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – undermines such fine gestures. On November 15, when they both appear before the Court of Appeal, the president will have the chance to demonstrate just how genuine his stance on freedom of expression really is. In the process, he might also make the Commonwealth’s decision to take up his invitation to meet in Kigali next June a little less excruciatingly embarrassing.

  • Veronica Shandari, who lives in London with her four siblings, has not seen her father since his 2014 arrest. Their mother died of cancer while awaiting his liberation.
Residents of Sintet, Gambia, at a workshop to discuss kidnappings and torture of people accused of witchcraft — roundups 10 years ago that were ordered by the president.Credit...Julie Turkewitz/The New York Times

Ex-President Called us Witches, and that is how it all started

Gambia’s former president ordered people he accused of “witchcraft” to be kidnapped and tortured. The victims now plan to tell a truth commission what happened.

Residents of Sintet, Gambia, at a workshop to discuss kidnappings and torture of people accused of witchcraft — roundups 10 years ago that were ordered by the president.Credit...Julie Turkewitz/The New York Times
Residents of Sintet, Gambia, at a workshop to discuss kidnappings and torture of people accused of witchcraft — roundups 10 years ago that were ordered by the president.Credit…Julie Turkewitz/The New York Times

Matty Sanyang was at a baby naming ceremony when the soldiers arrived in Sintet, a farming town not far from the West African coast, pulled her neighbors from their homes and announced that the president had made a decision: The people of her village were witches, and they would need to be cured.

Then, she said, the soldiers pushed her into a truck, stripped her naked and forced her to say she was a witch.

“What they took,” said Ms. Sanyang, “was our dignity.”

On Monday, a public national truth and reconciliation commission in Gambia began hearing testimony from citizens like Ms. Sanyang who say they were victims of what commission officials are calling “witch hunts” ordered by Yahya Jammeh, the former president who ruled for 22 years before fleeing abroad in 2017 with his fleet of luxury cars.

The commission is designed to investigate atrocities perpetrated during his long reign. As president, Mr. Jammeh jailed dissidents, ordered extrajudicial killings and forced AIDS patients to quit their medications and submit to an herbal regimen of his own invention, according to human rights advocates.

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He also branded some of his citizens as witches, a tactic his critics say was central to his effort to divide his country and consolidate power.

Now, for the first time, the people he accused are testifying before a nationally televised commission. On Monday, the witnesses included a former police superintendent who described how a top police official went from one office to another at police headquarters, accused some colleagues of witchcraft and sent them off to an unknown location.

The hearings on the roundups will last at least three weeks. Ms. Sanyang, a mother of four who lives in Sintet, is among those hoping to tell her story.

“I want people to know the truth,” she said. “I am not a witch.”

A national truth and reconciliation commission has been investigating atrocities committed during the 22-year regime of Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh.Credit…Marco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But as residents clamor to speak out, some are questioning whether their testimony will be enough to heal the divisions that Mr. Jammeh sowed.

Sintet, with its blue and yellow homes, sits 80 miles from the Gambian capital off a long road, past thick greenery and spired mosques. Its residents come from many ethnic groups — there are Jola, Mandinka and Fula people among them — and they were once united, many said, intermarrying and attending each other’s weddings.

Now they are split between those who still support Mr. Jammeh and those who don’t, often among ethnic lines. Some still believe their neighbors were witches, while others call the kidnappings and assaults a terrible crime.

The ordeal has also divided Gambians outside of Sintet. Some people refuse to visit the town, calling its residents sorcerers. Other Gambians call them killers, because several of Mr. Jammeh’s admitted hit men hail from the area.

Momodou Bah, 34, a former elected official from Mr. Jammeh’s party, said the discord encouraged by the regime — and specifically by the accusations of witchcraft — “will probably take us some two decades to mend.”

Persecution based on accusations of witchcraft still occurs around the world, a phenomenon that often goes unrecognized, according to the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, a nonprofit research and advocacy group.

In many cases in West Africa, said Leo Igwe, a Nigerian scholar with the network, accusers are trying to explain a misfortune, and come to blame a neighbor or family member they believe is possessed by evil.

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These accusations frequently lead to torture, said Mr. Igwe, and those who survive can live the rest of their lives with a “violent sense of disconnection from society.”

Matty Sanyang says she was abducted by soldiers in 2009 who accused her of witchcraft and poured a burning liquid in her eyes and down her throat. She hopes to testify publicly before a national truth commission.Credit…Julie Turkewitz/The New York Times

What distinguished the Gambian experience, he said, was that the former president, Mr. Jammeh, appeared to use witchcraft accusations as a state tool, and targeted people on a “mega scale.”

Hundreds of people were abducted during the attacks in Gambia, according to Amnesty International, and at least two died of kidney failure in the aftermath. In Sintet, soldiers poured a burning liquid into the throats and eyes of many residents, according to witnesses, leaving some plagued by vomiting and diarrhea; others said they have experienced long-term kidney and vision problems.

Gambia is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, with a sizable Christian minority. Over time, some families have braided fear of witchcraft into their broader belief systems.

Mr. Jammeh’s accusations held so much sway because many people in Sintet were already his supporters.

One Friday this summer, officials from the truth commission, along with a Gambian human rights activist, Fatou Baldeh, took the highway from the capital to Sintet to hold a workshop meant to help villagers wrestle with the past.

The green flags of Mr. Jammeh’s party hung outside many homes. Many said that Mr. Jammeh was one of few politicians to bring them the economic boom they see in the rest of the world.

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In the preschool building, residents explained to Ms. Baldeh that Mr. Jammehhad made that very highway possible. He had brought them power tillers, they said, and tractors, fertilizers and education.

Sintet is now divided over the former president’s roundups. Some still believe their neighbors were witches, while others say what happened was a terrible crime.Credit…Julie Turkewitz/The New York Times

“He loved the students,” said Rohey Bah, 19, a woman about to finish high school.

“He boosted our agriculture,” said Habibou Tamba, 33, a man who remains a Jammeh supporter.

But then there were the kidnappings.

Ms. Sanyang, wearing a blue dress, recalled how on the day of the roundup, in March of 2009, the baby naming ceremony burst into chaos as people ran from the soldiers.

Trucks and buses poured in, she said. Then came a crowd of men cloaked in red, holding mirrors. The men said they were healers and went house to house, guarded by military and police officers, pulling people from their beds and sending them to the trucks.

Mr. Bah, then an elected leader in Mr. Jammeh’s party, said he watched them take his aunt and his grandmother. “They said they were doing this job for the president,” he said.

The officers drove dozens of people to Kanilai, the president’s hometown, to a compound on the president’s farm, according to interviews and information collected by Amnesty International.

Inside the compound, officials forced Ms. Sanyang and dozens of others to drink the strange liquid, and splashed it in their faces, she said.

The truth commission hearings began in January and are expected to last two years.Credit…Yagazie Emezi for The New York Times

Mr. Bah, alarmed, said he had followed the caravan to the compound and entered to try to negotiate the release of Sintet’s citizens. He said he saw his neighbors screaming and writhing on the floor until they eventually lost consciousness.

When Ms. Sanyang came to, she said, soldiers stripped her and others naked. It was an affront that for her, a religious Muslim, was equal to sexual assault.

Another woman, Sutayring Manjang, now 80, said officials forced her and others to admit they were witches and accused her of using sorcery to kill people.

“I told them, ‘I am a member of your party,’” she said, “‘and you are doing this to me?’”

In one tent, Mr. Bah said, officials appeared to be videotaping these interrogations.

Some people were kept for a night, others for three or four, Mr. Bah said. The soldiers eventually released their captives, amid pleas from Mr. Bah and others.

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A spokesman for the Gambian military, Maj. Lamin K. Sanyang, did not deny that soldiers participated in the kidnappings, adding that he was waiting with the rest of the country to hear witnesses testify. But he said the soldiers’ participation was not sanctioned by the military.

The entrance to Mr. Jammeh’s estate in Kanilai. Soldiers drove people accused of witchcraft to the president’s farm where they were tortured, according to residents of Sintet and information collected by Amnesty International.Credit…Emma Farge/Reuters

“The manner by which they got involved — I am not privy to that information,” he said.

When the kidnapping victims returned to Sintet, many found the trauma wasn’t over. People fell ill, and their farms and businesses suffered. School fees went unpaid, residents said. Children went hungry.

The community divided along political and ethnic lines. Mr. Jammeh is a member of the Jola ethnic group, and some Mandinka and Fula people began to blame the Jolas for the attack. They stopped attending each other’s weddings.

The journey toward reconciliation has moved slowly.

The truth commission hearings began in January and are expected to last two years. After, the attorney general will decide whom to prosecute. Mr. Jammeh is in exile, and no one knows if the authorities will be able to bring him to court.

Some of the testimony will take place in a town similar to Sintet, called Jambur, where 66 people were taken during a kidnapping, said Fatoumata Mballow, a commission employee who has been conducting interviews there. Six people in Jambur died in circumstances that locals attributed to the toxic liquid, she said.

In Sintet, Ms. Sanyang said that even if she goes on television to tell her story and proclaim she is not a witch, she wasn’t sure if people would believe her.

But she wants to testify anyway, she said. “I want to be able to say: ‘This happened to me.’”

A protest against Uganda’s anti-gay bill in front of the Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2014. DAI KUROKAWA/EPA

What’s driving homophobia in Uganda

A protest against Uganda’s anti-gay bill in front of the Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2014. DAI KUROKAWA/EPA

In recent years homosexuality in Uganda has become an increasingly volatile political and social issue. Last month an LGBTQI activist was murdered in his home and Ugandan police detained 16 men on suspicion of homosexuality and human trafficking.

These events followed rumours that Uganda might be reintroducing an anti-homosexuality bill. An earlier attempt at legislation, introduced in 2009, became known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it proposed the death sentence for acts of “aggravated homosexuality”. It was passed by Uganda’s parliament in 2013 but eventually overturned by the constitutional court on a technicality.

As an anthropologist, I wanted to understand what contributed to the rising tensions concerning homosexuality in Uganda and why it endures as a politically divisive issue.

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In a paper I wrote in 2013, I examined the local factors that contributed to the political and social ferment over sexuality in Uganda. This adds to growing research on homosexuality in Africa, much of which focuses on understanding homophobia in the local context.

A great deal of publicity has focused on efforts by conservative American religious groups to guide political arguments on homosexuality. But, drawing on long-term fieldwork, I argued that anti-homosexual rhetoric in Uganda is more than a parroting of American homophobia.

Many Ugandans, irrespective of their religious beliefs, oppose homosexuality. They see it as a result of Western influence and against their culture.

This means the key to addressing the rise in homophobia is to change the narrative about homosexuality. The language used to talk about sexuality needs to more accurately reflect local perspectives. And more meaningful connections need to be drawn between the rights of LGBTQI people and Ugandan notions of humanity, dignity, and respect.

Driven by local concerns

Over a period of 15 years, I carried out research on sexuality, AIDS prevention, and religious activism in Uganda. My work focused on churches in Kampala at the centre of the growing political mobilisation of Uganda’s born-again Christians.

These Christians’ interest in homosexuality debates intensified in the wake of the 2009 anti-homosexuality bill, which was publicly supported by several high profile pastors. Today, about 30% of Ugandans identify as born-again and their leaders are prominent in the media and politics.

Like their evangelical counterparts in the US, they view the church as a platform for social protest. This is particularly the case when it comes to sexual conduct.

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But I found that while Ugandan anti-homosexuality activism drew support from some US Christians, it was largely driven by local concerns.

Sexuality and culture

The idea of sexual identities is well developed and accepted in the West. But it is not well established in Uganda. Some Ugandan queer activists have tried to advance locally meaningful terms – such as “kuchu” – to speak about same-sex attraction. For most Ugandans, though, sexual identity – as something distinct from a sexual act or desire – remains a foreign concept.

In Uganda sexuality is shaped by family and kinship relationships. This tightly binds sexuality to reproduction and gender identity. This is not to say that sex is understood to be only for procreation. But while sexual acts may vary widely, sexual identity generally does not.

Many Ugandans also associate homosexuality with sexual freedom, choice, and individualism. This chafes against a cultural perspective that emphasises the social, political, and moral importance of hierarchical family relationships.

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For instance in Buganda, the largest of the traditional kingdoms in Uganda, traditional ideals are expressed by the term ekitiibwa, or respectability. This emphasises a person’s place in a hierarchical social system. For women, honour is historically marked by marriages arranged through bride wealth and having children.

This is still the case today. Like most countries, relationships and households have changed over time in Uganda – for instance unmarried couples live together. But formal marriage and parenthood still signal moral and social status. Homosexuality is posed as a threat to these norms.

Shaping public opinion

Ugandan activists and government sponsors of the bill drew on these concerns. Street demonstrations have come out in support of the “African family”. Bumper sticker slogans on boda boda motorcycle taxis read: “Say No 2 Sodomy, Say Yes 2 Family”.

This public vilification of homosexuality is relatively recent in Uganda. Same-sex acts were not always viewed as disruptive to social norms or a threat to marriage and sexual reproduction.

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One anti-homosexual activist pastor told me that it was not the existence of homosexual sex that he found disturbing. It had always been there, he admitted. What he objected to was the new public presence, and assertion, that this “sexual identity” was equal to all others.

The pastor’s claims point to how anti-homosexual activists have been successful in directing criticisms outwards, to a global realm that is seen as having an outsized role in shaping Ugandan social life. These arguments position international projects, that promote equality and personal empowerment, as threats to local moral values.

Advocating for rights

Anti-gay activists have also benefited from Ugandans’ ambivalent attitudes about human rights discourse. While Ugandan human rights activists have had successes, particularly in the women’s movement, their language is not universally embraced.

There is a persistent perception that human rights organisations, dependent on donor aid, represent the selective concerns of Western governments rather than local interests.

This was reflected in the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which had a clause that targeted organisations “promoting” homosexuality. Foreign NGOs are often framed as potential drivers of homosexuality.

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These conditions pose challenges when it comes to advocating for the equality and rights of the Ugandan LGBTQI community. Communities must feel ownership of arguments for sexual equality.

Rights-based claims need to be placed into a meaningful social and moral context. For instance, they would have to draw on a sense of shared humanity with sexual minorities.

An emphasis on the human costs of discrimination, and the moral obligation to fellow community members, may have more power than a straightforward rights-based argument.

We will travel this Christmas to provoke President Buhari

Earlier this year, Nigerian’s thought the second coming of Buhari is the strangest thing to happen to Nigeria in 2019, some were even hoping, though they knew it’s impossible, that Buhari is leaving Aso Rock back to wherever he has been resting before they dragged Him to Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Mike Ikenwa

Obviously Buhari was dragged to Aso Rock. I know that is to hard to believe, but yet, think about it like a Nigerian, in Nigeria and knows our political system. Who really think a 76 year old former military general would genuinely want to come back to power in a democratic era?

Apart from the fact that he has no idea how the democracy of a thing even works, he can’t fit into the system, having to wait for approval from ordinary senators, who may not even want to pass his bills, or to obey court orders (after all he has not been doing so either) to release people who speak against his policies. We know that is not Buhari we know, but what do we do? Nothing.

We experienced the change, obviously we did. Firstly we saw decline in curruption. I don’t know about you, but over here at my small room fitted with small bachelors bed that I bought back in 2014, it’s practically a lifestyle now to manage your days or go forever hungry. He promised the change and we saw it happen.

The corruption was so much reduced to the point that poverty was forced to crawl out of its hiding place to look for how to improve in its work or be killed by hunger, and it really did improve. We can see that as the country was in June declared as the new poverty capital of the world after we successfully snatched it from the former holder – India who’s leaders are too lazy that they pushed poverty away from their country.

Another evidence of that ‘Change’ that Baba promised us was the rate at which fraud is increasing. I don’t want to blame poverty on that, because he is still struggling to finish up what he started, but this time, I am going to blame it on the man called ‘hunger’, yes, he is responsible for the rate at which our young people go into fraud.

The annoyimng thing is that this hunger is not even doing the job well, rather it’s pushing our lazy citizens into doing petty fraud.

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My colleague’s phones were stolen from his shop that he manages with his wife whenever he leaves office, and the thieves, instead of working hard to see how they can transfer his money from his bank which is linked to his phone number to another bank, but instead used it to buy recharge cards for their friends and families. Imagine that? I wouldn’t say why they bought for their friends, maybe to use it to be in touch for future deals, but why connecting your families and putting their lives too at risk of what they don’t even know, why not be a good fraudster in peace?

Now Christmas is approaching, and the stories we are hearing are not even something we can’t afford to celebrate. We are still putting some beans together to see how we can arrange for ‘Akara and Akamu’ celebration ahead of the things to face this season.

Firstly, we are hearing that only those that are in Aso rock, or have connection with people there are going to eat it this season. Oh, I forgot to mention their semi gods around the states too. those ones that are blaring sirens on every nukes and crannies of our lives.


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For the first time in time we can’t remember, we are witnessing women being caught stealing cups and nylons of rice. Rice. Rice, the most common and widely consumed food in Nigeria. I even watched one that was caught with the small rice she stole and hide in her wrapper. You can imagine how small it is to fit into her wrapper. Lazy woman.

The good news everywhere now is that the price of the rice, from all indications is going to go up to thirty thousand Naira, that is if Buhari remains a good president, keeps up the good work and not interfere with the process. What this means is that there is going to be low traffic on our roads this season, at least those demi gods and their families moving from one city to another this season will drive freely without seeing anyone to pull over and flog ‘shege’ in traffic under the scotching sun that has vowed to even frustrate all efforts Buhari is making towards committing to the climate change as other world leaders are doing.

A woman sits outside a shed as she waits for food rations at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria June 6, 2017.

I don’t want to talk about the petroleum managers and their seasonal strike, mostly in partnership with their good neighbours, the tanker drivers. That one is a story we don’t want to bore you with almost everyone know that it’s a normal thing for those bodies to go on strike once the Christmas bells begin to ring and blare around the streets.

So, how do we travel this season to see how families and loved ones that hunger has deprived some good air and whose voice we almost can’t recognize are doing? Thanks to the same hunger, powered by our dear president all the way from London, but you see this time, I know Nigerians, they are too lazy that in this type of situation, they will still travel, to what end? I don’t know, but you see, they will travel again, just to provoke our hardworking and transforming president. We won’t allow that!

Maria Nantale, centre, at an outreach event hosted by the Aids Support Organisation, a health services group, and Uganda’s Eastern Region Women’s Empowerment Organisation. Photograph: Jake Naughton

‘They paid a guy to kill me’: the story of health workers in Uganda

A lesbian activist in a rural town has developed a new strategy to reach those most at risk of HIV.

Maria Nantale, centre, at an outreach event hosted by the Aids Support Organisation, a health services group, and Uganda’s Eastern Region Women’s Empowerment Organisation. Photograph: Jake Naughton
Maria Nantale, centre, at an outreach event hosted by the Aids Support Organisation, a health services group, and Uganda’s Eastern Region Women’s Empowerment Organisation. Photograph: Jake Naughton

Maria Nantale is enjoying a beer at a rickety wooden bar after a long day’s work. “Forty people tested today,” she reflects. “Found three positives. One of them is in denial. She has run away.”

Twice a week, from dawn until dusk, Nantale holds an “outreach” in the town of Mbale, population 76,000. The aim is to combat HIV among those most at risk: LGBT Ugandans, drug addicts and sex workers.

She asks a local person to play some music while her “peer” educators discuss condom use and sexual health, and invite people to get tested for HIV. Her mobile lab is run by a trio of nurses, a lab technician and a psychological counsellor.

Uganda has the 10th highest rate of HIV in the world – 6.2% overall and 7.6% among women. Across the country, more than 1.2 million people are believed to carry the virus that causes Aids.

It is also one of the most homophobic countries in the world. Earlier this month an LGBT advocate was killed in the eastern Ugandan town of Jinja, not far from where Nantale works in Mbale. Last week, lawmakers said they would introduce legislation to bring in tougher punishments for homosexual acts, conjuring memories of the so-called “kill the gays” bill that was proposed in 2013 and initially included the death penalty for certain cases.

As the law stands, homosexual acts can lead to sentences of up to 14 years in prison. LGBT people routinely face human and legal rights abuses by employers and police, or violence and harassment in their communities. Because homosexuality is illegal, LGBT people are often hesitant to seek medical attention for HIV/Aids.

That’s why Nantale’s primary goal is to reach Mbale’s gay and transgender populations, and sex workers, who are at a higher risk of HIV. Studies estimate that sex workers in Uganda are about a third more likely to be HIV positive.

The problem, says Nantale, is that many people in marginalised groups don’t get tested for the virus due to the double stigma of being both HIV positive and queer in a homophobic country. Nantale realised she needed to offer tests to everybody or risk giving credence to the belief that LGBT people are “sick” or diseased.

A further complication is the fact that many rural LGBT Ugandans are transient or even homeless, having been ostracised by their families. By inviting entire communities to get tested in a public setting, Nantale creates a safe space for the most vulnerable.

An outreach event largely staffed by LGBT people. Photograph: Jake Naughton

“It’s a strategy we use so that the LGBTI, sex workers and drug users can come out and get tested,” says Nantale. “Whenever people here have HIV, they run in the opposite direction. That’s what the counselling is for. Telling them it will all be fine.”

As a lesbian herself and an outspoken woman in a male-dominated community, gaining people’s trust was no easy task. “This has taken me years,” she says.

Nantale, director of the Eastern Region Women’s Empowerment Organisation, is an anomaly in Uganda. Most Ugandan LGBT activists busy themselves with a plethora of other problems, such as being arrested or extorted by police, or blackmailed by neighbours. Many teenagers are disowned by their families, and some are forced to flee Uganda as refugees.

The method employed by the impeccably dressed, energetic anti-HIV campaigner is to attack that stigma head on, testing and counselling people outside and in public, in front of their friends, neighbours and family. One afternoon, residents looked on as a tall man in his 40s walked up to the collection of tables, benches and blankets Nantale’s team had set up on a small patch of land in one of Mbale’s crowded, low-income neighbourhoods. A nurse cleaned the man’s finger with a swab, then lightly pricked the tip. A tiny droplet of blood appeared, which she smeared on to a small white strip of testing paper, then used a cotton swab to stop the bleeding. Ten minutes later, his result was announced in front of the dozen or so people who were standing around: negative.

Nantale says that once a few people get over the initial hurdle of participating, the entire neighbourhood tends to join in. “Some of them go and bring their partners. They bring their man,” says Nantale. She describes one octogenarian great-grandmother who never misses a test, just to feel apart of what’s going on. Nantale’s peer educators hand out male and female condoms.

A man is tested for HIV at an outreach event. Photograph: Jake Naughton

Nantale’s approach has garnered the attention of Ugandan LGBT rights organisations such as Sexual Minorities Uganda, and works with them on HIV/Aids awareness events. Her work has also attracted international donors such as USAid , which has funded her mobile clinics and implements the President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (Pepfar) , a multibillion dollar global initiative that has proven incredibly effective at preventing and treating HIV/Aids.

But the work doesn’t always go smoothly. One evening after an outreach session, Nantale spent nearly an hour searching for an HIV-positive trans teenager who had run away, throwing her antiretroviral medication into a drainage ditch out of shame, desperation, or both. Nantale tries to counsel those who test positive by explaining that HIV is not a death sentence. But for LGBT Ugandans, the roots of their depression often go far deeper than concerns about their own health.

“Of the three people who tested positive that day, one was a lesbian, raped by her uncle,” says Nantale. “She’s devastated. She’s resting just nearby.”

Numerous LGBT residents say violence is a common occurrence. Nantale herself says she was thrown into the path of a truck by a man hired by a group of village elders. “They paid a boda boda guy [motorcycle taxi driver] to kill me,” she says. “Homophobes,” she shrugs. Her LGBT activism is what drew the hit, but it was also what saved her. “Fortunately one of our sex workers, he recognised me for giving him free condoms. He put me in his trailer and rushed me to the hospital.”

Nantale spent several weeks in a coma. Now she lives with her partner and their son in a safe house, with a security guard. She takes different routes to her office and to the outreach sessions, to avoid a repeat attack.

Verbal abuse has forced some of Nantale’s friends to leave Mbale for Uganda’s more metropolitan capital. Life in Kampala offers a certain anonymity and freedom but also leaves many of them feeling isolated, lonely or depressed. “I could go to Kampala,” says Nantale, “but my grandma lives here. My uncle lives here.” To move is, in some ways, to leave one’s family behind.

Isaac, a transgender man, left, goes out into the community on outreach work with his colleague, a bisexual woman. Photograph: Jake Naughton

But the same families can ostracise. According to a 2016 global attitudes survey, 53% of Ugandans say that homosexuality should be a crime – the highest margin of all 10 African nations that were polled – and 19% say they would be upset if their child fell in love with someone of the same sex. But in the same survey, nearly 40% agreed that bullying of LGBT people is a significant problem. Such awareness, Nantale says, is cause for optimism.Advertisement

Nantale believes that attitudes in Mbale are beginning to shift. Just five years ago, after Uganda passed its new anti-gay law, Nantale was outed by the local newspapers as a lesbian. She was fired from her job, ridiculed in public. But now entire neighbourhoods know her by name, and respect her for her work providing healthcare in neglected communities.

“I want people to focus more on my work, not on my orientation,” she says.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Many families in the DRC can’t routinely access preventive services. Shutterstock

Outbreaks of measles: compounding challenges in the DR Congo

An outbreak of measles that began in early 2019 in the southeast corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now spread to all 26 provinces. Over 180,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths have been reported. The outbreak has disproportionately affected young children under five years of age. Similar outbreaks occurred previously in the DRC in 2011 and again in 2015.

Many families in the DRC can’t routinely access preventive services. Shutterstock
Many families in the DRC can’t routinely access preventive services. Shutterstock

This is the largest and most fatal of the large measles outbreaks across the world this year. These have occurred in the Ukraine, Philippines, Brazil, US, New Zealand, Madagascar and Nigeria. While the details of each individual outbreak vary, the root cause of measles outbreaks is always the same: too few children receive timely and effective vaccination.

The outbreak in the DRC highlights all of the various causes for episodic measles outbreaks. The delivery of measles vaccine in endemic areas must contend with a biological catch-22. From birth to about nine months of age, most infants have maternal antibodies that protect them from measles infection. But these antibodies also prevent the measles vaccine from conferring lifelong immunity.

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Those children whose maternal immunity wears off early are at risk of infection at an age when measles infection can be most severe. Thus, health systems in endemic regions, like the DRC, employ a first dose at a relatively early age (nine months) to immunise these vulnerable children. Later they provide a second dose to catch those for whom the first dose didn’t provide protection.

The weak spot of this strategy is the accessibility of routine preventive health services. In the DRC, as in many underfunded health systems, many families cannot routinely access timely preventive services. This can be because they live too far from clinics, or because clinics are in bad shape.

To combat limited vaccination access, the DRC conducts periodic “supplemental vaccination activities”. These are large, coordinated efforts to bring second dose opportunities into every community, vaccinating all children under five years of age, regardless of prior vaccination. The expense and logistics of these massive efforts means that they can only be conducted every few years.

The unfortunate consequence is that, in the years in between them, many children are born and not vaccinated. This sets the stage for large outbreaks.

On the ground

Many specific challenges in the DRC compound the already difficult task of vaccine delivery.

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Years of internal conflict have displaced millions from their homes, limiting their access to preventive health services. The country has an estimated population of 87 million, of which more than half are children. About two thirds live in rural areas and 40% of mothers report distance to health facilities as a challenge when getting health care.

In addition, inherent mistrust of government-run programmes prevents some from seeking care. Those who do are met by health-care workers who want to help, but are hampered by stock outages or unstable refrigeration necessary to store vaccines in the prescribed temperature range. Many are understaffed or simply don’t have sufficient vaccines available due to the fragility of cold-storage and supply chain in remote areas.

All of this combines to leave more than 40% of children born in the DRC unvaccinated in any given year. This risk isn’t uniformly distributed. Some remote areas and areas of conflict have much lower coverage.

Once an outbreak begins, rapid response to provide vaccination to children at risk is critical. This first requires detection and confirmation of the outbreak, and must be followed immediately by a massive effort to coordinate agencies, and often NGO partners, to mount a response in affected or at risk areas.

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Even when cases of measles are detected in clinics, limited diagnostic and communication infrastructure can cause significant lags in triggering the outbreak response. The DRC currently has only one reference laboratory that can run the blood tests necessary to confirm a measles outbreak. Transporting and processing samples can take weeks. Add to this the competing demands of a health system combating two Ebola outbreaks in the past two years, and these lags can become larger.


Read more: How the DRC’s Ebola crisis has led to children dying from measles


Coordination efforts for outbreak response have been improving in the DRC. The Ministry of Health has partnered with the Measles and Rubella Initiative, the World Health Organisation and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to deploy vaccination campaigns in April 2019 and again in October 2019. The aim is to vaccinate more than 20 million children under the age of five nationwide against measles.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has additionally conducted several targeted vaccination campaigns, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, in acutely affected areas.

Tackling intractable problems

The solution to measles outbreaks is deceptively easy: vaccinate more children. This belies the challenges along the path to that solution. In the DRC, as in many low and middle income countries, periodic supplemental vaccination activities have borne too much of the weight of the control effort.

Supplemental vaccination activities as discrete events are convenient for external partners to fund and to evaluate afterwards, and thus have become a favoured tool of organisations that are beholden to donors seeking measurable results.

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While the benefits of supplemental vaccination activities are clear (they have saved millions of lives), they don’t address the fundamental need to improve routine vaccination. Improving routine vaccination coverage requires a broad, systems-wide approach that includes supply chain, training and financing of health system staff, and community engagement to get at the root causes of non-vaccination.

In the DRC this requires tackling seemingly intractable problems. One is health access for people internally displaced by conflict. Another is deep mistrust of government institutions and solutions from the global north in areas that have experienced decades of both colonial and internal oppression.

Technological and infrastructure solutions can help to make gains in vaccination coverage. Solutions ranging from the very simple – packaging vaccines in pre-loaded syringes to prevent wastage in remote clinics that see children infrequently – to the aspirational – micro-patch technology to allow thermostable, needle-free vaccination – hold real promise but are years from implementation at scale.

Mundane solutions hold the potential to make meaningful gains in improving immunisation rates overall and increasing equity. These solutions include improving surveillance and response by building new regional reference laboratories to reduce the burden on the single national lab and shorten the time to confirm outbreaks.

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Additionally, trying out strategies to increase routine vaccine delivery throughout the year, rather than relying on campaigns every three or four years; and reinforcing national surveillance to allow targeted, reactive enhancement of vaccination activities in locations that are underperforming can help to achieve the goal of equitable control of measles.

Uganda’s English language policy isn’t applicable to schools in the the country’s rural areas. Shutterstock

Uganda’s English language policy is failing rural children

Uganda’s language policy requires that rural schools should choose a dominant local language to use as the language of learning and teaching for the first three years of primary school while English is taught as a subject. The fourth year of schooling is a transitional year in which English as the language of learning and teaching is introduced. English then becomes the medium of instruction.

Uganda’s English language policy isn’t applicable to schools in the the country’s rural areas. Shutterstock
Uganda’s English language policy isn’t applicable to schools in the the country’s rural areas. Shutterstock

In areas where it’s not easy to choose a dominant language, as is the case in urban schools, English as the medium of instruction is recommended.

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We investigated the circumstances under which children learn and acquire English in central Uganda’s rural Rakai district.

We set questions related to the learning and teaching support materials for English, the challenges rural Ugandan learners face in learning English, the differences between government and private schools on vocabulary teaching and learning as well as opportunities available for learners to acquire English in rural schools.

We conducted the study in 2012 in four rural schools. The results of this study are still relevant because the language-in-education policy hasn’t changed. Teacher training and curricula are also still the same.

We found that learners faced various challenges in learning and acquiring English. It was difficult for them to reach the vocabulary levels set out by the country’s National Curriculum Development Centre. For example, they are expected to learn at least 800 English words after three years.

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The essence of the mother tongue policy was partly to enhance the teaching and learning of English in Uganda. But our findings point to a host of difficulties faced by learners in private and government schools. We conclude that Uganda needs to rethink how English is taught in rural contexts. In addition, the time of transition to English as a language of learning and teaching should be reconsidered.

A difficult subject

Studies show that vocabulary is a crucial element in reading and comprehension. According to some studies, learners of English need knowledge of the 3000 most frequent words to read and understand graded readers.

But nobody has studied whether that is realistic in poorly resourced learning environments, such as those in Uganda.

The curriculum development centre also considers “words” when speaking about vocabulary learning. However, studies refer instead to word families – “the word and all its inflected and derived forms”, counted as one.

In Africa, there are numerous studies of language-in-education policies. But there is a shortage of research on vocabulary learning in both first and second languages.

As far as we know ours is the first study in Uganda that evaluated the number of words children acquire in the process of learning English.

How English is taught

The curriculum development centre set guidelines on how English should be taught from grade 1 to grade 3. It suggested presenting at least five new words every day, using short dialogues, presenting new sentence structures, pictures and wall charts, and using songs, games, acting, rhymes, exercises and speech.

The centre discourages teachers from using learners’ mother tongues while teaching English – an approach not supported by research.

The centre expects the curriculum to be well-structured and supported by appropriate materials. But teachers in our study viewed the curriculum as poorly structured, repetitive and inadequate. They said they didn’t have the right materials and that learners weren’t able to learn the desired vocabulary in each school year.

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We didn’t see recommended methods like role play and speeches being used. Instead, teachers asked learners to read after them and to chorus.

Another challenge we encountered related to training. The National Curriculum Development Centre recommends a one-teacher-one-classroom policy. So there is no specialist English teacher for grades 1 to 3.

State schools versus private school

Teachers also pointed to a big disparity between schools funded by the state and private schools – for example, in the materials provided and in exposure to English.

In private schools, it’s compulsory for all children to speak English at school all the time. But government school learners only encountered the language in English lessons.

Also, children in private pre-primary schools encounter English learning at the age of 3 or 4 while those in government schools do so only at 6 (when they join grade 1).

It was clear from our classroom observations that the two sets of learners were at different levels of communicative English. Those in private schools were able to answer questions posed by the teachers while those in government schools found responding in English challenging. Some learners in government schools responded in Luganda (their mother tongue) to questions posed to them in English.

We saw that teachers used their class time differently. The curriculum development centre guidelines stipulate that English lessons last 30 minutes. But those in private schools were between 40 to 60 minutes. Government school teachers were also less punctual.

Going forward

We conclude that the targets set by the curriculum development centre need reviewing for two reasons. The first is that they are unrealistic, given the environment in which English is being taught in rural Uganda. The second is that they fall below what’s required for a learner to be able to comprehend English texts and access the curriculum in English.

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The recommended two years to acquire basic communicative skills and four years to acquire cognitive and academic language proficiency is only possible in well-resourced environments. Our study shows that children in rural Ugandan schools can’t acquire these in three years only.

There are broader issues to consider too. Learners need more time to be exposed to the language before they can learn through it. But children in government schools mostly use their mother tongues and aren’t exposed to media in English. Moreover, teachers in rural areas are not very proficient in English.

The government needs to review the policy. It also needs to employ qualified and specialised teachers in English language and support materials for English need to be thoroughly evaluated.

Madagascar trial: how a simple pregnancy test can change lives

Not having access to affordable pregnancy tests profoundly affects women’s lives. Without access to these tests, women are not able to confirm if they are pregnant. This leads to delays in getting prenatal care services.

Only one third of women in Madagascar get prenatal care in the first trimester. Shutterstock

Complications related to pregnancy as well as mother and infant deaths are all too common in low-resource countries like Madagascar. That is why it’s important to seek prenatal care early and frequently.

The World Health Organisation recommends that women start seeking prenatal care as early as possible in the pregnancy. Yet only one third of pregnant women in Madagascar receive prenatal care during the first trimester.

Our new research shows that providing affordable pregnancy tests to women in low-resource countries is a critical, yet under-appreciated, way to improve their health.

What we found

In our research, we set out to test whether offering these tests for free through community health workers could be a solution to prompt women to seek prenatal care earlier. Community health workers are lay health workers trained to provide health services such as birth control as well as counselling on different health issues. They have been used as an effective way to increase access to health services, especially for women in more remote and rural areas.

We conducted our study in rural Madagascar using a randomised controlled trial. This study design is considered the gold standard. It allows researchers to attribute any improvements in outcomes to the intervention, rather than to other confounding factors. In our trial, we randomly allocated community health workers to receive (or not) free pregnancy tests for distribution in their community.

We followed these health workers for a period of four months. We found that offering free pregnancy tests through community health workers led to more women seeking general health services from these health workers. In addition, we found that more women were able to confirm they were pregnant by the end of their visit with the community health worker.

Importantly, this intervention also led to significantly more women receiving antenatal care counselling. Learning from a community health worker about the importance of early and frequent prenatal care is not the same as going to the health centre to receive that care. But it is a critical first step towards ensuring early prenatal care seeking for women who want to continue their pregnancy.

Even women who are not pregnant could benefit from access to these tests. For example, community health workers would be more likely to offer hormonal contraceptives if they were able to reliably rule out pregnancy.

In an earlier study we found that community health workers provided significantly more women with hormonal contraception when they also offered free home pregnancy tests. Both these studies were funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector project.

Other studies have shown that health providers deny women hormonal contraceptives if they can’t reliably rule out if a woman is pregnant or not. And for women who want to terminate their pregnancy, finding out earlier that they are pregnant could enable them to have safer procedures.

What next

Pregnancy tests now cost only 10 cents wholesale. But in low-resource countries, they are not widely available outside clinics or pharmacies. When they are available, their prices tend to be significantly marked up.

Urine pregnancy tests are one example of a hugely under-appreciated health technology for improving women’s health. When considering where to invest resources to improve women’s and children’s health, funding community-based provision of low-cost pregnancy tests in low-resource countries might just be the best idea. It has bang for the buck.

Providing pregnancy tests through community-based programs is cost-effective compared to other programs to support mothers, newborns and children. Introducing free home pregnancy tests as part of community-based health services can improve pregnancy care by attracting more women to services at the community level. In turn, this enables women to confirm they are pregnant and receive antenatal counselling if they want to continue the pregnancy.

Let’s not under-estimate the impact of such a simple technology. Donors, implementing partners and policy-makers should invest in expanding provision of free pregnancy tests in sub-Saharan African countries to ensure that women – and their children – can survive and lead healthy lives.

Bad habits drive health risks among Kenya’s urban poor

There’s a rise of cardiovascular diseases in developing countries which is linked to changes in diet, physical activity and obesity.

The Kenyan urban population, including low-income settlements, are part of this trend. Like residents in other low-income settlements, the rise in diseases can be linked to their surroundings. Poverty and stress is prevalent in Kenya’s low-income settings which increases the behavioural risk factors for cardiovascular diseases – like smoking and drinking. In addition, many residents have a diet which doesn’t include the amount of fruits and vegetables they need as they’re too expensive.

Cardiovascular diseases affect the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular). People are more prone to them if they are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure, smoke, drink large amounts of alcohol, don’t do enough exercise and have a poor diet.

My colleagues and I wanted to know what people living in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, knew about cardiovascular disease, the risks and how this affected the medical treatment they sought.

We found that there’s a real lack of knowledge about the disease risks and even when the risks are known, societal pressures make it hard for them to change their ways.

As Nairobi grows and develops, more people will move into low-income areas and the number of people that need healthcare support for these diseases will get bigger. We hope that our findings inform strategies for and enhance the effectiveness of prevention and treatment programmes.

Poor knowledge

To carry out our research we held nine focus group discussions with healthy people aged 20  years and above in Korogocho and Viwandani slums. A total of 65 people were involved.

During the interviews, cardiovascular diseases were defined as disorders of the heart and blood vessels, namely heart disease (angina), heart attack and heart failure and stroke. Risk factors were listed as hypertension and raised blood pressure, diabetes and raised blood sugar, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and harmful alcohol consumption.

Generally, there was poor knowledge of cardiovascular diseases and the risk factors involved.

A small number of respondents said that some of their family members discovered “only by chance” that they suffered from conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, which mostly happened when they had a stroke or heart attack and were hospitalised. In most instances, it was too late to treat the conditions.

The magnitude of the cardiovascular disease burden in the community was not obvious among many of the study respondents, because in their own opinion, “these conditions were discrete and considered private”.

Most respondents couldn’t identify people who were likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases or relate common risk factors – like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption – with increased risk of developing a heart attack and/or stroke.

There were views, based on “observed trends” in the community, that “anyone” could be at risk. This opinion was formed because of situations where “even children” were diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension.

According to a few of the study respondents, independent of their age, people who harboured worry and suffered stress were more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases. Women were especially singled out in this.

Behaviour

When looking at the link between behaviour and risk factors in Nairobi’s slums, there were worrying signs.

Despite participants understanding that food rich in fat led to the blockage of blood vessels, and therefore stroke and heart attacks, they argued that it was difficult to avoid fat when cooking.

Women “whose role was to prepare food for the family” were said to be under pressure to satisfy the tastes of their family members, especially their husbands – and fats were key.

Also, although sugary drinks were mentioned as a cause of cardiovascular, respondents that were involved in heavy manual labour said that it was okay for them to consume a lot of sugar (sometimes up to five teaspoons in a cup of tea) because of their high energy requirements.

Very few respondents knew or understood how harmful smoking or excessive alcohol consumption was. The participants linked alcohol consumption to stress, but not necessarily disease.

Most participants thought that slum residents had become less physically active. They attributed this to new and cheap forms of transportation, like the boda boda (motorcycle taxi). They also said that widespread crime meant there weren’t enough safe spaces for children and adults to play.

What can be done

A major issue is that there are few specialised health facilities and care providers that can help residents. But there are ways to help residents from home.

Mobile health interventions (specifically text-messaging) have been shown to work in high income countries. Based on this, the African Population and Health Research Center is currently rolling out interventions that provide blood pressure monitors and meters to measure glucose levels to patients. Text message reminders are then sent on days when people are meant to take their medication or go to a clinic.

Community health volunteers will help by spreading information on risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, how to prevent them, the benefits of early screening and detection and treatment for diabetes, obesity, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Competition and failing legacy: the case of Africa’s Catholic churches

Pope Francis has completed his seven-day tour of three African countries: Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. It was a significant trip for a number of reasons.

Pope Francis at the Monument Mary Queen of Peace, in Port Louis, Mauritius on Sept. 9, 2019. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

During his visit, the pope spoke on issues of peace and ecological sustainability that these countries are facing. Mozambique recently signed a peace accord with longtime rebels, and the country is still recovering from the cyclone earlier this year that killed over 1,000 people. Madagascar faces severe deforestation, and Mauritius too faces risks from climate change.

Africa has the world’s third largest Catholic population, after the Americas and Europe. Nearly 1 out of every 5 Africans – 19.2% – is Catholic. The Pew Research Center expects the number of African Christians south of the Sahara, including Catholics, to double by 2050.

From my perspective as a scholar of African religions, however, the pope’s visit needs to be understood against the background of the church’s longer history in Africa and the current challenges Catholicism faces in the continent.

Early Catholic history in Africa

Although Catholicism in Africa expanded dramatically under European colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, the church’s roots in Africa go back to its earliest days.

Christianity emerged in Africa among first-century Jewish communities in Alexandria, Egypt. Many early, influential church figures were North African.

After the Islamic conquest of North Africa – from 634 to 711 A.D. – however, Islam grew faster than Christianity, making it the region’s dominant religion.

Muslim traders then took Islam across the Sahara Desert to West Africa and over the Indian Ocean to eastern Africa.

Spread of Christianity

The later arrival of Catholic missionaries on the western, central, southern and eastern coasts of Africa spread Christianity across the continent.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese came to Africa by ship and began winning converts in the Central African kingdom of Kongo.

On the other side of the continent, in today’s Mozambique, missionaries established Catholic communities that would eventually become the contemporary Mozambican Church.

French missionaries arrived in Madagascar in 1640. With the help of early converts, they produced a Catholic catechism, or teaching manual, in Malagash, the island’s indigenous language.

Because Catholic Portugal, and later France, expanded the trans-Atlantic slave trade, both priests and slave merchants followed in their wake.

African Catholics and European missionaries nonetheless protested against the slave trade. Even the Vatican condemned slavery in the 1680s. But many bishops and priests already possessed slaves, and the Vatican enslaved Africans to man its ships.

The church’s complicity in Africa’s subjugation only intensified in the colonial era in the 19th and 20th centuries as the church founded parishes, schools and hospitals across the continent, often with the encouragement of colonial authorities.

Reforms and end of colonialism

Catholic missionaries worked mostly in European languages, contributing to the continent’s linguistic and cultural colonization.

In fact, colonization and evangelization occurred in lockstep. The Portuguese colonized Mozambique; the French, Madagascar; and Britain, after initial French occupation, Mauritius.

But Catholic missionaries also criticized colonialism. In 1971, for example, authorities in Mozambique, still under Portuguese rule, expelled a Catholic order for criticizing the colonial regime for preventing missionaries from properly serving Mozambicans.

Elsewhere on the continent, during Africa’s transition from colonial rule to independence, from the late 1950s to 1980, many priests supported emerging ethnic and nationalist movements.

The long-term outcomes of these Catholic-backed independence movements have been mixed.

In what was to become Zimbabwe, for example, bishops supported resistance against white-led Rhodesia from the 1960s to 1980 but unwittingly brought dictator Robert Mugabe, who died recently, to power.

But in Malawi, Catholics in 1994 helped unseat the repressive president, Hastings Banda, and establish multiparty democracy.

And in many French-speaking African countries, bishops served as neutral mediators who led national conversations between autocratic rulers and civilians throughout the 1990s, often achieving democratic reforms.

Rise of Pentacostalism, Islam

Pope Francis greets worshippers in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Sept. 8, 2019. AP Photo/Alexander Joe

To many Africans today, in the wake of independence and the church’s support for it, the Catholic Church has distanced itself from its colonial past to become an institution associated with sociopolitical reform, education and health care.

This accounts in part for its substantial growth in the three countries visited by the pope.

In Mozambique, Catholics are 30.3% of the population, the country’s largest religious group, surpassing indigenous religious practitioners and Muslims. In Mauritius, at 27.2%, Catholics take second place to Hindus but outnumber Muslims. And in Madagascar, they come in third at 21.7%.

But the church faces new challenges.

In 1970, Pentecostals represented less than 5% of all Africans. They now stand at 12%, a significant shift. In Mozambique alone, Pentecostals are the second largest Christian community.

And Islam is growing faster in Africa than Christianity. By 2050, African Muslims south of the Sahara are expected to increase from 30% to 35% of Africa’s population.

The pope’s visit, then, reflects a strategic commitment to the continent, for good reason.

The battle for souls is a struggle for statistics, enmeshed in the changing loyalties of the world’s largest Christian church.

Bloomgist In-depth: Confessions by hit Squad of former Gambia president – Yahya Jammeh

Gambian reporters manage a live feed of the nation’s truth and reconciliation hearings.CreditCreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

SEREKUNDA, Gambia — The day Malick Jatta confessed to shooting one of Gambia’s best-known journalists, he wore the camouflage uniform of the armed forces and said the kill order came right from the former president. The testimony was streamed live, and tens of thousands watched.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Then he hung his head.

Gambia, a nation of two million people on the West African coast, is in the midst of a highly public truth and reconciliation commission designed to investigate atrocities committed during the 22-year reign of Yahya Jammeh, a leader who created a culture of fear and misinformation so deep that many still take care to call him a gentleman.

Two years after Mr. Jammeh lost an election and fled, investigators are holding what some experts have hailed as the most accessible truth commission in history. Officials have been methodically interviewing killers and victims, eliciting testimony into the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of people. Central to their effort is a live feed that sends that testimony through YouTubeFacebook, television and radio — directly into phones and homes around the country.

In Gambia, an overwhelmingly young and quickly urbanizing nation that now has one of the highest rates of mobile phone use in Africa, listeners stretch from the capital, Banjul, into the countryside and abroad to the diaspora. Many have been devastated by the testimony; others doubt its veracity.

A market in Serekunda, where many business owners, and their customers, are glued to the hearings.CreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

But for all the excitement about the stream, some Gambians are questioning whether simply hearing the truth will be enough to deliver justice. It’s unclear if the commission will lead to trial or prison for perpetrators. Admitted killers are being released after their testimony. Mr. Jammeh is in exile, and no one knows if he will ever be prosecuted.

For Baba Hydara, the son of the Deyda Hydara, the murdered journalist, the confessions have brought only hollow relief.

“They say that it helps with closure,” he said. “That’s a lie.”

What he wants is to see his father’s killers before a judge.

Malick Jatta, in green, admits to his role in the killing of journalist Deyda Hydara.CreditCreditVideo by QTV Gambia

The truth and reconciliation hearings began in January and are expected to last two years. Witnesses are testifying in English and local languages, including Mandinka and Wolof; a sign language interpreter follows along.

Some of the most searing testimony has come this summer. Mr. Jatta and other members of Mr. Jammeh’s hit squad, called “the junglers,” have told of the murder of Mr. Hydara, an influential editor who the regime code-named “Magic Pen.”

They’ve confessed to the killing of 56 West African migrants whom the government accused of being mercenaries.

And they’ve admitted to taking part in the assassinations of two American citizens, Alhagie Ceesay and Ebou Jobe, who the junglers were told were plotting a coup.

Mr. Ceesay, a father of two, was a Chevron employee who had been living in Houston; Mr. Jobe, a father of three, was an operations manager for Wal-Mart.

“They have to be in prison,” said Ya Mamie Ceesay, 67, whose son was one of two Gambian-Americans to disappear in 2013. “You cannot kill someone, take someone’s life, and then go free.”CreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

Mr. Ceesay’s family has said that they had returned to their native Gambia to start a business.

Cameras rolling, one member of the hit squad, Omar Jallow, testified that Mr. Jammeh had ordered that the Americans be killed and “chopped into pieces.”

Mr. Jallow described how his team “took plastic bags and they put them over their heads and they strangulated them.”

Two junglers “cut off their heads,” he went on. “We took them and put them inside the grave and we buried them.”

A representative for Mr. Jammeh hung up the phone when called for comment.

Mr. Jammeh, who was Gambia’s second president since the country gained independence from Britain, took power in 1994 following a coup, and went on to win four presidential elections. His supporters hailed him for bringing roads, lights and education to areas in need.

The former President Yahyah Jammeh waved to a crowd of supporters before leaving the country in 2017.CreditAndrew Renneisen/Getty Images

But he also jailed dissidents and called journalists the “illegitimate sons of Africa.” He subjected Gambian AIDS patients to a self-proclaimed cure — a body rub and a banana. He sent his soldiers to hunt down people he accused of being sorcerers. He raped a former beauty queen named Fatou Jallow, according to her testimony, and he coerced other women into sex with cash, gifts and privileges, according to former officials.

Over time, his claims became so wild that the truth seemed to simply disappear.

Gambians voted Mr. Jammeh out in 2016 and after refusing to accept the results for weeks, he finally fled, only to reappear recently on Instagram, dancing the night away with a Congolese pop star and the president of Equatorial Guinea.

The president of that nation, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has granted Mr. Jammeh refuge. Extradition would be difficult.

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Since he left, Gambians have tried to put their country back together. Part of that process has been the truth commission, an 11-member body charged with examining the regime. It is not a trial, but rather an investigation. At the end, the commission will make recommendations as to who holds the greatest responsibility for atrocities, and the attorney general will decide whom to prosecute. But a major point of contention is that some perpetrators will go free in exchange for their testimony.

The country’s attorney general, Abubacarr Tambadou, said it was his decision to push for the live streaming of the testimony.CreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

The goal of the hearings, said Abubacarr Tambadou, the attorney general, is to negate “a sense of disbelief in the country,” about the facts of the last two decades. The reality, he went on, is that to get to the facts — and to the worst offenders — some smaller players will have to be given amnesty.

Governments around the world have used truth commissions to investigate painful histories for decades. But early inquiries, like the one in Argentina in 1983, following the Dirty War, often happened behind closed doors, with a report made public afterward.

It is only more recently that technology and political pressure have pushed officials to open these commissions. South Africa, in 1996, after apartheid ended, allowed video cameras inside its hearings. Radio has also played a role. Then came the internet.

In recent years, other countries have begun experimenting with live streams, including Tunisia and Colombia, with varying degrees of reach. Part of what seems to have made Gambia’s stream so popular, said Eduardo Gonzalez, a transitional justice expert, is its inclusion of perpetrators. Not all commissions do this.

In Gambia, after years of silence and secrecy left people hungry for information, taxi drivers crowd around TV sets, glued to the testimony. Vendors in market stalls listen through earbuds. Even supporters of the former leader said that they were hooked.

Bekai Saidy, a lawyer, watches the hearings most nights with his friends. “You cannot shape your future,” he said, “if you do not know your past.”CreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

The commission is held in Serekunda, outside Gambia’s capital, in a hotel draped with bougainvillea. The streams are run by a national broadcaster and a team of young journalists from the channel QTV.

On a recent day, 10,000 people were watching on QTV’s YouTube page. The channel’s truck, parked in the hotel courtyard, buzzed with a sense of national duty.

“I come from a family of big-time Jammeh supporters,” said Ansumana S.O. Nyassi, 29, a reporter. When the commission began, his own father called the hearings a “witch hunt” designed to malign Mr. Jammeh.

Then his father watched the hearings. He no longer supports the former president, Mr. Nyassi said.

Shortly after the junglers testified last month, the state released them from custody. Mr. Tambadou, the attorney general, said he could not reasonably ask for them to be held without charges. This angered many.

Baba Hydara below a portrait of his father, a prominent journalist who was killed in 2004.CreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

“They have to be in prison,” said Ya Mamie Ceesay, 67, whose son was one of the disappeared Gambian-Americans. “You cannot kill someone, take someone’s life, and then go free.”

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In recent weeks, a coalition of victims has also questioned some testimony, accusing Mr. Jatta of downplaying his role in one of the massacres.

Because of this alleged lie — a violation of commission rules — victims say he should be put on trial.

If one purpose of the live feed is to put all Gambians on the same page, it’s plain that the country is not there. Months in, deep divisions remains over Mr. Jammeh’s legacy.

In the streets of Serekunda, some said they didn’t believe the testimony.

“I don’t see any use for it,” said Cherno Ceesay, 24. Anyone the regime punished, he added, probably “did something wrong.”

Further out in the countryside, several villages had lined the road with green flags, a show of support for Mr. Jammeh’s party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction.

Abdou Ceesay, left, listens regularly to the hearings. “I listen to know what is right or wrong. People can forgive, but we must know what happened,” he said.CreditYagazie Emezi for The New York Times

In one village, Sintet, Habibou Tamba, 33, said that he had been listening to the hearings religiously. “I agree, he committed crimes, heinous crimes,” he said of Mr. Jammeh.

But Mr. Tamba had been working for the Alliance party for years. It’s where he learned everything he knows about being a strong, confident man, he said. A poster of the former president still hangs in his bedroom.

He believes Gambians should forgive their former leader.

“It’s a man I loved,” he said. And when you love a man, he went on, “it’s hard to abandon him.”

Jaime Yaya Barry contributed reporting from Gambia.

A version of this article appeared on the New York Times with the headline: Now Streaming on YouTube: Confessions From a Presidential Hit Squad in Gambia.

Civilians run for safety as police provide cover during the suicide bombing and mass shooting attack on the 14 Riverside complex. Wikimedia

Kenya’s terror survivors need more trauma support

The Dusit hotel, which was part of the complex attacked by terrorists in Nairobi in January 2019, has reopened. 21 people died in the attack, bringing the number killed in terror attacks in Kenya to at least300 in the past five years. These attacks have been traumatic for many of those affected. Stephen Asatsa tells The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner what needs to be done to support them.

Civilians run for safety as police provide cover during the suicide bombing and mass shooting attack on the 14 Riverside complex. Wikimedia
Civilians run for safety as police provide cover during the suicide bombing and mass shooting attack on the 14 Riverside complex. Wikimedia

How does trauma affect people who are directly or indirectly involved in a terror attack?

When a person feels like they’re in a crisis, the hindbrain (lower back of the brain) is activated while the forebrain is switched off. The hindbrain deals with survival functions: fight, flight or freeze. The forebrain deals with higher functions like logical reasoning, language and imagination. The forebrain isn’t helpful in times of crisis because it’s slow to make decisions.

This means that initial interventions must target the hindbrain to normalise the body from its state of emergency. Meditation, breathing exercises, massage and physical activities – like dance and games – can all help to relax the hindbrain. Later it can process the traumatic event during long term counselling.

Once the body returns to normal, it is important to track unprocessed emotions and help the survivors to express them. Social support is one of survivors’ greatest resources for survivors. This can be offered by strengthening family and friend ties to promote long term recovery, even after counselling stops. Family members should also be actively involved in crisis interventions.

Untreated trauma is dangerous. It may develop into other mental health issues that lead to drug abuse, depression, anger and hatred.

What does research show about the type of trauma people experience and the effectiveness of counselling at overcoming it?

Threatening events lead to direct or secondary trauma. Direct trauma involves physically experiencing or witnessing the event – people who survive the threatening event, as well as those who may not have faced the threat but saw others being attacked. It would also apply to rescue staff like the police, fire fighters and doctors.

Secondary trauma involves people who were not physically present during the event but learn about it through others or through the mass media.

Symptoms are similar in both types of trauma. Traumatised people tend to be hyper vigilant, agitated, suffer from negative mood swings and avoid reminders of the crisis. But often, those who experience secondary trauma are neglected.

Yet research shows that from a single traumatic event, there are instances where more people have secondary trauma. For example a survey on the effects of terrorism in Pakistan reported 3.9% physical effects (direct trauma – meaning they were present at the location of the crisis), while 79.2% reported mental health effects (secondary trauma).

How prevalent has counselling been for those affected by terror attacks in Kenya?

The use of counselling services in Kenya is very low. During the crisis intervention that followed the 1998 terror attack on the US embassy in Nairobi, just 15% of survivors sought counselling services.

Recently there’s been an improvement, possibly because of increased awareness and moretrained psychologists.

In my study on the Garissa University terror attack survivors – in which 148 people were killed – I found that most survivors received counselling services. Only 16.5% didn’t. But a large number only had “critical incident debriefing”, which usually involves fewer than three counselling sessions. Survivors may need longer forms of intervention to give the healing process enough time.

I also found that women were more likely to attend long-term counselling. This could be attributed to cultural reasons: men are socialised not to ask for help even when they need it.

What type of counselling works best in these situations?

Many different approaches can be used to help terror survivors.

Psychological first aid focuses on initial emotional support offered to victims of trauma in a bid to reduce distress and prevent further trauma. This is not necessarily offered by mental health practitioners, but by any available helper.

Critical incident debriefing is offered to trauma victims with the aim of preventing the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a severe condition that could drastically affect a person’s normal functioning by keeping them withdrawn, highly agitated, restless, and sometimes suicidal.

These trauma interventions are the most prevalent forms of psychological support in times of crises. But they are short-term. Missing out on long-term counselling poses a threat to survivors’ mental health. Survivors of the Garissa terrorist attack, for instance, pinpointed a few painful experiences that slowed their recovery. These included the short term nature of counselling, counselling being stopped too soon and relatives being excluded from crisis intervention.

There needs to be a shift to long-term counselling which targets the survivors, their family members, rescue workers, counsellors, news reporters and the general public.

Are there lessons from other countries on how best to support victims?

There’s a lack of awareness in Kenya about the importance of mental health. This may be partly why people don’t seek out counselling. In some developed countries, by contrast, mental health is fully entrenched in public health institutions.

In Kenya, the mental health sector is not well regulated, compromising the quality of services. Legal frameworks – like the Counsellors and Psychologists Act of 2014 – haven’t been implemented because of competing professional bodies that make it hard to monitor the profession. The ministry of health also seems reluctant to register and license counsellors and psychologists, which could be the reason why humanitarian organisations often take the lead in coordinating psychologists during a crisis.

If the government allocated funds to mental health, and took it seriously, there would be better services for survivors of traumatic events, like terrorism, who would receive proper psychological help.

Rating: 1 out of 5.
Then President of The Gambia Yahya Jammeh and First Lady Zeinab arrive at the White House in Washington DC for the US Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Here is why Yahya Jammeh is unlikely to face justice soon

Two weeks ago, new allegations were added to a litany of human rights abuses that have been levied against the former president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh. The exiled former leader, who once infamously claimed that he could cure AIDS with his own secret herbal mixture and spiritual healing techniques has been accused of sexually abusing at least three women at the height of his power.

Then President of The Gambia Yahya Jammeh and First Lady Zeinab arrive at the White House in Washington DC for the US Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. EPA/Michael Reynolds
Then President of The Gambia Yahya Jammeh and First Lady Zeinab arrive at the White House in Washington DC for the US Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Jammeh ruled The Gambia with a totalitarian grip for 22 years after seizing power in an army coup in 1994. After he suffered a shock defeat in the 2016 presidential election, he refused to relinquish power. It was only after regional troops mobilised troops on The Gambian border that he fled to Equatorial Guinea. He’s still there.

Since then, allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, freedom of speech violations, and suspicious deaths in government custody have emerged. To get to the bottom of the allegations hearings are being carried out by a Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission set up by the new government.

Under the slogan, “never again”, the Commission has the job of creating an impartial historical record of violations of human rights that took place under Jammeh’s regime. It is hoped that process achieves a number of objectives. These include promoting healing and reconciliation, addressing the impunity of previous members of government, establishing the fate of disappeared victims, allowing victims to tell their account of violations, and to grant reparations where appropriate.

So far, the public has heard from current and former members of armed forces over an alleged counter-coup plot against Jammeh early in his rule. The testimony of those soldiers has been horrific. But even if more victims come forward and speak out, and more human rights violations are revealed during future testimony from both victims and abusers, pursuing legal consequences against Jammeh is likely to prove very difficult, if not impossible.

The problem is one that those pursuing justice against former dictators and human rights abusers have encountered before. After Jammeh lost power, he fled to Equitorial Guinea with the equivalent of more than $1 billion from public funds. Equitorial Guinea is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and has no obligation to return him to The Gambia to face justice. This has left Jammeh’s fate in the hands of the country’s President Teodoro Obiang, a close friend and ally.

The evidence

In one incident an alleged member of the counter-coup was arrested, beaten, stripped naked, shot and stabbed with bayonets. It was then discovered that his body was too tall for the grave that had been dug, so one of the executioners chopped off his legs with an axe.

Three women so far have levied accusations of sexual violence against Jammeh. Two have remained anonymous while one – Fatou “Toufah” Jallow – has agreed to come forward publicly. She is expected to give testimony to the Commission later in the year.

In graphic detail, Toufah explained to Human Rights Watch how she became a target of the president’s unwanted attentions when, at the age of 18, she won a state-sponsored beauty pageant. As part of her duties as a beauty queen, she was called to a meeting with Jammeh, who began to shower her with presents and money. After a sexual attack in the presidential residence, and fears for her future safety, she disguised herself in a burka and fled across the border to Senegal.

Two other women have also made allegations to Human Rights Watch, but they have chosen to remain anonymous. Marion Volkmann-Brandau, the researcher who exposed these allegations, believes that there were many more victims.

Toufah has said that she hopes her revelations encourage other victims to come forward and share their stories. Her plea has been echoed by the Attorney General  who has praised her actions and asked others to speak out.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has not yet examined any allegations of sexual violence. These hearings are due to take place later in the year.

Justice might be elusive

Pursuing legal consequences against Jammeh is likely to prove very difficult, if not impossible. One reason for this is that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission does not have the power to prosecute Jammeh, or any other individual for human rights abuses. Its powers are limited to recommending that the Attorney General acts on cases that can be taken before the courts.

Even if cases are brought, the Gambian government would have to extradite Jammeh from Equatorial Guinea to face trial. Initially, there were hopes that Obiang, who himself has been accused of numerous human rights atrocities, might feel political pressure to return Jammeh to The Gambia to face his accusers. But a recent video of the two celebrating New Year together extinguished those hopes.

At least in the short term, it looks unlikely that Jammeh will face either his victims or consequences for human rights abuses.

Sophie Gallop, Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

From drug dealers to tortillas sellers: the future of former gang members

Becoming a gang member is often assumed to imply few long-term life opportunities beyond dying or being imprisoned. In most of the world, however, this only concerns a minority of gang members, with the majority tending to “mature out” out of their gang, and becoming (more or less) upstanding members of society.

Indeed, a striking finding of my longitudinal research in Nicaragua is that many former gang members can actively thrive directly as a result of their gang-related experiences, to the extent that we can talk about there being clear dividends.

Only gang leaders thrive

In their book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner famously highlight how the benefits of being a member of a drug-dealing gang are often quite limited. In particular, the authors describe how the overwhelming majority of those involved in the US drug trade earn less than the minimum wage, with only gang leaders receiving anything in the way of substantial material returns.

While this is not necessarily the case everywhere, there is no doubt that the material benefits of drug dealing can often be unevenly distributed. In a scene from the film Scarface (1983), gang leader Tony Montana enjoys the profits of his drug-dealing business before going ‘legit’.

In a scene from the film Scarface (1983), gang leader Tony Montana enjoys the profits of his drug-dealing business before going ‘legit’

At the same time, being a member of a drug gang can also provide individuals with more intangible benefits drawing from street-experience or specific skills and knowledge inherent to the “job”. These can potentially have more important consequences for post-drug dealing trajectories than any putative material returns.

However, the long-term benefits are highly variable, as my research shows through the contrasting trajectories of Milton and Bismarck, two former members of a drug-dealing gang in the barrio Luis Fanor Hernández, the poor neighbourhood in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, where I carry out my work.

Selling crack on a bicycle

Between 2010 and 2011, Milton was a crack dealer, selling drugs in a concealed manner to avoid attracting attention. As he explained:

“I wouldn’t sell on the streets but would only sell to regular clients and … deliver drugs to them directly, whenever they wanted it instead of having them come to the barrio … I had a good number of clients, who would text me whenever they wanted some crack, which I’d then deliver to them on my bicycle.”

Milton was a successful dealer but he did not save much money, preferring to spend conspicuously. He ceased drug dealing in 2011 after the drug trade in Luis Fanor Hernández collapsed due to the local wholesaler’s arrest. Finding himself out of work, he decided to start a tortilla-making business instead.

“Everybody likes tortillas”

“Why a tortilla-making business, you ask? Well, my mother was a tortillera – you know, a tortilla-maker – but she was getting old and wanted to give it up, so I told her, why don’t you let me take over?”

Milton went on to explain how normally tortilleras would make their tortillas early in the morning, but by the time they go out to sell them they would be all stale and cold, and “nobody likes a cold tortilla”. He had an idea that would enable him to sell fresh, steaming-hot tortillas:

“I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I do like I did with drugs, get people to text me when they want tortillas, and I’d then make them and deliver them straight away?’”

Tortillas come in all form and shapes (Mexico, 2016). Omar Torres/AFP

Milton therefore confidently approached local businesses with samples of his tortillas, and told people that if they wanted fresh, hot tortillas, they should just text him.

“At first only a few people did so, but word got around, and pretty quickly I was getting more orders than I could cope with.”

A success story

These were the days when rapid-food delivery companies were in their infancy worldwide. In Nicaragua such services were unknown, so this new way of producing and delivering tortillas was a game changer. Milton’s business expanded rapidly, to the extent that he had to hire five people to make tortillas and invest in a motorcycle for deliveries.

A delivery motor-bike parked in front of a tortilla restaurant in Mexico. digiyesica/FlickrCC BY-SA

Now producing around 3,000 tortillas a day, Milton’s business is extremely successful, and completely dominates the tortilla market in Luis Fanor Hernández and its surroundings.

In 2016, it provided him with a weekly profit of almost US$200, more than twice Nicaragua’s monthly median wage, and about 80% of what he used to make as a drug dealer.

This success is directly due to Milton’s having drawn on his drug-dealing experience to structure his new business. In particular, the use of mobile technology and the “just in time” delivery enabled him to gain an edge on existing tortilla sellers. Normally this field of economic activity has traditional means of operating and low profit margins. But Milton established the basis for an exceptionally profitable mode of operation.

Bismarck, the real-estate baron

At the same time, the knowledge and skills learned in gangs are not always useful or deployable in a sustainable manner. The case of Bismarck, who dealt drugs in barrio Luis Fanor Hernández between 2000 and 2006, is a case in point.

Unlike Milton, Bismarck saved a significant proportion of his drug-dealing profits. He had much less of a conspicuously consuming lifestyle, and would regularly invest in real estate, buying houses to rent out and building an inexpensive hostel in Luis Fanor Hernández.

When he stopped dealing drugs, these properties ensured that he continued to enjoy a comfortable monthly revenue, albeit equivalent to about 55% of what he had earned as a drug dealer, something that Bismarck professed himself to be more than happy with insofar as “being a businessman was much less dangerous than being a drug dealer”.In Colombia, tour operators guide tourists around Pablo Escobar’s famous properties. But real-estate can be risky.

In Colombia, tour operators guide tourists around Pablo Escobar’s famous properties. But real-estate can be risky.

A risky venture

Unlike other property owners in the neighbourhood, Bismarck was successful at obtaining prompt rental payment because he drew on his gang experience to intimidate, threaten and sometimes enact violence against his renters.

This proved to be something of a double-edged sword, as within a few years, Bismarck lost all of his property portfolio except for his own home, due to the very reason that had made his real estate business initially successful. Some of his houses were expropriated by renters, themselves former gang members, who banded up to intimidate and beat up Bismarck. His hostel was burned down by a group of ex-military men staying there who did not take well to being threatened when they failed to pay their rent.

Bismarck’s post-drug dealing trajectory thus contrasts strongly with Milton’s, and highlights how the skills and knowledge gained through having been a gang member can have different consequences and variable outcomes. Not all gang-related skills and knowledge are always beneficial, and their dividends depend very much on the way and field of activity within which they are deployed.

But knowing that the gang member experience is not necessarily always negative and can sometimes potentially lead to more positive outcomes is clearly important in relation to developing coherent policies and opportunities for former gang members that will harness their undoubted vitality and allow them to maximise their post-gang contribution to society.

Dennis Rodgers is a research Professor, Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute – Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement (IHEID)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nigerian students and transactional sex on campus: what we uncovered

By: Oludayo Tade

Transactional sex among female undergraduates in Nigeria is a social reality. The practice has been reported on regularly in the mainstream media and explored in various research papers.

This cross generational relationship is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, and across the world where sponsors are commonly known as “sugar daddies”.

In our study on transactional sex in Nigerian universities, my colleague and I looked at the symbiotic relationship between some female Nigerian undergraduate students and aristos – wealthy, married or unmarried men. The students have transactional sex with the aristos in exchange for financial, social or educational support.

Because a great deal of these relationships happen undercover, there are no solid figures on the number of women involved in them. But there are many reasons that these relationships happen. It’s a practice that’s driven by economic hardship, a desire to network socially, and peer influence.

To understand more about these relationships we conducted 30 interviews with female undergraduates – commonly known as “runs-girls”.

We found that the students engage in transactional sex for pleasure and money. Typically, wealthy students would be with an aristo for pleasure, while those who needed financial support did it for the money. Most of the women we spoke to viewed it as a critical survival life investment strategy and rejected the “prostitution” label.

Although these relationships could offer the students economic, emotional, and political support, their effects can also be negative. The students expose themselves to sexually transmitted infections, physical violence and academic setbacks, because the relationships can distract from their studies.

Those with sexually transmitted infections risk of spreading these to their boyfriends, while also suffering economic losses seeking treatment.

Finding clients

Aristos are usually wealthy postgraduate students, lecturers, politicians, business people and military personnel. They are people with wealth and authority.

The students looked for these clients on and off campus, using connections and referrals. They then familiarised themselves with the potential client’s routine, aiming to eventually manufacture an encounter.

There’s usually a generational gap between the “runs-girls” and the aristos. The students often refer to their clients as “uncle”, “daddy” and, more recently, “aristo”. All of these bring connotations of the person’s expected role: to take care of the student.

If the students don’t have much financial support from their families, these relationships provide them with that security. Some started as a one-off “date”, for which they got a sum of money. But longer-term relationships also developed in some instances.

In return for sex, the women were given luxury possessions, like cars and mobile phones; investments for businesses they might start; or work placements when they finish their studies.

As one female student said:

The type of connection I have with politicians, lecturers, and military men cannot be purchased with money. At times, when I have problem, all I do is to make a call, depending on the nature of challenges…

In Nigeria, about 23% of young people are unemployed. These connections, with people of influence, may be a ticket to employment. As one “runs-girl” revealed:

One of my clients who happened to be a commissioner connected my senior sister to get a job at immigration even without any much stress…

Transactional sex isn’t limited to financially strapped students. We spoke to rich female students who engaged in it for sexual fulfilment. One 24 year old student said:

I am from a rich home, my father is even a Major (in the army), and my mother a nurse, but I’m involved in campus runs because of sexual satisfaction, although nothing goes for nothing, because sex is for enjoyment. I have a guy that I help financially, and on the long run he pays me back with sex.

Challenges

In this research we identified a few challenges.

Some “runs-girls” accepted offers of unprotected sex for better pay. This put them at risk of catching sexually transmitted infections and, consequently, the cost of treatment. As one student said:

I am always scared of having naked (unprotected) sex. Most times I use (a) condom because one can never know a man that has HIV/AIDS. Although sometimes some men always want naked sex and in that case, they will have to pay triple than what is earlier bargained. Part of the money realised as a runs-girl are used in revitalising the body, in which I go to the hospital once in a month to examine myself.

Other risks are that the women could be physically harmed. This is particularly true if the clients choose not to pay an agreed amount.

Their education could also suffer as they may choose to engage in “runs” rather than go to class.

Action needed

Getting the government or even universities to take action will prove difficult because our evidence suggests that policy makers, politicians and the business class are involved, as aristos.

Nevertheless, given the risks associated, something ought to be done.

One possible solution might be to establish part-time jobs for vulnerable students, and to institute courses about running businesses so that young women can earn money independently.

In addition, institutions should put together and roll out communications campaigns that teach young people about the implications of transactional sex.

Using Libya to understand the failed coup in Venezuela

To understand what makes a coup succeed, as recently happened in Sudan and Algeria, or fail, as it did this week in Venezuela, it helps to consider the strange events in Libya a half-century ago.

Protesters in Istanbul in 2016. When rogue officers tried to oust Turkey’s government, political support never materialized. Credit Gurcan Ozturk/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For much of 1969, the country was filled with rumors of an imminent coup. In September, a handful of military vehicles rolled up to government offices and communication centers, and a terse statement announced the end of Libya’s decrepit monarchy.

Army units around the country, assuming that military chiefs were leading the coup and expecting them to show up at any moment, bloodlessly secured the rest of Libya. Foreign powers quickly recognized the new government. Nobody bothered to check who was leading the takeover.

A week later, an unknown 27-year-old army signal corps lieutenant announced that he and a few dozen low-level officers had in fact staged the coup. His name was Muammar el-Qaddafi.

If Libyans felt tricked, it was too late. Dislodging the officers would require a critical mass of Libya’s power brokers, citizens and foreign allies to come together against the new rulers, something they hadn’t managed even against the unpopular monarchy.

Mr. el-Qaddafi held power for 42 years.

This week in Venezuela, the opposition leader Juan Guaidó struggled to create that sense of inevitability for his plan to oust the president, Nicolás Maduro, but the military backing he called for never emerged.

Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, trying to rally the military to rise up against the government. Credit Fernando Llano/Associated Press

His failure, alongside the success of recent movements to oust unpopular leaders in Algeria and Sudan, underscores the dynamics that typically make a coup succeed or fail. A historic lull in coups and revolutions appears to be ending, making these dynamics increasingly consequential well beyond Venezuela.

Confidence Games

We tend to think of coups as driven by angry protesters or rogue officers. But, in practice, they are almost always brought about by the country’s dominant political, military and business elite.

Those power brokers, after all, have the final say over whether a leader stays or goes. But they can only remove a leader if they act together — making any coup what Naunihal Singh, a leader scholar of coups, called a “coordination game.”

In Libya, Mr. el-Qaddafi was able to set off the political equivalent of a bank run, with much of Libya joining his takeover, because the government’s fall was widely assumed as imminent.

That sense of inevitability meant that each Libyan official assumed that the coup would succeed and that the new government would have wide backing, so they better go along.

Mr. Guaidó has been trying to cultivate a similar sense of consensus and inevitability among Venezuela’s power brokers.

Some of Mr. Guaidó’s failures have been tactical, such as issuing his call to action on Twitter, Mr. Singh said. Coup leaders traditionally favor national TV and radio stations because seizing them is a way to convince the country that they have already taken control.

Mr. Guaidó has also called on military leaders to join him, drawing attention to his lack of support.

“You don’t say ‘We can win if only we have your support.’ What you say is ‘We’ve already won,’” Mr. Singh said. “By making it seem like you’ve already succeeded, you get the support necessary to succeed.”

There is a deeper issue that has stalled attempts at removing Mr. Maduro: Venezuela’s power brokers, like its citizens and the wider international community, are deeply split.

Even if each individual political or business elite might be better off with Mr. Maduro gone, they cannot coordinate to create the necessary sense of inevitability. But many are receptive enough that the threat of a coup hangs over Venezuela.

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi in Tripoli in 2011. Credit Moises Saman for The New York Times

It took 12 hours for Mr. Maduro to appear on TV announcing he was still in power — an ominously long delay.

Initiating a coup without that critical mass of elite support can be dangerous. When rogue officers tried to oust Turkey’s government in 2016, they appeared to signal for political support that never materialized. The attempt, and the government’s response, ended with dozens killed and the plotters in jail.

Demonstrating Inevitability

Turkey’s debacle underscored that a coup is less a military operation than a collective action problem.

The elites who determine a coup’s outcome are typically too numerous and dispersed to communicate directly. And they are risk-averse. The coup leaders’ task is to persuade each elite that all the others will join in, spurring them to move in unison.

This often means marshaling protesters and foreign governments to the cause, creating the appearance of consensus.

That is why Venezuela’s power struggle is partly playing out over a seemingly technical issue: Mr. Guaidó’s claim to be the legitimate president.

A leader’s legitimacy works like modern currencies. The paper itself has value only because consumers treat it as having value. Likewise, a leader is legitimate only as long as his country’s citizens and institutions treat him as legitimate.

If enough Venezuelan citizens and institutions are swayed to treat Mr. Maduro as no longer legitimate, then he will cease to be legitimate in practice.

But a critical mass still treat him as legitimate, if only passively. Venezuela itself is a case in point: Even as runaway inflation has rendered its currency near valueless, citizens continue to use it.

Manufacturing Popular Consensus

Mr. Guaidó’s challenge may be that he is trying to solve two problems at once. He is trying to use hints of elite defection from Mr. Maduro’s government to spur a wider popular uprising. And he is trying to use protests to encourage more elite defections.

Those two audiences, in any movement to unseat a government, tend to want mutually exclusive outcomes. Elites typically want to uphold the status quo. Citizens usually want deeper changes: democracy, which threatens elites’ power, and rule of law, which might threaten elites’ income and even their freedom.

In Zimbabwe in 2017, this contradiction became apparent only after elites complied with protester demands to oust Robert Mugabe, the longtime leader. Rather than delivering democracy, they installed another insider.

The protests most likely provided the necessary spur for Zimbabwe’s elites to coordinate in removing Mr.

Mugabe. Still, they put their own interests first, using the protests as an excuse to switch out an unreliable old leader for a new one. The coup may have been a success for Zimbabwe’s elites, but arguably not for its citizens.

Former President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe at his residence in Harare last year. Elites who backed his ouster installed another insider. Credit Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

Protesters in Algeria and Sudan, after successfully pushing for the ouster of their own aging despots, are watching for a similar bait-and-switch.

Both coups were textbook cases: Powerful and tightly unified elites, who would have coordinated with relative ease, seized on protests to remove a weak and unpopular leader.

The odds of a coup leading to democracy are slim. Since World War II, democracy followed only one in four instances in which a dictator was removed from office.

Even when coup leaders begin a real transition to democracy, they will often ensure that the elite’s privileges and rights remain in place, all but guaranteeing that full democracy cannot take hold until the old elite quite literally die out.

Still, for citizens in countries without meaningful elections, protests calling on their elite to remove the leader by force might be the only plausible way to force change.

Amy Erica Smith, an Iowa State University political scientist, wrote for the website Vox that conditions in Venezuela heighten odds of a coup leading to democracy, citing “a discredited authoritarian regime; a history of citizen-led resistance against the regime; an alliance between democratic politicians and the military; a history of partisan electoral competition.”

Still, the same conditions that have made Mr. Maduro’s government unusually resistant to coup attempts — a divided elite and population, deep corruption in the military, a deadlock among foreign powers — could make establishing democracy difficult.

“History is littered with cases of military-supported transitions of power,” Ms. Smith wrote, “that are supposed to lead to elections and democracy … and don’t.”


The Interpreter is a column by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub exploring the ideas and context behind major world events. Follow them on Twitter @Max_Fisher and @amandataub.

Amanda Taub contributed reporting.

The successful entrepreneurship formula working for Nigeria

By Okoro Samuel


Over the years,the amount of business visionaries in Nigeria has grown endlessly to an extremely decent number.

Truly! It will baffle and irritating once payment four – about six years inside the tertiary institution (contingent upon their determination of career),and not verify a better than average occupation.

Subsequent to moving on from the tertiary foundation, serving your father land with all enthusiasm and satisfaction, and you wrap up not getting the salaried activity you since quite a while ago wanted for.

One can consider American express that there’s a need for the adolescents and person’s to go into enterprise to make openings for work for themselves, to downsize the speed of state and furthermore sway lives totally.

Moreover, there’s furthermore need for those that don’t understand satisfaction inside the nine – five employment to wander into one thing they extravagant doing to make the more drawn out term they need at any point wished.

The thought or the psychological frame of mind behind beginning one’s business is named ENTREPRENEURSHIP. The overall population relapse from enterprise because of they either extravagant remaining in their temperature of being paid month to month, no extra cash-flow to startup a business or they’re not set up for the strain concerned.

In any case, the overall population neglect to appreciate that one doesn’t get the opportunity to have most to startup a business. A large portion of the universal firms we tend to see around began with pretty much nothing, additional time the intensity and furthermore the drive drove them more to the present tallness they’re as of now.

An entrepreneur could be one that sets up a business or organizations, going for broke inside the expectation of benefit though. Entrepreneurship is the ability and disposition to create, sort out and deal with a business adventure nearby any of its dangers in order to make a benefit.

The number of entrepreneurs in Nigeria are quite higher than entrepreneurs in other parts of Africa. Considering the economic push in Nigeria , youths are out to make a difference for themselves.  Seeing the hustle and industrious spirit in Nigerians, most willing hands has placed it upon their selves to empower this youth to bring their desired innovations to life.

Programs Empowering Youths Include:

  • The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program
  • Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI).
  • Youth Empowerment Nigeria (YEN)  and the host of many other programs.

Challenges Entrepreneurs Face.

Most entrepreneurs face the challenge of sorting for investors and funding. This challenge has hindered most business owners thereby holding their business back. Most times, the problem of sorting investors can be related to the entrepreneur himself simply because they haven’t pitched their ideal to potential clients. They have to learn how to position themselves and business in order to draw massive investors to their business.

Entrepreneurship has benefits ranging from

  1. Opportunity To Own Your Business
  2. Deliver Your Full Potentials
  3. It Gives you Room To Pursue your Interests
  4. It gives you the opportunity to solve Problems And Make A Difference In The Process
  5. It Gives Room to Create Your Future

Examiners’ have come to understand that business visionaries are the foundation of present day economies. It is their significant commitments that assistance society develop all in all. One reason the United States is such a dynamic, creative, and prosperous country is a result of the various business people that take their plans to the following dimension paying little mind to the dangers included.

Business visionaries make occupations and enhance and develop the economy.

The imagination and effect of U.S. Business visionaries was obviously recognized in president Obama’s 2010 condition of the country address; he expressed:

“Presently, the genuine motor of employment creation in this nation will dependably be America’s organizations. Be that as it may, government can make more specialists. We should begin where most employments do. In independent companies, organizations that start when a business visionary takes a risk on a fantasy, or a specialist chooses his time, he turned into his own manager. Through sheer coarseness assurance, these organizations have endured the subsidence and they’re prepared to develop.” Obama

The a great many little and medium estimated firms begun by Entrepreneurs give the advancements and make occupations natural for monetary development and improvement.

Numerous products and ventures we underestimate were presented by business people: Telephone, the car, the plane, cooling, the PC and going with programming, were altogether designed by them.

As indicated by Schumpeter (1975) capital and yield development in an economy depends essentially on the business visionary. The nature of execution of the business visionary decides if capital develops quickly or gradually, and whether the development includes advancement where new items and creation strategies are created.

The distinction in monetary development rates of nations is to a great extent because of the nature of their business people. Elements of creation, land, work and capital, will lie torpid or become inactive without the business visionary who composes them for profitable endeavors. The business visionary is, along these lines, a significant specialist of development, advancement and specialized advancement.

China’s hazardous monetary development in the course of recent years is expected to a great extent to evacuating proprietorship, bureaucratic, and money related points of confinement on the pioneering drive of the Chinese individuals. At the core of other quickly developing economies, for example, India and Brazil are various Small and Medium scale fabricating, retail, IT, specialized, and monetary firms.

In the United States, the world ‘s greatest economy, 75% of the 16 million organizations are kept running as sole ownership (entrepreneur.com). The U.S. Independent company Administration perceives that ‘private company is basic to our financial recuperation and quality, to building America’s future, and to helping the US contend in the present worldwide commercial center.

In many creating nations, including Nigeria, little and medium undertakings keep running as indicated by the dreams, gifts, openings and assets of business people and are known to realize work creation, give employments to ladies and youth, spread the profits of financial improvement, help create rustic territories, assemble residential reserve funds for speculation, teach new aptitudes and inject new innovation, and add to social and political security.

As Nigeria seeks after different monetary improvement plans including the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), the thousand years Development Strategy Vision 2020, a center piece of the national technique must be to develop and fortify the dynamic components of the MSMEs, to a great extent casual, business part.

As a country Nigeria, and Africa all in all, must not bear the cost of not to put resources into MSMEs. Their financial future relies upon it. The remarks and approach duties of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda ought to be noted. He has announced “Business enterprise is the surest way” for Rwanda and Africa to create. Kagame lets us know:

In the old Rwanda, everybody searched for an occupation in government due to the advantages and the security. Be that as it may, these days they are imagining that the private division holds the guarantee of a superior life for their families and themselves.

Lion’s share of African nations need to work under befuddling guidelines and approaches that are always showing signs of change. Import guidelines specifically are incredibly exacting in numerous territories and this makes it extremely hard to take part in significant worldwide exchange and raises costs. The irregularity is likewise viewed as unsafe for merchants and makes some modest off out and out.

Aside from the information concerning Nigeria that is in this way far reaching and inconsistently negative, there is by all accounts an acknowledgment of the significant job and spot of innovation inside the improvement and progression of the state. inside the previous couple of years, there are the new businesses of net bistros, new net Service providers, PCs in certain resources, and property center points that offer access to information at high speeds. The Nigerian government has made and embraced approaches advancing the work of innovation in training. The Nigerian approach 1999-2003, could be a far reaching abridgment of President Obasanjo’s strategies and core values for the state. The strategy states: “Government can give sensible quality training for all Nigerians, the Universal Basic Education and mass Adult achievement programs will be sought after decisively” and especially, “Government can deliver motivators to extend access to information and designing which can encourage jump froging in order to hamper longer range of improvement.” The approach even prescribes associations with national and worldwide offices together with the global association Transfer of information through Expatriate Nationals program or TOKTEN in light of the fact that usually noted.

Be that as it may, a significant qualification among developed and developing countries commonly exists in the wide disparity between approach declarations and arrangement usage. Regularly, indications of this imbalance territory unit found inside the degree that approaches zone unit clear and quantifiable which application is steady. commonly developing countries embrace radiant approaches and pointers that may, if very much authorized, change the fates of their voters anyway unfortunately, they’re on a regular basis not finished. In the event that Nigeria finishes its new laws directing training and innovation with activity and usage, and furthermore the people of Nigeria accomplish their scholastic objectives and gifted potential with the devices realistic to the globe.

Entrepreneurship is the key to an innovative society. Let’s brace up and take up Entrepreneurship in order to build sustainable development in Africa and Nigeria.


Okoro Samuel is a Business Strategist, sales expert, an entrepreneur, writer, and a blogger. He coach entrepreneurs on how to grow and become outstanding competitors in business. 

Some unfinished businesses to note as South Africa freedom day approaches

South Africans celebrate Freedom Day on April 27 every year to mark the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. A quarter of a century later, though, questions remain: how much and whose freedom is to be celebrated?

The differing answers among voters might affect the results of the national elections on May 8.

South Africans can still not celebrate freedom from want. They are painfully aware that one cannot eat democracy. Formal political equality is rightly celebrated as an achievement by those who suffered under dictatorship, minority rule and other forms of oppressive regimes that denied them basic rights. But democracy doesn’t put food on the table. Nor does it provide decent shelter or secure a dignified living.

Former US President Franklin D.

Roosevelt’s famous 1941 speech to Congress identified four freedoms: those of speech, of worship, from want and from fear.

Freedom from want, [as he explained], means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

Acutely aware of this, the drafters of the Freedom Charter – which was adopted in 1955 by the African National Congress (ANC) that now governs South Africa, among other anti-apartheid activists – included far more than just political freedoms. It also has the sharing of the country’s wealth among all people as a fundamental principle.

But these ideals, still considered a basic blueprint for the country, have – to a large extent – remained remote goals.

The South African Constitution is among the very few to recognise socio-economic rights as human rights – including the right to food, health care, shelter, water and education. But there is a huge gap between setting norms and implementing them.

Today, South Africa is one of the most consistently unequal countries in the world. More than half the population lives in poverty, while a staggering 27% of people are unemployed.

According to Eunomix, which advises some of the biggest mining companies in the country, the past 12 years saw the country suffer more declines in its socio-economic and governance performance than any other nation that’s not at war.

This is thanks largely to worsening corruption and policy paralysis during former President Jacob Zuma’s nine years in office. And, things are not about to get any better soon.

The country’s Reserve Bank has painted a gloomy picture of the country’s prospects for growth. This is thanks to rampant corruption, whose effects have been acutely felt at Eskom, the electricity utility, crippling the country’s power supply and hobbling economic growth.

Discontent and disruption

Freedom Day should be a forceful reminder of the democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution. These include the right to free speech and to protest, basic human rights which were suppressed under centuries of colonial and apartheid rule.

The problem is that South Africa’s political culture today does not live up to the ideal the Constitution enshrines. There is a massive gap between declared norms and actual realities.

For example, in early April protesters from Alexandra township, one of Johannesburg’s poorest black settlements, were prevented by police from marching to Sandton, the adjacent, affluent suburb. In the same week rogue elements of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League disrupted a book launch in the posh suburb. They tore up copies of a book by an investigative journalist exposing the network of corruption allegedly overseen by the governing party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule, while he was the premier of the Free State.

The Youth League was later forced to abandon plans for a public burning of the book after the ANC intervened. The party implored its members to

protect the values and reputation of the ANC, by practising political tolerance and defending the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Such noble words, however, only point to the governing party’s inability to walk the talk. For example, when the ANC’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte was confronted with questions she did not like from a journalist who works for eNCA, an independent TV station. The question was about the party’s controversial proposed list of MPs. Duarte attacked the reporter, fuming you don’t even have a right to exist as a TV station in this country.

Much more to do

On Freedom Day, South Africans might or should celebrate the fact that they have covered some distance on the road to freedom. But it will remain a long and winding road. As Raymond Suttner, an ANC liberation struggle hero who spent years in solitary confinement, says

even though elections with all people entitled to vote for the first time was a massive victory, freedom is never finally realised. … It needs to be seen as a concept with an indefinite scope and meaning.

Where there is no fight for it, there is no freedom. The end of minority regimes does not equate freedom. Liberation movements as governments are no guarantee of good governance ensuring equal rights and benefits for all.

New regimes often just create space for privileges to a new elite in cohorts with earlier vested interests.

They do not live up to the promises made to the ordinary people. Rather, they disclose the limits to liberation.

The old slogan that the struggle continues – a luta continua – is as valid today as it was during the struggle for liberation. The difference is that others now have to carry the torch.

Maybe Freedom Day can serve as a reminder of such unfinished business.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton sees China as a threat to Washington in Africa.

Why is Africa still so important to the US

By Maria Ryan


US National Security Advisor John Bolton sees China as a threat to Washington in Africa.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton sees China as a threat to Washington in Africa. John Bolton is pictured. | AP Photo/Politico

In December last year the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, in which he outlined the Trump administration’s new Africa strategy. According to Bolton, the US now faces “great power competitors” – namely Russia and China. In his view [they both]

are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa… to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.

Bolton’s portrayal of great power competition sounded like the Cold War era when the US and the communist powers, led by the Soviet Union, fought for influence over the new states emerging from colonialism across sub Saharan Africa.

At the end of the Cold War, the US withdrew almost completely from Africa. In the 1990s, Washington distanced itself from an area of the world in which it no longer saw any vital interests.

But in the 21st century there has been a significant turnaround in US policy. What’s emerged is a return to seeing sub-Saharan Africa as a site of US geopolitical and commercial interests.

This reversal is based on three factors. The first is the increasing significance of new African oil supplies. The second is the alleged presence of terrorists in the “large uncontrolled, ungoverned areas” of sub-Saharan Africa. And the third is the emergence of middle class African consumers as a potential new market for US exports.

Oil

Under George W. Bush, the US recognised that African oil from the Gulf of Guinea had become an “important factor in determining conditions in the oil market.”

Africa was also home to

a number of frontier oil provinces that may become hot exploration areas during the coming decade.

These included São Tomé and Principe, Gambia, Liberia, Togo, Benin and Niger.

Washington launched a programme to improve transparency in the oil sectors of the major African producers to make these countries

better hosts to the very large investments needed to develop energy resources and make more reliable contributions to our own energy security.

Energy security considerations led to more US military activity in the Gulf of Guinea. In 2004, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Charles Snyder, called  for a West African coastal security programme because

a lot of this new oil is actually offshore. There is no one to protect it, unless we build up African coastal fleets.

This led to the launch of the US Navy’s Africa Partnership Station in 2007 to help Gulf of Guinea states secure the region from security threats at sea.

The focus on energy security continued through the Obama years. The Obama administration established Operation Obangame Express, and the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership to train Gulf of Guinea nations to protect offshore energy.

Both have been continued under the Trump administration.

Counter-terrorism

The terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001 resulted in a new counter-terrorism dimension to US security strategy in sub-Saharan Africa. The region began to be viewed as part of an “arc of instability” stretching from Latin America, through Africa and the Middle East and extending through Asia. Its “ungoverned space and under-governed territories” might provide “sanctuary to terrorists.”

To prevent this, the Bush and Obama administrations established a series of programmes designed to strengthen border security and build internal security. A number of initiatives were launched in a bid to build security capacity in African states thought, by Washington, to be vulnerable to penetration by terrorists.

These included (to name but a few), the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (2002-present), the Partnership for Regional East African Counterterrorism (2009-present) and the Counter-terrorism Partnerships Funding (2014-present).

The expanding US military presence in Africa was symbolised by the establishment in 2007 of a new US military command structure, Africa Command(AFRICOM). It took charge of all US military activity on the continent, including the bombing of Somalia.

Commercial drivers

Finally, US interest in Africa has been driven in recent years by commercial considerations. In April 2012, the Assistant US Trade Representative, Florizelle Liser, told Congress that sub-Saharan Africa contained

many of the fastest growing economies in the world with rapidly growing middle class consumers

who were “increasingly demanding high quality US products.”

One result was a law passed in 2012 that sought to increase American Jobs through greater exports to Africa.

Commercial opportunities in Africa were also at the heart of the first ever US-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. This saw the launch of the Doing Business in Africa campaign.

What now

The Trump administration’s expansion of the bombing of Somalia, its continuation of Bush and Obama era counterterrorism programmes, and its own new strategy for Africa suggest that policymakers continue to view the continent through a geopolitical lens.

The particular twist put on this by Trump is his emphasis on the competition the US faces from China – but this is hard to imagine given that China has just one military base in Africa.

But the Trump administration must learn from mistakes made in the recent past by Bush and Obama. This includes the negative impact US action has had in some instances. Take its support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 and for the subsequent Ethiopian-led occupation force. These actions contributed to the development of Al Shabaab, the extreme Islamist group that merged with Al Qaeda in 2012 and began to conduct attacks in other countries.

report by the US Senate concluded that:

Al Qaeda is now a more sophisticated and dangerous organization in Africa… [It]s foothold in Somalia has probably been facilitated by the involvement of Western powers and their allies.

It is likely that US air strikes in Somalia “have only increased popular support for Al-Shabaab.”

More broadly, Washington’s internal security and capacity building initiatives have not worked. If anything, terrorism in Africa has worsenedwith the emergence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

US policymakers need to think again about whether a security agenda based on US priorities and choices will always solve the problems sub-Saharan African states face.


Maria Ryan has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The rise and rise of sports betting in Nigeria: the seen future

By Onyemachukwu Precious Nkechi

Sports Betting are now Siamese twins for many Nigerians. Sports betting are referred to as any activity of predicting sporting result and placing a wager on its outcome, with the hope of winning a prize. Sports betting can be traced back to the pastimes of the Greeks. It is the oldest known form of gambling on the planet.

Sports betting in Nigeria have become legal in the thirty- six states and Abuja. As a nation, Nigeria is betting up to five billion naira per day, according to Ademola Adebaji, the head of one of the largest football betting services provider operating in Nigeria. The growth of sports betting in Nigeria is at an increasing rate of 2.5 % every year. The companies operating the business of sport betting in Nigeria are expected to obtain a sport lottery permit from the regulatory body in Nigeria known as the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC). The operators are expected to confine their business to the boundaries of sporting activities.

Nowadays, students, young and upwardly mobile men and women dominate the customers of sports betting shops in Nigeria. Some of the most popular betting companies in Nigeria include Nairabet ( the first online sport betting website in Nigeria), Surebet 247, Bet365naija, Bet9ja, 1960 bet, 360 bets, 9ja Predict, and Winners Golden Bet.

These companies offer sports betting, virtual dog racing, virtual football league and virtual horse racing. The sports they have available to bet on include football, Aussie rules, darts, baseball, basketball, Beach volleyball, bowl, boxing, cricket, cycling, ice hockey, tennis, handball, volleyball.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), quoted by http://www.narialand.com, said that” 60 millions Nigeria between the ages of 18 and 40 years of age place bet of more than on one billion naria daily on sports betting”. The report also revealed that ” a betting company can generated up to twenty million naria and use between five million naira and seven million naira to meet winner obligations in terms of payment “.

There are three types of sports betting and they include  betting shops, online betting sites and offshore or international betting sites. Many Nigerians finds it easy to place a bet because of the invention of Smartphone and internet. Instead of trekking to a distance, they can do it at their own convenience because of the presence of online betting sites and the bets are reduced to as low as fifty naria to place a bet thereby increasing their customers.

Speaking on the growth of sport betting in Nigeria, some betting agents spoke anonymously and revealed to Bloomgist on why the business of sports betting will stay for a long time in Nigeria without losing interest.

“I have been in the business for more than five years now and I can say that the business is profitable. As long that there is sports, there is a match to bet and it is a game of chance. I place a bet for fun and have won money in return and I can tell you that sports betting is growing as fast as ever and also sport betting provide employment opportunities as every year they bring in new features and benefits”, while the second agent operating in that area, said that “I have been in this business for 3 years and I can say that it is very profitable as I have many customers in a day. Sport betting has helped with my finances as I sometimes win money when I place a bet. Sports betting will continue to growing unless they stop football”.

Sports betting are growing at an alarming rate; the amount used to bet is now easily affordable for school children as you place a bet of fifty naira and could win ten thousand.  Also the money attached to winning as some people believe that they can hit it big and win a million, so they continue to play even if luck doesn’t favour them with the hope that one day will be for them. And others who won money will like to play again to win more money. Sports, Sports betting and good rewards works hand to hand.

The future of sports betting in Nigeria is standing strong as there are laws that strongly support it. As long as more people divert into sport of various kinds, there will be a bet to place. Sports betting will no longer be a thing of the past, it will grow faster than we can ever imagine and more people of this country will become a customer to those betting companies. Sport betting in the future will be a game of addiction. Modern sports betting will become very popular.

It is going to be worse than drugs or crime as more people can bet out their entire savings or life to play. Companies that offer sports betting will grow faster than our industries and they will be making more money. There will be employment opportunities for those youth who wants to work as an agent of any sports betting companies. Other online betting sites will be created because the offline sites are not enough to satisfy customers demand.  Sports betting in the future will be made very easy because you can be able to bet at the time convenient for you.

In conclusion, sport betting is now the highest form of gambling as it is played by both the rich and the poor. Sports betting centers have now become the home of some people, they will be there analyzing what match to bet on, whom to support, what will be the outcome and the rewards for my wins. If sport betting has no control, it will drastically reduce the developing minds of our youths thereby reducing economic development. Sport betting is at the top list of the greatest enemy that Nigeria needs to face and defeat.

The deadly implications of illegal gold mining in South Africa

On the outskirts of Durban Deep, an abandoned mining town with a labyrinth of underground tunnels long since abandoned by the big gold companies, Elizabeth goes rhythmically about her work.

Grinding piles of rough stones into white, gold-flecked silt on a large concrete slab, the 40-year-old is one of the ghostly dust-covered zama zamas – artisanal miners, mostly illegal – who have turned to scavenging in disused gold and diamond mines across South Africa.

It can be deadly work: more than 24 people died when an abandoned gold mine flooded in neighbouring Zimbabwe in January this year.

Nonetheless, Elizabeth is one of a growing number of women driven into this dangerous world, earning less than £10 a day for crushing up to 20kg of rock retrieved from Johannesburg’s disused mineshafts. The threat of sexual violence is all too common.

“This work is very hard. It’s not a good job,” says Elizabeth, showing her calloused palms. “But in Zimbabwe things are worse, so we have no choice. Now there are more women than before coming to South Africa from Zimbabwe to do this.”

Together with her husband and one of their four children, she came here from Harare in 2015 to search for work. But South Africa has an unemployment rate of 27% and opportunities are scant.

Elizabeth crushes small stones into white, gold-flecked silt. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

Elizabeth crushes small stones into white, gold-flecked silt. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

According to a 2015 report by the South African Human Rights Commission, the country’s burgeoning illicit gold trade has been fuelled by the formal mining industry’s collapse combined with the failure of the ruling African National Congress to regulate the informal mining sector. Political and economic turmoil in a number of neighbouring countries has only compounded the problem.

The report estimated 30,000 illegal miners were operating across South Africa; about 75% are believed to be undocumented migrants, primarily from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. Hundreds have died due to collapsing mine shafts, gas explosions and turf wars between the criminal syndicates that have seized control of the illegal industry.

On Johannesburg’s outskirts, cut off from support networks and services, women are bearing the brunt of the violence and lawlessness associated with illicit mining.

“Mining is innately male-dominated,” says Kgothatso Nhlengethwa, a Johannesburg-based geologist and researcher on informal mining.

Nhlengethwa says there is a dearth of research on the precarious role of migrant women and the risks and challenges that they face in an industry worth almost £400m a year.

Gang-rape and other forms of sexual violence are common, says Elizabeth. “A lot of women are being raped,” she says. “You hear stories about what happens to them when they go home.”

In December a small group of women marched on the local police station, carrying placards bearing the slogan: “Sick and tired of rape” and demanding greater police protection for the 800-strong community at Durban Deep. Others, though, are simply too afraid to approach the authorities.

Alan Martin, a researcher with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, says women have “little negotiating power” with the criminal syndicates in terms of their wages or ability to choose “where to work and what kind of work they do”.

Martin says the same applies when they are “shaken down for bribes” by notoriously corrupt police.

Women are frequently coerced into exchanging sexual favours with men, who earn considerably more, in return for a better cut of the takings.

Health is also at risk. “They are crushing a type of rock that is silica based,” Nhlengethwa says. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease that has claimed the lives of thousands of mine workers since the 1960s.

Monica, a 33-year-old Malawian, has been crushing in Durban Deep since she arrived in 2016, working in a small clearing near the mine’s crumbling former staff houses.

“When you are crushing, you often get sick,” she says, fine dust clinging to her skin and clothes as she works. Sometimes, she makes as little as £3 for a full day’s toil.

“It’s small money,” says Monica. “It’s not enough to put food on the table.”

People queue for food parcels at an animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep, Johannesburg. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

People queue for food parcels at an animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep, Johannesburg. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

On an overcast Saturday morning, a queue of women and small children forms in the car park of the Claw animal welfare clinic, a longstanding institution in Durban Deep. A scheme, run in tandem with the Johannesburg branch of Food Not Bombs, provides free hot meals every Saturday.

“There are at least 80 to 100 women coming every week for food,” says Lara Reddy, Food Not Bombs’ coordinator. “Sometimes it’s much more than that. There’s so much need.”

Claw was founded by Cora Bailey, who has witnessed the steady deterioration of Durban Deep since it ceased formal operations in 2001. Gangs, murders and rape have become commonplace in the sprawling surrounding informal settlements, with the violence so widespread that Bailey claims almost every child here will have witnessed rape or domestic abuse.

With the vast majority of people in the area living off the proceeds of illicit mining, fear of arrest or deportation prevents many women from going to the police or seeking help at overstretched local medical clinics.

“Many of them are undocumented, and there’s a lot of xenophobia towards them,” Bailey says.

Jessica, 30, first moved from the small Zimbabwean town of Lupane to Matholesville, a ramshackle informal settlement about 2km west of Durban Deep, in 2016.

After briefly returning home last year, she returned to Durban Deep in February, pushed by Zimbabwe’s spiralling economic crisis.

“It’s hard to find jobs in South Africa,” says Jessica as she makes her way to work on a busy crushing site behind densely packed rows of corrugated zinc shacks. “This is the only job that I can do because there are no requirements – no passport or ID necessary. All that’s required is my strength.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Nigeria don’t have enough universities to take in all it’s intending students, but the government don’t care

By Chiamaka Kaima


Education is, around the world one of the first and basic right of everyone, but here in Nigeria, it has been abused by both the Governments and People.

During one of the Tours to the Adekunle Ajosin University in Akungba Akoko, Ondo state. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun identified Poor Funding as a major threat to achieving a Functional Education in Nigeria. He said, Poor funding of Nigeria’s Education Sector causes Setbacks for its inherent ability to compete globally even with the inferior countries to Nigeria.

In Nigeria, to enhance good Education and stop the yearly increase of Admission-seekers [from getting] out of Hand[, the] Education Sector should be given lots of attention because it gives room for the country’s development ,but unfortunately, the quality and standard of Education in Nigeria is poor because it has not been paid adequate attention to.

And due to these lack of attention, it has caused lots of Problems that the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) has [revealed] how the number of admission-seekers increases yearly but only 75% are granted admission with only 20% being admitted to Public Universities, while 55% into other sectors of Education in Nigeria like the Private Universities or Polytechnics.

And this is are drastical elements that needs to be changed. Below are the causes;

Poor Funding

The foremost and greatest challenge that triggers this is Inadequate Funding by the Federal, State and Local Government.

In the year 2017, it was recorded that the budget bill allocated to the Nigeria’s Education sector was 26% much lower than the National budget recommended by the United Nations.

The Global organization recommended the budgetary benchmark to enable Nations adequately cater for rising Education demands.

But in the proposal represented to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari allocated only 7.04% of the 8.6 trillion budget to the Education.
 The total sum allocated to the sector was 605.8 billion, with 435.1 billion for Recurrent Expenditure, 61.73 billion for Capital Expenditure and 109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission. Even though, it hasn’t reduced the rise of Education yet but has yearly increased the number of Applicants to Universities.

Corruption

This is another Major problem in the Country that has also affected the Educational Sector?

There are multiple stories of how lecturers collects bribes from students in exchange for grades, some even go to the extent of harassing their female students to sleep with them. Even some university administrators demands money from students to have their Exam results compiled and submitted to the (required) National Youth Service Corps.

 Also, funds meant for paying salaries and maintenance of school facilities and so on are being diverted for personal use and mismanaged.

And these acts can cause schools to embark on strikes or riots which will not only ruin the School reputation.

Politicization of Education

The Governments at all levels, especially at the State level, attempts to run many Institutions even when they’re least prepared to do such, which thereby cause a general fall in the Standard of the initially existing ones and the available budget insufficient to cater for their needs.

In addition, State Governments gives accreditation to Schools that they fully know are not well equipped for Teaching, all in a bid to generate more revenue for themselves.

Unwillingness to study Education in Schools

Due to how Courses are being scrapped out and parents advising their children/ward to go for courses that pays much in jobs than those that gives adequate time but pays less.

In 2015, it was recorded by the Educational Board, that out of more than 1,700,000 applications submitted, only 5% applied for Courses in Education.

 To that resul,most Graduate Teachers aren’t professional and inadequately exposed to Teaching Practices which has made Learning in schools in-conducive and generated the love of doing things for money and not for passion or will.

But to solve these problems, it all has to begin with the Governments and not the Citizens because they have the powers to punish any defaulters.

Solutions

Provision of Conducive Environment to enhance Active Learning: It’s not all about teaching on Theory but also with other Teaching aids like practices, interactive sessions and Computers to exposed the students to more digitalized ways of learning and prepare them to be able to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world. When these are provided, it gives each student the room to be well prepared for what they want and get it at their disposal anywhere, anytime.

Giving Power to those who actually knows What they’re to do and not to those who are there for the Money:To govern the Educational Board, the Government needs to Employ one who has both the Intellectual Skills not to rule alone but to apply Good measures and build up the Sector in a Striking way that will not only develop the Students but also the Country.

Contributions of Financial Funds both from the Private and Public sectors to Universities.

•There should be a Career Counselling where the Youths are been advised about Courses and similar courses when not given the first: This is a very delicate issue that should be looked into.

The Federal Government can enforce career counseling in all schools especially in secondary schools both the juniors and Seniors to avoid large numbers desiring to study one course that has Several alternatives which hinders the progress of the Economy.

 And if these solutions and many more are being implemented, it’ll give Nigeria a greater chance of competing with their counterparts from other parts of the world.


About the author.

Chiamaka Kaima is a young prospective writer with good writing skill that cuts across, education, lifestyle and living. She writes for The Bloomgist through our Academic Writers Forum “Column 60

Improvement in sub-Saharan Africa housing but millions of people still live in slums

Study identifies major transformation in quality of living conditions, but governments urged to improve urban sanitation

From cities to the countryside, Africa has undergone a dramatic transformation in living conditions over the past 15 years, according to a new study.

But the research, based on state of the art mapping and published in science journal Nature, also found that almost half of the the urban population – 53 million people across the countries analysed – were living in slum conditions.

Led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study offers the first detailed estimate of housing quality in sub-Saharan Africa.

Using the most recent data available from 31 countries, researchers found housing had improved across several measures over a 15-year period. Sufficient living area, improved water and sanitation and the durability of construction were found across 23% of houses in 2015, up from 11% in 2000.

The study’s senior author, Dr Samir Bhatt from Imperial College London, said: “Our study demonstrates that people are widely investing in their homes, but there is also an urgent need for governments to help improve water and sanitation infrastructure.

“We saw a doubling in the number of people living in an improved house. This parallels the success stories we are seeing in terms of Africa’s development. It is supported by a wide variety of other studies that show that when people get sufficient income, one of the things they do is invest in their homes.”

Bhatt said the improvement will have a “huge impact” on people’s health and susceptibility to disease.

“You can give someone a mosquito net with insecticide, but having a window you can close makes a huge difference,” he said.

The study found the need for adequate housing to be “particularly acute” in Africa, since the continent has the fastest growing population in the world, predicted to rise from 1.2 billion people in 2015 to 2.5 billion people by 2050.

The improvement was highest in Botswana, Gabon and Zimbabwe. South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were among countries where progress was less marked.

The researchers found that improved housing may be linked to economic development. Improved housing was 80% more likely among more educated households and twice as likely in the wealthiest households, compared with the least educated and poorest families.

The new data could guide interventions to achieve universal access to safe and affordable housing and to upgrade slums by 2030, one of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Dr Lucy Tusting, who conducted the work while at the malaria atlas project, University of Oxford, said: “Adequate housing is a human right. Remarkable development is occurring across the continent but until now this trend this had not been measured on a large scale.”

The UN definition of a slum household is one that does not protect against extreme weather, has more than three people to a room, lacks access to safe water and adequate sanitation, and has no security of tenure.

The researchers, who examined 600,000 households using an innovative technique that allowed the prevalence of different house types to be mapped across the continent, defined housing as “improved” if it had the first four conditions, but did not look at security of tenure.

More African women are dying through C-section 50 times more than any other place in the world

The in-hospital maternal mortality rate following a Caesarean delivery in Africa may be 50 times higher than in high-income countries. These were the findings of the African Surgical Outcomes Study that followed more than 3500 mothers from 22 African countries during a week of surgery in 2016.

The study found that maternal mortality rate was 5.43 per 1 000 operations, compared to 0.1 per 1000 operations in the UK. And one in six women developed complications following Caesarean delivery, which is nearly three times the rate in the US. Bleeding in the period shortly before, during, and immediately after giving birth, was the most common complication. And it had the highest attributable risk for maternal mortality. 

Although the complication rate was three times that of a high-income country, mortality was 50 times that of a high-income country. This suggests that a lot more complications result in death in Africa. When a complication results in death, this is known as “failure to rescue”. Mothers in Africa appear to be particularly susceptible to it, when compared to high-income countries.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only the mothers who are suffering in Africa. The in-hospital mortality of babies after Caesarean delivery was double that of high-income countries. There were indicators that the risk of subsequent cerebral palsy or epilepsy for the babies who survived Caesarean delivery, are between two and 11 times higher in Africa when compared to a high-income country.

These findings tell a sad story of life in Africa. Many families are incomplete, as a result of either a mother or child who died in childbirth, and for those children who survive a Caesarean delivery, a number of them will have long-term morbidity.

So what can be done to improve this situation? Unfortunately, there will be no “quick-fix”, as this is a complex, multifactorial problem. It speaks to a number of problems that need to addressed in Africa, if we are to improve outcomes for mothers and their children.

Where the problems lie

The first problem is poor access to Caesarean deliveries. In Africa, the Caesarean section rate is too low. There is a minimum threshold of the number of Caesarean sections per population to ensure optimal obstetric care. Most countries in Africa don’t reach this threshold. The result is that many mothers who would benefit from Caesarean section don’t have this option.

Secondly, access to surgical care is limited. This is reflected in the observation that 3 out of 4 mothers presenting for Caesarean deliveries present as emergencies. This may partly reflect the limitations in the current antenatal services available. 

The role of antenatal care is to monitor and identify both mothers and babies at risk. Early identification of those at risk could result in an elective Caesarean section in a more controlled environment. This, in turn, would lead to better outcomes for the mother and the baby.

But it appears that in the current antenatal environment in Africa a number of mothers at risk aren’t identified early enough in the community.

Another contributing factor is that there are limited skilled human resources to provide safe obstetric care in Africa. It’s generally accepted that to provide a safe Caesarean section, at least 20 specialists (obstetricians, surgeons and anaesthetists) are required per 100 000 population. In the African cohort it was found to be <1 specialist per 100 000population.

This creates a stressful and dangerous working environment. The majority of mothers are sick and present as emergencies, yet there is insufficient skilled staff to deal with the workload. 

Finally, it’s clear that mothers are dying predominantly secondary to bleeding around the time of delivery. This may be for many reasons; bleeding may not be identified early enough (both before and after surgery) due to limited human resources (resulting in “failure to rescue”). This could also be due to insufficient resources, such as limited drugs to stop bleeding or limited access to blood products. 

Reason for hope

Is there reason for hope? I believe there is. The African Surgical Outcomes Study network, which produced the study, is a group of over 1000 clinician investigators who now span over 30 African countries. They are committed to improving surgical outcomes in Africa. 

The group is looking towards large pragmatic trials of simple interventions designed to improve outcomes in resource constrained environments. To this end it will be running a large trial across the continent this year that will focus on identifying and managing high-risk patients in the perioperative period with the aim of preventing the progression of complications. The trial hopes to decrease “failure to rescue” in African surgical patients. 

Next year, the group hopes to conduct another large trial across Africa which will aim to decrease maternal bleeding. The hope is that this will also help bring down the numbers of mothers dying at a result of childbirth.

The network aims to extend its footprint into the community to ensure that “at-risk” patients are identified early, and high-risk patients are followed adequately after surgery. Improving maternal and surgical outcomes in Africa certainly demands a large collaborative effort.


Source; The Conversation

Blame media owners for Poor coverage of floods in southern Africa

South African media has been criticised on social media for its initially superficial and underwhelming coverage of the massive floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in the wake of the devastating Tropical Cyclone Idai. Serious news consumers had to rely on foreign news sources instead of local media as the grim picture of the destruction – which included hundreds of deaths, flooding, disease and havoc to resources and infrastructure – started emerging.

In my view the criticism is valid. The coverage of the floods by South African media has been poor. In fact, I’ve hardly seen a local journalist’s face from on the scene coverage.

Based on my experience of newsrooms, plus my research and as former co-ordinator/author of the annual State of the Newsroom report as well as presently co-ordinator of the Job Losses/New Beats project in South Africa – its clear that this is due to the fact that local newsrooms have been depleted of journalists. This, in turn, is because the media companies have not handled the transition to digitisation well.

But are journalists to blame? I would argue that people should scrutinise media companies rather than blame the profession. Those who criticise journalists tend to conflate media companies and the individuals who are the work horses in the newsroom. They are not the same thing.

This is happening all over the world where companies are clumsy in how they are handling the transition to digital. It’s a disaster for democracy because the experience of trained journalists is lost and we have little context in reporting on events such as natural disasters as well as elections. You find that younger journalists don’t have mentors to help them through reporting. Media companies are looking for profits by cutting the experienced journalists salaries and employing those who they can pay less.

What this shows is that traditional media is dying. It is also not fulfilling its mandate to be informative, to provide the facts and serve the public.

What’s gone wrong

Newsrooms have mainly “content producers” who know techy stuff like video uploads and mobile journalism. Podcasts are good, but even there you need journalists who can ask the pertinent questions and do good intros and angles with context.

Editors are increasingly demanding that journalists stay indoors in the newsrooms so that they can do desk work to fill pages with content rather than to travel out on a breaking story. The main reason cited for this is that there isn’t budget set aside for travel, which would include flights to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi as well as accommodation and food.

Another factor is that newsrooms have turned into “content producers”, made up of people who have technical capabilities such as producing videos and podcasts.

The third factor is that newsrooms have been shrinking at an alarming rate. Conservative estimates in research to be published later this year show that South African newsrooms have shrunk by about half in the past decade. In 2007 there were about 10 000 journalists. Now there are about 5 000.

South Africa fits very much with the developed world global pattern of job losses in the traditional media sector. The losses are mainly in the senior category of journalists (40-60 year olds). In other words, those who are experienced.

The age-old practice of having journalists who are specialists – they write about specific fields such as science and education, also known as beat reporters – have all but disappeared. Other layers that have been removed from newsrooms included those responsible for editing articles and fact checking for accuracy. This explains the spike in mistakes in newspapers as well as online publications.

South African media has been criticised on social media for its initially superficial and underwhelming coverage of the massive floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in the wake of the devastating Tropical Cyclone Idai. Serious news consumers had to rely on foreign news sources instead of local media as the grim picture of the destruction – which included hundreds of deaths, flooding, disease and havoc to resources and infrastructure – started emerging.

In my view the criticism is valid. The coverage of the floods by South African media has been poor. In fact, I’ve hardly seen a local journalist’s face from on the scene coverage.

Based on my experience of newsrooms, plus my research and as former co-ordinator/author of the annual State of the Newsroom report as well as presently co-ordinator of the Job Losses/New Beats project in South Africa – its clear that this is due to the fact that local newsrooms have been depleted of journalists. This, in turn, is because the media companies have not handled the transition to digitisation well.

But are journalists to blame? I would argue that people should scrutinise media companies rather than blame the profession. Those who criticise journalists tend to conflate media companies and the individuals who are the work horses in the newsroom. They are not the same thing.

This is happening all over the world where companies are clumsy in how they are handling the transition to digital. It’s a disaster for democracy because the experience of trained journalists is lost and we have little context in reporting on events such as natural disasters as well as elections. You find that younger journalists don’t have mentors to help them through reporting. Media companies are looking for profits by cutting the experienced journalists salaries and employing those who they can pay less.

What this shows is that traditional media is dying. It is also not fulfilling its mandate to be informative, to provide the facts and serve the public.

What’s gone wrong

Newsrooms have mainly “content producers” who know techy stuff like video uploads and mobile journalism. Podcasts are good, but even there you need journalists who can ask the pertinent questions and do good intros and angles with context.

Editors are increasingly demanding that journalists stay indoors in the newsrooms so that they can do desk work to fill pages with content rather than to travel out on a breaking story. The main reason cited for this is that there isn’t budget set aside for travel, which would include flights to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi as well as accommodation and food.

Another factor is that newsrooms have turned into “content producers”, made up of people who have technical capabilities such as producing videos and podcasts.

The third factor is that newsrooms have been shrinking at an alarming rate. Conservative estimates in research to be published later this year show that South African newsrooms have shrunk by about half in the past decade. In 2007 there were about 10 000 journalists. Now there are about 5 000.

South Africa fits very much with the developed world global pattern of job losses in the traditional media sector. The losses are mainly in the senior category of journalists (40-60 year olds). In other words, those who are experienced.

The age-old practice of having journalists who are specialists – they write about specific fields such as science and education, also known as beat reporters – have all but disappeared. Other layers that have been removed from newsrooms included those responsible for editing articles and fact checking for accuracy. This explains the spike in mistakes in newspapers as well as online publications.

An aerial view shows damage from the flood waters after cyclone Idai made landfall in Sofala Province, Central Mozambique, 21 March 2019. EPA-EFE/Emidio Jozine

The issue of resources is a particularly big challenge when disasters are being covered. For example, it’s also not possible simply to send one person. At the very least a team of two is needed – a camera person or photographer and a journalist. And resources and backup are needed for natural disasters, especially of this scale – and journalists just do not get this support.

The role of social media

Social media is partly filling the gap left by traditional media. But not completely. It’s also an arena for misinformation, malinformation (disinformation with malicious intent) propaganda and general falsehoods.

On top of this there’s a great deal of hatred on social media. The latest and most worrying is cyber misogyny and the trolling and vilification of women, especially women journalists who are prominent, those who speak out and investigate corruption.

There are no checks and verification on social media. Anyone can post anything – unfiltered. Anyone can believe anything. Right wing movements and populism are growing – enabled by social media. Not because of social media but enabled by – these types are able to connect with each other and discuss strategies on how to kill, for example.

It’s contrary to what we all thought 10 years ago, that social media would act as the equaliser, the leveller – everyone would have access. In fact, what has happened is that the promise of cheap broadband has not been rolled out, nor does everyone have a smart phone to be engaging in debates and discussions.

Social media has become more of a divider between rich and poor than ever. It’s also a platform for great divisiveness.

This is a disaster for democracy. The government needs to act swiftly to roll out cheap data, and regulate social media. Trolls need to be eliminated and finally, if media companies don’t press the pause button to reflect on what they are doing, especially their bull in a china shop retrenchments, this is going to cost South Africa’s democracy dearly.

The New Beats is an international research project based in Melbourne.

‘The water took everything’: tells of Cyclone Idai ordeal

People rescued by boat are arriving at Beira in hope of first aid, shelter and reunion with their families

On a beach in Beira, relatives wait for boats to take them to Buzi to search for their loved ones. Photo: Peter Beamont/The Guardian

Standing in the fishing port in Beira, Mozambique, Jose Mala scans the faces of those evacuated by boat from Buzi – one of the towns hardest hit by Cyclone Idai – searching for anyone he knows.

He had hopeful news the day before, says Mala, 27. He met a neighbour at the port who told him his sister and two nephews had survived the cyclone that destroyed large parts of their hometown.

His hope is that his sister and her boys are now trying to reach Beira on one of the fishing boats that have been rescuing people under the direction of the Indian navy.

“I was here from five to 11 yesterday evening,” Mala explains. “I’m told my sister is alive. I’ve been trying to phone her for the last five days but the network has been down. So now I’m here waiting for them.”

“I was here from five to 11 yesterday evening,” Mala explains. “I’m told my sister is alive. I’ve been trying to phone her for the last five days but the network has been down. So now I’m here waiting for them.”

People pass through a section of the damaged road in Nhamatanda about 30 miles from Beira. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

He’s not alone. Next to the first aid station hastily erected by the navy, worried relatives wait patiently as evacuees are processed from the tuna boat that took them the last leg into port.

Further up the beach, however, is an exhausted group, unable to walk to the main port as others have done to be registered. Among them is Ventura Francisco, 72, and Francisco Dominguez, 97, who are carried into the back of a four-wheel drive be taken to the aid station.

For those arriving at the fishing port, it is a brisk operation: they queue to be registered as they come off the boat, are handed some food, and then treated by the Indian medics.

The majority, many of whom arrived shoeless and in the clothes they were wearing when the disaster struck, are suffering from infections to the feet and lower legs from being so long in the water. Others are dehydrated or suffering from snake bites.

“When we first arrived we could only access the area to rescue the worst-injured in a two-to-three-hour window because of the tides,” says one of the Indian officers. “Our focus since then has been directing the small fishing boats where to go to pick up people.”

Even then, the Indians add, not everyone wants to be evacuated, choosing instead to remain to protect their property.

There are fears the death toll could soar beyond the 1,000 predicted by the country’s president earlier this week, as the scale of the disaster becomes clearer and aid agencies struggle to meet the humanitarian need.

“It was slow to start, it is now accelerating thankfully. We need to accelerate and expand,” World Food Programme spokesman Gerald Bourke told AFP, speaking of the aid effort. “We are not yet where it needs to be. We are broadening the effort. It’s going to take a lot more because this is going to run for quite a while.”

One of those greeting the people arriving from Buzi is Elsa Mazambue, an employee of the Dutch company Cornelder which runs the port concession and has made its employees available for the rescue effort.

From talking to those arriving, Mazambue has her own picture of what happened in Buzi. “What people have been telling us is that the river passes through Buzi; the villages on one side of the river had time to escape to an old sugar plantation. Those who got there found something to climb on when the waters suddenly arrived on Sunday.”

So they climbed on roofs, into trees and even into electricity pylons, with some still trapped where the waters remain deepest, according to those escaping yesterday.

A man stands on the roof of his destroyed home in Buzi, one of the towns hardest hit by Idai. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Standing in the queue waiting to have his details taken is Konde Pereira, aged 21. His face crumples with relief as he is welcomed but it is a relief muted by the fact that there was no room on the boat for his mother and other relatives.

With his house destroyed he decided to take his opportunity to escape Buzi. “It was so hard, though now things are getting a little better. We sheltered on a roof, although many people took shelter in a Catholic church. And there are still people in the trees.

“The water got low enough so that I could escape on foot.” He adds that, even then, it remained neck-high in places.

“When the cyclone came I was in my house with my family. We survived but after that the walls and roof were gone. Then on Sunday the water started coming up from the river. Everything was taken by the water. Those of us who were a distance from the river had the chance to run away. Those closer didn’t have a chance.

“We were on the roof to begin with for two days. It was so difficult. We had no water or food. After that we came down and went into the houses.

“I am so relieved to have escaped, even if I don’t know what we are facing here. I have a family. I need to start again.”

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Experts fear that Uganda’s efforts to eliminate graft in its health care system are not sustainable.

Bribery patterns in Uganda’s health care system

In September 2017 Uganda’s former Minister of Health, Dr Sarah Opendi, disguised herself in a hijab and travelled by boda boda (motorbike taxi) to Naguru Hospital in Kampala. The minister then asked for routine laboratory tests. They should have been given to her free of charge but instead the health workers asked for a bribe.

Experts fear that Uganda’s efforts to eliminate graft in its health care system are not sustainable.
Experts fear that Uganda’s efforts to eliminate graft in its health care system are not sustainable. Photo: Suuba Trust/Flickr

A camera crew was on hand to film the confrontation that followed. The police were close behind to arrest the two health workers. The drama captured national and international headlines.

Our fieldwork, which looked for surprising “success stories” in bribery reduction efforts in Kampala, began a day before this “investigation” took place. The minister’s involvement in the plot was exceptional but we learned that publicised anti-corruption raids in Uganda’s health sector are not unusual. Rather, they are emblematic of a high-profile strategy devised by the government to crack down on bribery and other sources of corruption in the sector.

Our research was done under the umbrella of the “Islands of Integrity” project which uses global data to identify sectors within a country that have experienced a significant – if surprising – reduction in bribery relative to other sectors.

We found that in Uganda, contrary to expectations given the sector’s history of corruption, bribery for health services reduced dramatically between 2011 and 2015.

This achievement has been widely applauded. But our research also showed that were serious downsides to the “naming and shaming” approach taken by the administration. This includes a disgruntled workforce and question marks over the long term sustainability of the approach.

Corruption in Uganda

Almost half of all people who made contact with the health sector in Uganda in 2010 paid a bribe. But by 2015 this rate was just 25% . This is an almost unprecedented reduction, especially in such a short time frame. And runs counter to the trend in other sectors where bribery remained at high levels.

Our research shows that the main factor was the introduction of the Health Monitoring Unit which was launched in 2009.

The unit is a highly visible institution with wide ranging powers to monitor and evaluate the performance of health facilities, investigate and arrest corrupt health workers and audit Uganda’s health procurement and supply system. It also works with the courts to prosecute health-care related crimes.

Its most high-profile work involves carrying out unannounced investigations in health facilities, which are either randomly selected or in response to specific complaints. These complaints often include bribery claims.

While the unit prides itself on getting the job done observers have criticised its investigations for being “militaristic”, based on a strategy of catching health workers “red handed” and then “naming and shaming” them in public.

It is true that unit arrests are often covered by the media. Its exploits usually receive front page coverage. Nevertheless, the fear of exposure has been a useful deterrent for potential bribe seekers.

Sustainability questions

We found that bribery patterns were indeed disrupted because health workers were afraid of being monitored, arrested and punished. All the health care workers we interviewed in Uganda’s Central, Eastern and Western provinces knew about the unit and its raids. All of them were of the opinion that the raids were the reason bribery in the health sector had decreased.

However, the case isn’t an uncomplicated success story.

The first big question is over sustainability. A disruptive strategy like this is expensive, time consuming, resource intensive and requires constant rebooting to keep people on their toes. As far as we can tell, there are no real plans for ongoing disruption or next steps.

The approach also doesn’t take into account the real-life “benefits” of bribery such as supplementing the meagre wages in the health sector. Because of this, we found some evidence in our interviews with front line health staff that bribery patterns are reemerging, a trend observed in research done by others looking at the role of social norms and “camouflaging” behaviour in bribery.

Rather than halting completely, it looks like the patterns may be changing. Bribery strategies are changing and could return in full force when the pressure comes off.

Ultimately, and of the utmost importance, is the fact that the approach doesn’t tackle corruption higher up the chain, which is where the problem begins.

Unintended consequences

Our research also uncovered evidence of some unintended consequences of the unit’s name and shame approach. As early as 2010, the unit’s work was said to be “humiliating” health workers and negatively affecting staff morale.

In December 2017, members of the Uganda Medical Association went on an unprecedented nationwide strike which lasted over a month and brought the already weak health system to its knees. The health workers cited the unit as one of the key causes of the strike.

In keeping with the sentiments of the strikers – and research done by others – our findings suggest that the unit’s ultimate impact on service delivery could be negative, with staff morale falling to an all-time low. Fearful, demoralised staff are not likely to provide the best care possible in the circumstances.

While Uganda’s health sector is a positive outlier on bribery, the evidence suggests the cost of controlling the vice might be too high. And the consequences of the present approach is likely to be become apparent in years to come.


Additional research was carried out by Pius Gumisiriza. Pius is a lecturer at the Uganda Management Institute.

SOURCE: The Conversation

Zimbabwe erupted in violent protest after the government doubled the price of petrol.

What Mnangagwa should be doing instead of fiddling with the petrol price

When economically challenged rulers try to run nations, especially fragile ones, they can easily make mistakes.

Zimbabwe erupted in violent protest after the government doubled the price of petrol.
Zimbabwe erupted in violent protest after the government doubled the price of petrol. Photo: EPA-EFE/Aaron Ufumeli

In the past few weeks demonstrators have taken to the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman to protest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s removal of subsidies that have long kept bread and fuel affordable.

Now it’s Zimbabwe’s turn. Just before flying off to Russia last weekend, President Emmerson Mnangagwa doubled the price of petrol. Doing so brought already impoverished urban Zimbabweans out onto the streets of the capital Harare as well as Bulawayo and a dozen other cities and towns. Protesters blocked roads with tyres, trees and rocks, stopped bus transport, attacked the police, threw canisters of tear gas back at security forces and generally ran amok.

At least five people were reported to have been killed. Flights into Harare were cancelled and the government closed down the internet.

Mnangagwa’s excuse for raising prices so abruptly is not clear. Possibly he thinks that more costly petrol will bring more cash into national coffers that are mostly bare. Or perhaps he believes that more petrol will pour into the country via the pipeline from Beira in Mozambique if it is more valuable. Both ideas are barmy.

Before flying off to Russia, Mnangagwa said that the fuel price rise was intended to reduce shortages of fuel that, he indicated, were caused by rises in the use of fuel and what he called “rampant” illegal trading – accusations that make no sense whatsoever. Making petrol purchasing more expensive for poor Zimbabweans – the majority of the nation’s people – simply adds to their hardship and further slows an already crippled economy.

Instead Mnangagwa should do everything his government can to reduce the shortage of real (rather than fake) cash that is crippling the local economy, reducing local production and corporate and consumer cash flows, and driving an already weakened economy further into recession.

He should also be focused on taking a number of other bold steps to try and reverse the collapse of the country’s economy. Among them are bringing state looting to a halt.

The cash crisis

The US dollar is the official currency of commerce. But because Zimbabwe’s economy has essentially ground to a halt, it has few means of bringing new dollars into the country. That, and the steady money laundering of real dollars by high-level officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party, has drained the country of currency.

The government has printed $1 bond notes — known as zollars – for Zimbabweans to use instead of real dollars. They are supposed to be exchangeable at par, but in 2019 they are worth as little as a third of a paper dollar. Many merchants refuse to accept zollars at all.

Bond notes now trade on the black market at 3.2 per dollar, according to the Harare-based ZimBollar Research Institute.

The stress has also spread to financial markets, with locals piling into equities to hedge against price increases.

Mnangagwa may be attempting to obtain loans from Russia and from shady Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan. But what the president should be doing is prosecuting and imprisoning his corrupt cronies. That could limit the flight of dollars from Zimbabwe.

He also needs to trim the bloated civil service of excessive patronage appointments. Most of all, if he dared, he should be cutting military expenditures. Zimbabwe has no imaginable need for its large and well equipped a security establishment.

Such bold measures could return confidence to the country’s corporate and agri-business sectors. If coupled with reduced military and other expenditures, and bolstered by funds no longer being transferred overseas, Zimbabwe’s long repressed economy could take off from a very low base.

Poor leadership

Raising petrol prices in a land where but a few months ago supplies of petrol were short and motorists queued for hours and days outside stations is neither politically nor economically wise. The newly aroused protesters will not readily melt away. Putting such a hefty extra charge on an essential commodity, and doing so just when Zimbabwe’s parlous economy was beginning to show signs of stability, shows few leadership skills and little common sense.

Inflation has soared since the national election in July, almost reaching the Sudanese level of 70% a year. Foreign capital and domestically reinvested capital is avoiding the country.

On top of this, exporters are struggling under draconian Reserve Bank regulations. Only Chinese purchases of ferrochrome, other metals and tobacco, keep the economy ticking over, albeit in an increasingly dilatory manner.

A further drain on confidence and economic rational thinking is the Reserve Bank’s allocation of whatever hard currency there is to politically prominent backers of the president. That is how arbitrage during President Robert Mugabe’s benighted era helped to enrich his entourage while sinking the Zimbabwean economy and impoverishing its peoples.

Work that needs to be done

Mnangagwa’s regime has much more work to do to stimulate sustainable economic growth. He will need to restore the rule of law, badly eroded in Mugabe’s time, put some true meaning into his “back to honest business”promise, and widely open up the economy. That would mean eliminating most Reserve Bank restrictions on the free flow of currency and allowing the entire Zimbabwean economy once again to float.

Most of all, Mnangagwa needs to rush home from Russia and Asia and rescind or greatly reduce the price of petrol. After so many years of repression and hardship, Zimbabweans are out of patience.

An internally displaced person camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, like the one that houses Zahra and Amina. Photo: Sunday Alamba/AP

Why would any woman go back to Boko Haram? Despair

In northeastern Nigeria, the militant group exploits a broken social system. There are lessons here for the rest of the world.

An internally displaced person camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, like the one that houses Zahra and Amina. Photo: Sunday Alamba/AP
An internally displaced person camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, like the one that houses Zahra and Amina. Photo: Sunday Alamba/AP

ahra and Amina seem like lucky survivors of the scourge of northeastern Nigeria, the jihadist movement known as Boko Haram. Both were wives of fighters. Zahra escaped by agreeing to detonate an explosive vest that the militants strapped to her. After walking miles to her intended target, a government checkpoint, she turned herself over to soldiers. Amina fled with her three children after her husband was killed in battle.

Today, both women live in a camp for survivors of the conflict in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. When I met them on a recent research trip to the city, the last thing I expected to hear was that they wanted to rejoin the insurgents. Conventional thinking and security policies that aim to dissuade women from extremist groups tend to focus on ideology, presuming that only brainwashing could compel them to voluntarily join radical, violent militias. But here in the northeast, some women have largely been compelled to affiliate with Boko Haram by social and political conditions. Perversely, the group offers them respite from insecurity and the limited opportunities afforded them in a deeply patriarchal society riven by poor governance.

Zahra and Amina say that when they were with the militants, life was harsh and uncertain, but they had enough to eat. As voluntary wives of fighters, they were protected from sexual predation. They attended religion classes, the first formal schooling many had ever received, and their children went to school, learning literacy and religion. There were courts where women could report abusive husbands. In contrast, in their now emancipated lives in the camp, they often go hungry. There is little chance to work to buy more food, and shortages have contributed to sexual exploitation by the security forces who guard them. “Most Boko Haram women regret coming here, because life is just so hard,” says Amina.

These two women are just one small part of a massive humanitarian and security crisis that has been unfolding across the Lake Chad basin – the area where Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon meet – since 2014. Overshadowed by the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the scale of humanitarian disaster in the region is nevertheless vast: more than 2.4 million people displaced, 5 million in need of food and shelter, and half a million children at famine levels of malnourishment.

While the Boko Haram insurgency may not directly affect the west – it doesn’t contribute to migration flows and the militants are not involved in attacks in Europe – the experiences of Boko Haram women carry wide implications for our understanding of why people join such movements. While the group, like many others that self-identify as “jihadist”, deploys ideological rhetoric to promote its political goals, it is the deprived and fractious context in which it operates that best explains its appeal – especially to women.

 Azadeh Moaveni (right) interviews a woman in northeastern Nigeria. Photograph: Jorge Gutierrez Lucena/Crisis Group
Azadeh Moaveni (right) interviews a woman in northeastern Nigeria. Photograph: Jorge Gutierrez Lucena/Crisis Group

Zahra and Amina, like many women in the northeast, joined the militants by choice. They left by choice, too – unwilling to marry other fighters appointed by the group after their own husbands had died. Their stories challenge the dominant narrative around Boko Haram, shaped by the global outcry over the Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnapping, which holds that women only join by force, and that, similarly, only those who were abducted can be regarded as genuine victims. Returning from Nigeria, I met a group of Swiss women who regularly spend their holidays doing freelance volunteer work with female victims of Boko Haram. “We only help the ones who were kidnapped,” one pointedly told me.

But the circumstances that propel women such as Zahra and Amina into and out of Boko Haram show the limits of the neat categories of victim and perpetrator. In the early days of the insurgency, many women found the movement appealing because it offered alternatives to the patriarchy endorsed by their conservative families. The group’s leaders supported lower dowries, which meant more young women could choose husbands from among their peers, rather than the greying, financially secure men they would be traditionally compelled to marry. And while the militants were only able to provide for them so generously by looting and pillaging, some women felt the Nigerian state’s corruption justified these abuses. Life in the forest felt freer and more dignified than living in the dust of an internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp, dependent on international aid groups for a meal a day.

Even now, Zahra’s and Amina’s thinking about the group – their belief that returning to the militants would improve their lives – is mostly a calculus of immediate survival. Dalori II, the camp where they live, like most in the city, is chronically short on food, and across satellite camps in the region groups such as Amnesty International have documented an epidemic of rape and sexual exploitation. Some progress has been made to curtail these abuses, and humanitarian groups have tried to adjust food distribution practices to blunt the potential for abuse, but this has only changed the dynamic of the exploitation. “You have to become a harlot to stay in the camps,” says Amina.

One reason Zahra says she was glad to leave the militants was because she saw that their blind rejection of teaching in English was harming her children: “It does not benefit them to stay home. It’s better for them to learn.” She assumed that in Maiduguri, her kids would be able to attend school. But camp managers in Dalori II dismantled the one school on its premises, claiming it was no longer needed since people would be returning to their villages. But nobody has gone home, and now there is no school.

The northeast Nigerian state of Borno is now a vast patchwork of towns and villages with few men, a whole sub-society of single mothers trying to cope as breadwinners in areas with collapsed economies without their husbands’ protection and support. Some reintegration programmes offer skills training, but embroidering and selling a cap a month neither enables a woman to feed three children nor does it protect her from rape after dark. Plus, some international groups devote funds and attention to what they call “countering extremism”, with extremism often conceived in an amorphous way that views ideology, rather than a complex patchwork of political grievance and social frustrations, as a root cause of the violence.

While ending the insurgency and countering the militants’ appeal is obviously vital, it is also essential to recognise what precisely has guided women to join the militants in the first place. This has wider implications for the whole of the northeast, not just displaced women in the camps, or former Boko Haram women, but all women, who are trying to cope with conditions so impoverished and limiting that, sometimes, joining a militant group appears to offer a way out.

 Zahra’s and Amina’s names have been changed

 Azadeh Moaveni is senior gender analyst for the International Crisis Group and a former Middle East correspondent for Time magazine. Vincent Foucher, research fellow at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, Bordeaux, contributed reporting to this piece

Why are African women more at risk of violence?

‘Nigerian women are disadvantaged in an unabashedly patriarchal society that does little to acknowledge their rights.’ Lagos, Nigeria Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

I grew up in a country where female subjugation is too often justified as reflecting ‘traditions’ and abuse can become normalised

As the United Nations launched its 16-day worldwide campaign to combat violence against women on Sunday, I was reminded of how, while it is a global problem, it is one that leaves women in developing countries particularly vulnerable.

UN report shows women in Africa are most at risk of violence. In Nigeria where I grew up, 23% of women have been victims of physical or sexual violence committed by a previous husband. While many incidents of domestic violence go unreported, in a country of 194 million people, even this 23% figure translates into millions of women suffering physical and sexual violence.

When they complained about abuse, they were told they must have done something to ‘disrespect’ their husband

The Guardian

In sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, 22.3% of women aged between 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period. So what are some of the unique challenges faced by African women on this front?

A friend of mine recently went through the hellish experience of trying to free herself from a violent husband. This involved being advised by her own family to stick with him because he was affluent. “He can afford to take care of you and the children. If you leave him, you’re condemning yourself and your children to hardship,” she was told. Sadly, this is all too common advice in a society that offers no social safety net or well-functioning justice system to ensure women cannot simply be thrown out on the streets (with their children) by an angry partner.

While poverty affects both genders in sub-Saharan Africa, it affects women more: 122 women aged 25 to 34 live in extreme poverty for every 100 men of the same age. For such women, the decision on whether to leave a violent partner would involve practical issues of food and shelter for herself and her children. However, the problem is much more than just economic. I also have friends who are middle-class professionals yet tolerated years of domestic abuse.

In their cases, when they complained to their families that their husband was abusing them, they were usually told they must have done something to “disrespect” him. While Nigeria is a multicultural society comprised of hundreds of ethnic groups, each with their own traditional value system, what they all have in common is a view of the male as an authority figure who deserves automatic “respect” from his wife. This involves the expectation she will regularly acknowledge her subordinate position to him in the household.

If he is abusive, it is thus often attributed to the woman not playing her role properly, not being a “good wife”. When one of my friends who spent many years in the UK before marrying and relocating to Nigeria complained to her family about how her husband was treating her, she was told she had “spent too long living among white people where everything is upside down and the women control the men”. Female subjugation can be justified as reflecting “African traditions”, conveniently ignoring values like basic respect and equal treatment for all humans. Nigerian women, even those who are better off financially, are thus disadvantaged in an unabashedly patriarchal society that does little to acknowledge their rights.

One issue that is often grossly under-appreciated is that tolerant attitudes towards domestic violence have a domino effect on society, producing adults traumatised by childhood experiences of seeing their father regularly abuse their mother. How does a society that lets its children witness such consequence-free abuse expect them to grow up fair-minded sensitive adults?

Non-governmental organisations combating violence against women do their best, but the harsh realities of life in a society with endemic poverty, a nonexistent social safety net and weak formal mechanisms for safeguarding the vulnerable, compel too many women to make unfortunate choices for themselves and their children.

Meanwhile, many Nigerians have been desensitised to the damaging effects of violence against women due to their own childhood experiences. Domestic abuse now needs to be robustly denormalised. Nigerian women need economic empowerment, but they also need cultural empowerment. This would benefit not only women but society as a whole – including, importantly, the future of any society, its children. Eliminating all forms of abuse against women is what gives credence to societies truly committed to decency and basic human rights. Anything else is an exercise in societal self-harm.

  • Sede Alonge is a Nigerian writer and lawyer

Gutted and sold: the final days of Dakar’s traditional fish market

With a new €2m fishing quay due to open in Senegal’s capital in February, modernity has finally come for the Soumbedioune fishmongers?

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The Soumbedioune fish market is moving to a $2m facility across the bay from its current location – a sign of the rapid changes Dakar is undergoing. Photo: Xaume Olleros for the Guardian


  • By  in Dakar
  • Photographs by Xaume Olleros for the Guardian

It is not the large-eyed dentex’s lucky day. But it is Yelli Diop’s.

The Senegalese fisherman has had a very successful haul, and arrives back on Dakar’s shores with several boxes of fish in the hull. His brightly painted pirogue – a long, narrow canoe used by the fishermen here – is pulled up on the beach, a length of pipe wedged under it to keep it on the sand, and the orangey-pink fish unceremoniously dumped with dozens of its kin into a crate.

Diop opens negotiations with a fish-seller, the sitting queen of her small square of beach, while robed Dakarois, tired fishermen, Chinese buyers, fishwives and children throng past.

Like millions of its brethren that have passed through Dakar’s colourful Soumbedioune fish market before it, the dentex is probably destined for a plate of thiéboudienne, the national dish – caught, sorted, gutted and sold in the late afternoon by men and women just as working their great-great-grandparents have did.

Clockwise from main: Fisherman Yelli Diop with some of his day’s catch; shoppers inspect the fish on offer and fishermen sort their catch.


But times are changing. Commercial overfishing to feed European and Asian appetites has emptied West Africa’s waters and destroyed the livelihoods of many artisanal fishing communities, including those in Senegal with its long Atlantic coastline.

Now the fishmongers of Soumbedioune are moving. A new €2m fishing quay, funded by Morocco and sitting across the bay from the existing market, has been finished. It contains an ice factory, a cold room, a fish-processing area and rows of gleaming counters in the retail market. There are fishermen’s lockers, workshops and an office. It should be open by the time Senegal holds presidential elections in February.

The changes are part of a wholesale reinvention of Dakar, which is changing at a rapid pace. Apartment blocks spring up in every vacant plot; the city’s few remaining trees are cut down to make space for them. The stalls of vegetable sellers in the city’s old commune of Ngor were recently bulldozed for a car park. Houses are going up in the old airport, which was closed to commercial flights last year after a new one was built 60km outside the capital.

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Some of the fishing families think the closure of their lively if ramshackle market is a sign of the times, and a good thing.

“It stinks here. It’s dirty, it’s hot, it’s disorganised. Over there it’s covered, and more hygienic,” says Khairou Mbang, who cleans fish for a living and is beginning to break into selling them, too.

Mbang used to bring her baby daughter with her to the market, trying to shield her from the sun in the shade of heavy concrete slabs bearing the biggest fish. She hopes her children will have office jobs, or at least go into a less physically taxing profession than hers.

“Life is hard. We don’t want our daughters to come here. I’d rather do anything else, but you can’t change, there’s no other work,” she says.

With growth of 7% in 2017, oil and gas discoveries in the north, and the rapid construction of an entirely new city from scratch near the current, crowded peninsular capital, Senegal is changing rapidly. Nearly half its population still live in poverty, though, and the fishing communities are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet. West Africa loses £1.8bn (US $2.3bn) a year to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

As more shoppers arrive at Soumbedioune, the smell of sewage floats in the sea air; most of Dakar’s drains are emptied, untreated, into the ocean. A man hacks up swordfish into large hunks, a cloud of flies ascending every time he throws a new piece on to the pile.

Many fishmongers hope that the new market will attract well-to-do buyers who would not usually brave the crowds, smells and dirt of Soumbedioune. Adama Diallo, her broken plastic tabletop nestling between two colourfully painted pirogues, was not convinced.

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The new, covered fish market, due to open in February.

“I’ve never been, and I won’t go,” she says, rearranging a pile of pink-tinged mullet. “A ghost used to live over there.”

She calls at prospective clients to buy her fish as they amble by, but with dozens of other sellers at Soumbedioune, business for Diallo is slow. Looking over at the low, maroon building behind its metal gate, she points out the obvious.

“Not all of us will fit in there,” she says.

“I’ve been here since I was born. My father was a fisherman – my father, and his father too. All fishermen. Let us stay,” she says.


SOURCES: This report was initially published by The Guardian, UK.

‘The fight of the gods’ – can biodiverse Bijagós survive evangelical threat?

For centuries, traditional religious practices have preserved the sacred forests of this archipelago off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Now missionaries are muscling in.

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  • By  in the Bijagós archipelago, Guinea-Bissau,
  • Photographs by Ricci Shryock

The 12 traditional priestesses of Orango island gathered in their wide hut in a deserted clearing of ankle-deep vegetation, passing a bowl of orange palm nuts between them.

Like their grandmothers before them, the baloberas, as the priestesses are known, were using their spiritual powers to protect the forests in their part of the Bijagós archipelago in Guinea-Bissau. They were performing the secret opening ceremony for a thicket of palm trees that they had closed up in May.

There were also other religious forces at work that Sunday morning on Orango. At a tiny evangelical church around the corner, Satou Ca was leading the worship in a blue dress and wedge heels. “God is powerful. The devil is weak,” she sang. When her husband, Arlindo, arrived from the mainland in 2015 he became Orango’s first resident pastor.

Three of the 12 priestesses of Orango Island, after a traditional ceremony to determine whether it is time to harvest the palm fruit.
Three of the 12 priestesses of Orango Island, after a traditional ceremony to determine whether it is time to harvest the palm fruit.

Generations of baloberas and traditional religious leaders have held sway for centuries in this unique archipelago of 88 islands off the coast of west Africa, and this is reflected in the breathtaking biodiversity they have worked to preserve, designating trees, beaches and whole islands as sacred and out of bounds.

Traditional Bijagó beliefs are now being challenged by an influx of Protestant, often Brazilian, missionaries who target the islands’ youth. Drawn away from their elders, sociologists and conservationists say the deep spiritual connections between the islands’ people and their environment are dying, putting the ecological future of the islands in danger.

“There is one great threat or risk: the installation of evangelical churches,” said Miguel de Barros, a sociologist, researcher and director of the environmental organisation Tiniguena, adding that pastors across the archipelago are encouraging building in sacred sites.

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Star-shaped trunks of Ceiba petandra, or kapok trees, stretch up and tower over the islands. Every year, millions of migratory birds nest and 10,000 turtles lay their eggs there. They are home to rare saltwater hippos, and over 150 fish species.

“If you go to Scandinavia or Mauritania, people say their land is special, but ours really is,” said Honório Fernandes of the Boloma-Bijagós biosphere reserve.

While her husband prepared his sermon on John’s banishment to the Greek island of Patmos, Satou sang call-and-response hymns to attract her congregation.

Most adult Orangans ignored her efforts, standing under the trees chatting, but after half an hour some children, a gaggle of teenagers and a few older women had trickled into the green-painted church.

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Worshippers sing at the Evangelical Church of Orango in the village of Eticogoa.

When Arlindo Ca arrived, young, an outsider and bent on stopping people’s drinking, dancing and domestic violence, he made enemies quickly.

“Traditional religion had much more power,” Ca said on his porch after the service. “I’m preaching and going door to door to try to get them back.”

His congregation swelled from 10 to 60 in three years; as well as the youth, he had converted one old woman from whom he had exorcised an evil spirit. He had his sights on bigger prizes: the baloberas.

“Some people say don’t bother with the priestesses, they have their hearts full of Satan. I say let them come. It’s my job to bring them to Christ.”

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Children play at a school built by the Baptist Church on Bubaque Island in Guinea-Bissau.

It would be near-impossible for Ca to meet them on their turf, though: no man could go near their hut, not even the great-grandson of Okinka Pampa, Orango’s legendary heroine who negotiated with the Portuguese for her people’s safety in the early 1900s.

Pampa’s descendent Augusto Pereira, now the traditional chief, was worried about the island’s future if the pastor was too successful.

“We’re losing hold of some of our secrets,” he said, sitting on his woven throne, a ceremonial spear to hand. “More and more people are converting, and are finished with traditional practices. Our religion protects our environment. Bijagós live in nature. If we don’t protect it, life will be worth nothing.”

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Traditional Bijagó beliefs are now being challenged by an influx of Protestant missionaries who target the islands’ youth.

Hotels and overfishing pose grave threats to the archipelago’s unique biosphere and Bijagó culture. But environmental experts sayevangelical churches are the greatest menace, their “aggressive recruitment” contrasting with their Catholic and Muslim predecessors, their popularity growing because of the educational, medical and material support they provide as well as their preaching.

They encourage people to explore sacred forests, de Barros said, and promote an “income economy and a competitive system against the model of generational and community solidarity”, as well as the privatisation of common land.

During fanado, the secret traditional initiation rites where young Bijagós spend months living in the forest, elders pass environmental knowledge to the next generation.

But with the proliferation of churches – and mosques – across the islands, people are abandoning fanado, Fernandes said. “It’s bad for our culture. Rather than spending three or four months in the forest learning their secrets, people learn that God exists, and he protects everyone.”

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Until recently an “ultra-minority”, Protestants are multiplying in Guinea-Bissau, while those following traditional religion dropped from 60% of the population to 15% between 1979 and 2009, when the most recent census was done.

Orango’s pastor is so new partly because of its remoteness. Bubaque, an island with better connections to the mainland, has had a church since the 1940s.

Pastor Jorge Ocosobo, a Baptist missionary, said his British and Dutch predecessors on Bubaque had condemned fetishes, raffia skirts and drums as evil.

Ocosobo picks his battles: he tries to persuade islanders that animal sacrifices are a waste of money, and preaches against flagellation and statue-worship. But some things are useful for evangelising – like drums.

“What is good from traditional religion, we keep.”

On Ocosobo’s office wall was a mural map of the islands painted seven years ago, 11 with a church missionary presence marked with a cross. At least another five crosses are due to be painted in.

Being originally from the Bijagós, Ocosobo knew how important the islands’ flora and fauna were in local beliefs.

“Religion doesn’t exist without nature here,” he said. “Churches respect sacred spaces scrupulously. We can’t cut the trees down.”

But later, he described an occasion on which his church did just that, cutting down an old baobab that locals thought was inhabited by a devil, to build a school there.

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A graduation celebration at a local Catholic School on Bubaque Island.

“When we cut it down, there was nothing there. People were gathering round it, thinking the devil would come out.”

Now, he said, others are happy to build on land that, before the devil-baobab incident, was feared and left “wild”.

Elders designate big, old kapok trees as “sacred” in order to protect them, knowing it’s not true, said Fernandes, and pastors cut them down to demonstrate God’s strength.

“Nothing will happen, but the pastor knows it will bring him respect.”

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Young boys pick fruit off trees on Orango Island. Trees are considered sacred in traditional Bijagos religion.

Guinean ecologists have been trying to get the Bijagós Unesco World Heritage status for years, but have not succeeded, partly because of concerns about protection and whether the cultural criteria are satisfied.

Ocosobo related what happened six years ago when they tried to build a church on land given to them by the state, which traditional priests said was sacred land.

“The traditional priests said: ‘The first one to build the church will die.’ But in fact it was the traditional priest who led the resistance to the church who got sick and died.

“The trouble stopped. I’m not saying we killed him – but maybe our god is stronger than theirs.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, with additional reporting by Allen Embalo

Cover photo: Young boys climb trees to pick fruit off trees, which are considered sacred on Orango Island. Photo: Ricci Shryock for the Guardian

A volunteer in Kikwit distributes food to people forced to flee Kasai province.

Killing, abuses – the many atrocities of DR Congo

Agencies sound alarm over sexual attacks, murder and torture in southern areas where violence was thought to be waning.


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Continuing violence in southern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has led to thousands of violent sexual assaults, accompanied by widespread killing and torture, aid agencies have said.

International attention has focused on the east of the sprawling central African country in recent months, where there is an ongoing insurgency and a lethal outbreak of Ebola.

But a conflict in Kasai Central province that was thought to have subsided after a peak of violence more than a year ago continues to cause massive suffering, reports suggest.

Médecins Sans Frontières say that, between May 2017 and September 2018, they treated 2,600 victims of sexual violence in the town of Kananga in Kasai Central province, 80% of whom reported having been raped by armed men.

Victims also told MSF about decapitations, children hacked to death in front of their parents, multiple rapes of teenagers, and systematic theft and beatings.

“I was raped in my home, next to my husband’s body, in the presence of my children. It was last year, during the violence. I had five children. They killed three of them, leaving me with just two. They raped my three oldest girls before killing them,” said Mamie, in testimony recorded by aid workers in Kananga in September.

Of the 2,600 people treated by MSF since May 2017, 32 were men, some of whom reported having been forced under armed threat to rape members of their own community. Another 162 were children under the age of 15, including 22 below the age of five.

A volunteer in Kikwit distributes food to people forced to flee Kasai province.
A volunteer in Kikwit distributes food to people forced to flee Kasai province. Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

“These figures are an indication of the high level of violence that has persisted throughout the past year,” said Karel Janssens, MSF head of mission in DRC. “The shocking testimonies from survivors that we have heard on a daily basis describe how people’s lives and communities have been torn apart, making it very difficult for them to rebuild and move forward.”

Last month, the Nobel prize was awarded to Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist who founded and maintains the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, eastern DRC. He has cared for tens of thousands of women who suffered sexual assault in the country’s recurrent civil conflict.

MSF teams in Kasai Central provide psychological care for the most traumatised patients. Half report that at least one member of their family has been killed, or say their homes and belongings have been pillaged or destroyed. Many suffer both physical violence and theft. One in 10 spoke of having directly witnessed a murder or similar act.

The violence in Kasai surged in 2016, when local communities formed a militia in support of a local leader who opposed the government and was killed by the police.

The authorities launched an extensive campaign against insurgents, and there have been repeated reports of massacres, ambushes and attacks on villagers. Dozens of mass graves have been found.

Congo’s Catholic church said in a report last year that more than 3,300 people had been killed in Kasai in just a few months. The church blamed government forces, their proxies and the insurgents.

Last year, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights at the time, called the region a “landscape of horror”.

The latest statistics on sexual assaults are likely to reveal only a fraction of the problem in Kasai Central, MSF said. The organisation now provides care to more than 200 patients each month on average.

Much of the instability across the country has been caused by competition between political actors in the run-up to elections in December.

President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, is barred from seeking a third mandate.

In April, the government boycotted a key donor conference in Geneva, accusing aid agencies of exaggerating the extent of the country’s crisis. Officials in DRC claim only 230,000 people have been displaced, a fraction of the UN estimate of 4.5 million.


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Cover photo: Congolese migrants expelled from Angola wash their clothes in a river near Kamako, Kasai province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph: STAFF/Reuters

UPDATE: This story was originally published Saturday with the title: ‘They raped me and killed my children’

Should Buhari worry over Oby Ezekwesili’s run for presidency?

By 


Many Nigerians are currently debating the country’s 2019 presidential election. Attention has been focused on the two dominant political parties – the ruling All Progressive Congress, and the opposition’s Peoples Democratic Party. The ruling party candidate is incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, and the opposition candidate is former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

Oby Ezekwesili 6

The smaller parties haven’t received as much media attention. But one party, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, has come onto the radar by virtue of its female presidential candidate – Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili. She is one of only two women on the presidential ballot. The other is Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party.

Ezekwesili, who comes from Anambra State in South Eastern Nigeria, is well known in Nigeria, having served her country and the world in various roles over the past 25 years. But possibly her most prominent role has been as an activist: one of the more visible leaders of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Does the 55-year-old Ezekwesili have any real chance of clinching the presidency? Despite the fact that she’s well-known in government and activism circles, she has a high mountain to climb. If the experience of past female presidential candidates is anything to go by, the probability of Ezekwesili winning the election is slim.

Impressive CV

Ezekwesili is popularly known as “Madam Due Process”, a name she earned when she served as the senior special assistant to former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.

She was also the head of the budget monitoring and price intelligence unit, which was also known as the due process unit. Before then, Ezekwesili had served as Transparency International’s director for Africa from 1994 to 1999. Thereafter, from 2000 to 2002, she worked as director of the Harvard-Nigeria Economic Strategy program.

Oby Ezekwesili 4
Ezekwesili is popularly known as “Madam Due Process”, a name she earned when she served as the senior special assistant to former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.

Between 2005 and 2007, Ezekwesili also served as the Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, Federal Minister of Education, and chairperson of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. And in 2007, shortly after her stint in government, she joined the World Bank as vice president for the Africa region.

Ezekwesili worked for the World Bank for 5 years before turning her hand to activism. She became known as one of leaders of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The campaign, which went viral on social media, was created to pressure the Nigerian government to rescue the 276 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militia in April 2014 from their school in Chibok, North Eastern Nigeria.

She has been a vocal critic of the Nigerian leadership, both past and present, accusing them of “bad leadership, ethnic and religious divisions, mediocrity, and failures in governance”.

What are her chances?

Nigeria has had women candidates before. In 2011 Sarah Nnadzwa Jubrin ran for president and in 2015 Comfort Oluremi Sonaiya put herself forward. Both candidates faced several challenges.

The first was their struggle to raise campaign funds in Nigeria’s highly monetised political system. The cost of obtaining party nomination forms to contest for the presidency, the money to mobilise delegates, and to campaign across the country adds up to billions of naira. Many aspirant candidates can’t afford it.

Women candidates also deal with violence, intimidation, and godfatherism whereby political godfathers use their influence to block the participation of others in Nigerian politics. Women candidates also have to deal with rigging, just like their male counterparts.

Oby Ezekwesili and BBOG team
Ezekwesili is one of the women behind the Bring Back our Girls campaign aimed tasking the Nigerian government to rescue the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram

Where does that leave presidential candidates like Ezekwesili?

The civil servant turned activist has dubbed her campaign “Project Rescue Nigeria” with the hashtag #Hope2019. She is promising to provide focused and visionary leadership, to put citizens first, rebuild the economy by focusing less on oil and more on education and human capital, and to stem the rising tide of national debt.

In addition, Ezekwesili, will have to focus her campaign mostly on Nigerians under the age of 30 if she wants support from the “Not Too Young To Run” campaign. The lobby group wants the age limit to be reduced for candidates who aspire to run for elected office in Nigeria.

She also has to reach out to women. In the past, Nigerian women have often abandoned their own, personal choice for their husband’s political preferences.

But perhaps the thorniest challenge she faces is the zoning formulaadopted by both the ruling and opposition political parties in favour of the North. It is a formula that dictates which leaders can successfully vie for office depending on which part of the country they come from. This informed the choice of both Buhari and Abubakar.

Oby Ezekwesili
Ezekwesili as a minister left some impressive mark and many innovative steps were taken.

Ideas versus the establishment

Ezekwesili may have beautiful ideas. But these might not be enough to win votes. As noted by Professor Patrick Lumumba, professor of law, and former director of Kenya’s Anti-Corruption Commission,

Most Africans, are not moved by ideas, what simulates the electorate is instant solution and the 500 naira he/she will use to buy gari (food)

If the same mentality is to drive the choice of the electorate in the 2019 elections, candidates like Ezekwesili may have little chance of making it to the highest office in the land.


SOURCE: This article was initially written and published on The Conversation Website. All rights reserved.


Four months at UAE’s national university – this is what I found

By


The case of the Durham PhD student, Matthew Hedges – who has been arrested and placed in solitary confinement on the charge of spying – exposes the extreme limits on academic freedom in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But Hedges’s plight, while outrageous, is not altogether shocking for seasoned observers of the oil-rich Gulf monarchy.

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This year I spent four months as a visiting professor at the UAE’s national university. I found much to admire in their universities. Staff conduct research in campuses endowed with world-class facilities that arouse awe and jealousy from visiting academics. Highly motivated students make teaching rewarding.

These benefits however come at a price – academic freedom. Academics are often banned from entering the country because they are classified as security threats. Academics find themselves arbitrarily imprisoned for human rights activismCensorship is regularly applied to academics and scholarly events. During my time in the UAE, restrictions were placed unannounced on internet and Skype use.

These limits on academic freedom are motivated by the authorities’ obsession with clamping down on any activity considered threatening to security and authority. The state is unnerved by the chaos unleashed by the protests and demonstrations of the Arab Spring, and will do anything to stop this being exported to its shores.

Any hint of dissent directed at the Emirati elites, or demand for greater liberties, predictably results in a security crackdown. The potentially democracy-promoting spaces of the internet – and especially social media – are of particular suspicion. In 2012 the law on cyber crimesmade imprisonment acceptable for any speech seen as damaging the state.

The Qatari spat

It is its neighbour Qatar that particularly vexes the UAE at present. The UAE accuses Qatar of sponsoring terrorists to destabilise the region. These claims are currently elevated to a full-blown diplomatic crisis involving sanctions and a major blockade against Qatar – with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, and the internationally recognised Yemeni government severing diplomatic relations.

But what really drives UAE’s antagonism towards Qatar is its state-funded media network, Al Jazeera. The broadcaster represents a thorn in the side of the Gulf monarchies by broadcasting embarrassing stories about them. And in pursuit of taking down its rival, the UAE courts help from allies.

In the US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have probed for information about possible attempts by the UAE to gain political influence by siphoning money into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. And in March this year, the BBC obtained emails of a lobbying effort by the UAE to get the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, sacked for failing to support the UAE against Qatar.

This returns us to Hedges’ case. The UAE’s attorney general announced that the PhD student is accused of “spying for and on behalf of a foreign state” and jeopardising “the military, economic and political security of the UAE”. Matthew Hedges’ research, which investigates the impact of the Arab Spring on the UAE’s security strategy, clearly hits a tender nerve. His arrest additionally acts as a powerful message that the state is willing to curtail the free speech of academics.

The limits to academic freedom

As an academic working in the social sciences, I have been brought up to think perhaps optimistically of universities as bastions of free speech and critical thinking. In spending a number of months based at the UAE’s national university I soon learned that education here served a rather different function. Rather than encourag