Sex and the sugar daddy: a news social media lifestyle

In Kenya, more and more young women are using sugar daddies to fund a lifestyle worth posting on social media.

Transactional sex was once driven by poverty, says film-maker Nyasha Kadandara. But now, increasingly, it’s driven by vanity.

(Warning: Contains adult themes and graphic images)

Eva, a 19-year-old student at Nairobi Aviation College, was sitting in her tiny room in shared quarters in Kitengela feeling broke, hungry, and desperate. She used the remaining 100 Kenyan shillings she had in her wallet and took a bus to the city centre, where she looked for the first man who would pay to have sex with her. After 10 minutes in a dingy alley, Eva went back to Kitengela with 1,000 Kenyan shillings to feed herself for the rest of the month.

Six years ago, when she was at university, Shiro met a married man nearly 40 years her senior. At first, she received just groceries. Then it was trips to the salon. Two years into their relationship, the man moved her into a new apartment because he wanted her to be more comfortable. Another two years down the line, he gave Shiro a plot of land in Nyeri county as a show of commitment. In exchange, he gets to sleep with Shiro whenever he feels like it.

Eva’s experience is transactional sex in its most unvarnished form – a hurried one-off encounter, driven by desperation. Shiro’s story illustrates an altogether more complex phenomenon – the exchange of youth and beauty for long-term financial gain, motivated not by hunger but by aspiration, glamorised by social media stars, and often wrapped in the trappings of a relationship.

Older men have always used gifts, status, and influence to buy access to young women. The sugar daddy has probably been around, in every society, for as long as the prostitute. So you might ask: “Why even have a conversation about transactional sex in Africa?”

The answer is that in Kenya, and in some other African countries, “sugar” relationships seem to have become both more common and more visible: what once was hidden is now out in the open – on campuses, in bars, and all over Instagram.

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Exactly when this happened is hard to say. It could’ve been in 2007 when Kim Kardashian’s infamous sex tape was leaked, or a little later when Facebook and Instagram took over the world, or perhaps when 3G internet hit Africa’s mobile phones.

But somehow, we have arrived at a point where having a “sponsor” or a “blesser” – the terms that millennials usually apply to their benefactors – has for many young people become an accepted, and even a glamorous lifestyle choice.

You only have to visit the student districts of Nairobi, one recent graduate told the BBC, to see how pervasive the sponsor culture has become. “On a Friday night just go sit outside Box House [student hostel] and the see what kind of cars drive by – drivers of ministers, and politicians sent to pick up young girls,” says Silas Nyanchwani, who studied at the University of Nairobi.

Until recently there was no data to indicate how many young Kenyan women are involved in sugar relationships. But this year the Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics conducted a study for BBC Africa in which they questioned 252 female university students between the ages of 18 and 24. They found that approximately 20% of the young women who participated in the research has or has had a “sponsor.”

The sample size was small and the study was not fully randomised, so the results only give an indication of the possible numbers, they cannot be taken as definitive. Also, only a small percentage openly admitted to having a sugar daddy; the researchers were able to infer that a number were hiding the truth from answers they gave to other questions, using a technique called list randomisation. But interestingly, when talking about others, not about themselves, the young women estimated on average that 24% of their peers had engaged in a transactional sexual relationship with an older man – a figure very close to that reached by the researchers.

The student

Jane, a 20-year-old Kenyan undergraduate who readily admits to having two sponsors, sees nothing shameful in such relationships – they are just part of the everyday hustle that it takes to survive in Nairobi, she says.

She also insists that her relationships with Tom and Jeff, both married, involve friendship and intimacy as well as financial exchange.

“They help you sometimes, but it’s not always about sex. It’s like they just want company, they want someone to talk to,” she says.

She says that her religious parents brought her up with traditional values, but she has made her own choices. One of her motives, she says, is to be able to support her younger sisters, so they won’t need to rely on men for money. But she has also been inspired by Kenya’s celebrity “socialites” – women who have transformed sex appeal into wealth, becoming stars of social media.

“If I look hot, I look good, there has got to be some rich guy who will pay good money to possess me.”

Among them are the stars of the reality TV show Nairobi Diaries, Kenya’s own blend of Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. The show has launched several socialites out of Nairobi’s slums and on to yachts off the coast of Malibu or the Mediterranean.

“Nairobi Diaries is like the Kardashians playing out [on screen] in real time. If I look hot, I look good, there has got be some rich guy who will pay good money to possess me,” says Oyunga Pala, Nairobi columnist and social commentator.

The best known of the Kenyan socialites is probably Vera Sidika, who went from dancing in music videos on to the set of the Nairobi Diaries, and from there launched a business career based on her fame and her physique.

“My body is my business – and it is a money maker,” she said back in 2014, when discussing her controversial skin-lightening procedures. Nowadays, Vera is keen to promote herself as an entrepreneur, and runs a successful brand of “detox” herbal infusions called Veetox Tea.

“If you have expose your body, make money out of it”

Equally famous is model and socialite Huddah Monroe, who also rose to fame on reality TV – in her case Big Brother Africa, in 2013 – and who now runs a well-established line of cosmetics. “If you have to expose your body, make money out of it,” she was reported as saying, referring to the semi-nude images that she shows off to her 1.3 million Instagram followers.

In the past, some of Kenya’s socialites have styled themselves as #SlayQueens, and have been quite upfront about the financial benefits that have come from dating tycoons. Having made it to the top, though, they often begin to cultivate a different image – presenting themselves as independent, self-made businesswomen and encouraging Kenyan girls to work hard and stay in school.

The millions of fans scrolling through their Instagram posts, though, are not blind. The sudden emphasis on entrepreneurship does not hide the fact that these women used their sex appeal to create opportunities in the first place. And many – quite understandably – are attempting to apply this methodology to their own lives.

The socialite

One of those who has succeeded is Bridget Achieng, a woman from the sprawling Nairobi slum of Kibera, who worked as a domestic servant – a house girl – but who gained a social media following on the back of a sexy photoshoot, and then found her way on to the cast of Nairobi Diaries.

Her message to aspiring socialites, though, is that nothing is free. “You want a million bucks, you will do something that is worth a million bucks.”

If one end of the sugar spectrum features young women with their sights set on a hot pink Range Rover, a luxury condo and first-class tickets to Dubai, at the other are women angling for little more than some mobile phone credit and maybe a lunch at Java coffee house.

But the gulf between them may not be so deep as it seems.

“Should I leave all these Gucci Prada? Na which young girl no dey fear hunger?” sang the Ghanaian singer Ebony Reigns, encapsulating the mixture of social aspiration and economic anxiety that many young women feel. The desire not to go hungry and the desire to taste the good life can easily run side by side. And the fortunes of a woman dependent on a sponsor can change in an instant – either for better or worse.

The hustler

Grace, a 25-year-old single mum from northern Nairobi, has a regular sponsor, but is actively seeking a more lucrative relationship with a man who will invest in her career as a singer.

She is poor by the standards of middle-class Kenyans, often living hand-to-mouth, dancing for cash in a nightclub, and struggling to put her daughter through school. But her determination to feed and educate her child coexists with a naked ambition to become rich and famous through modelling and music.

“I need to be a star,” she says, citing not just Vera Sidika but also Beyoncé. Is she driven more by vanity or poverty, aspiration or desperation? The lines are blurred.

Both Grace and Jane have come of age in the last decade, bombarded since childhood with images of female status built on sex appeal. But according to Crystal Simeoni, an expert on gender and economic policy, Kenyan society encourages sugar relationships in other ways too.

If women have become more willing to profit financially from their youth and beauty, she says, it’s partly because of Kenya’s gross economic inequalities, lack of social mobility, and widespread corruption.

“The way things are constructed in this country makes it so much harder for a smaller person to make ends meet,” she argues. Hard work won’t get them anywhere. “They have to get a sponsor, rob a bank, or win a tender.”

“Right now the ass is the new brain, and this is what you use to get what you want”

Michael Soi, a well-known artist whose paintings satirise Kenya’s culture of transactional sex, takes a similar but more cynical view, attributing the phenomenon more to laziness and a get-rich-quick mentality than to structural injustice.

The days of waking up early and working from morning to night are behind us, he says: “Right now the ass is the new brain, and this is what you use to get what you want.”

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The phenomenon isn’t confined to women.

George Paul Meiu, who studies transactional relationships between men of Kenya’s Samburu tribe and older European women, has described how their youth and good looks have become valuable commodities in Kenya’s beach resorts.

Thanks to a set of “African warrior” stereotypes and myths about tribal sexual prowess, the Samburu and others like them are particularly appealing to both local and foreign sugar mummies. Some Samburu villages, he says, claim they have been unable to defend themselves against cattle raids from neighbouring tribes because so many young men have migrated to the coast to become beach boys.

“A beach boy is someone who gets up in the morning, smokes a joint, lies under a coconut tree waiting for bikini-clad white woman passing on the beach and runs after them,” says artist Michael Soi.

Drawing 1

But as most of those dependent on sugar relationships are female, they have dominated the public debate. There are concerns about the morality of their lifestyle, but also about its consequences for their health.

Kerubo, a 27-year-old from Kisii in Western Kenya, maintains that she has control of her relationship with her sugar daddy, Alfred. But when I ask her about safe sex, this illusion quickly evaporates.

Both Alfred and her other sponsor, James, prefer not to use condoms, she says. In fact she has had unprotected sex with multiple sugar daddies, who then have sex with other women, as well as with their wives, exposing all of these partners to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr Joyce Wamoyi from the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania says girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 have consistently been at higher risk of HIV infection than any other section of the population in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sugar relationships, she says, are contributing to these risks because the women who engage in them do not have the power to insist on the use of condoms. “With sex work, men are more likely to use condoms because it’s more explicit that this is selling and buying.”

Drawing 2

A look at the Kenyan tabloids also suggests that women are at risk of violence from their sponsors.

It’s not hard to find headlines such as “Stabbed to death by a man who has been funding her university education,” “Kenyan ‘sponsor’ threatens lover, posts COFFINS on Facebook and she DIES afterwards,” “Pretty 22-Year-Old Girl Killed By Her Sugar Daddy.” These articles all describe, sometimes in graphic detail, sugar relationships that led to murder.

Jackie Phamotse, a South African businesswoman who survived an abusive relationship with a “blesser”, described her experiences in a tell-all book, Bare: The Blesser’s Game.

Most young women, she says, are not aware of the dangers. “Some of the girls who disappear around our continent were in these transactional relationships… Looking at the police reports, these are cases of girls who were in relationships with older people, and they were rejected at some point and someone decided to kill them.”

Phamotse eventually fled her abuser, with nothing to show for the relationship. “I had to escape so I didn’t find any financial privilege,” she says. “I left the house and the car, and had to rebuild my life.”

No-one really knows how many sugar relationships end in sexual abuse or physical harm. Kenyan academics and NGOs have made extensive studies of domestic violence, and of the risks faced by sex workers. But on the subject of transactional sex there is no research – only the lurid anecdotes of the tabloids.

Among Kenyan feminists, the rise of sponsor culture has provoked intense debate. Does the breaking of old taboos around sex represent a form of female empowerment? Or is sponsor culture just another way in which the female body can be auctioned for the pleasure of men?

“There has been a rising growth of the women’s movement in Africa and a rising feminist consciousness,” says Oyunga Pala, the Nairobi columnist. “Women who were vilified for being sexually active have been given license to just be. There is less slut-shaming than before.”

But while some feminists argue that any choice a woman makes is inherently feminist – because it was made by a woman – others question how free the choice to enter a sponsor relationship really is.

“A feminist approach to freedom of expression, even with sex work and prostitution, is a northern perspective that says you should be allowed to do what you want to do,” says Crystal Simeoni. “But that is coming from a point of privilege. A lot of times these women don’t have a choice – it’s life or death.”

“If we say it’s a woman’s right to be a prostitute, we are sending her right back into the jaws of patriarchy.”

Mildred Ngesa, an ambassador for the global activist group Female Wave of Change, makes a similar argument. After decades of women struggling for the right to vote, to own land, to go to school, she argues, the “choice” to engage in sugar relationships is steeped in contradiction.

“If we say it’s her right to be a prostitute, we are sending her right back into the jaws of patriarchy.”

But is it prostitution, or something different in subtle but important ways?

Jane, the student, makes a distinction, arguing that “in these relationships, things are done on your terms”, and Dr Kirsten Stoebenau, a social scientist who has researched transactional sex in Kenya, agrees that this is significant.

“It only becomes sex work when the woman engaging in these relationships describes her sexual partners as clients, when she describes herself as engaged in the sexual economy and when the encounter and exchange is pre-negotiated, explicit, usually immediately remunerated, and often devoid of any emotional connection,” she says.

Grace, the aspiring singer struggling to put food on the table, has a slightly different perspective – to her the similarities with sex work are more apparent.

“I prefer the sponsor thing, rather than standing on the street,” she says. “Because you have that one person who is supporting you… you don’t need to sleep with so many men.”

 

The artist Michael Soi notes that Kenya remains on the surface a religious society with traditional sexual mores – but only on the surface. Those who deplore sex before marriage and infidelity within marriage rarely practise what they preach, he argues, and the condemnation of sugar relationships is tainted by the same hypocrisy.

“We’re constantly bombarded with moral ethics, and with what religion does and doesn’t allow. But it’s all a pretence,” he says. “We’re just burying our heads in the sand and pretending these things don’t happen.”

For many young Kenyans, the values espoused in families, schools, and churches simply do not align with the economic realities of the country, or cannot compete with the material temptations that, in the age of reality TV and social media, are everywhere visible.

Even within the family, most Kenyan girls have it drummed into them from an early age that they must marry a rich man, not a poor one. It’s taken for granted in these conversations that men will provide the money on which women will survive. So for some it’s only a small step to visualising the same transaction outside marriage.

“What is wrong about sex anyway?” asks Jane. “People just make it sound wrong. But sometimes, it ain’t wrong at all.”


Some names have been changed.

Nyasha Kadandara is a Zimbabwean journalist and film-maker who works mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.


SOURCE: This story has originally been written and published on BBC Africa with the title: Sex and the sugar daddy. Read the original version HERE

In Ghana, women get one sheep after their 10th child

Among the Ga, the people who are indigenous to Ghana’s capital, Accra, a woman is entitled to a live sheep on the delivery of her 10th child. The word for it is “nyongmato”.

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I am not making this up even though it does sound like the kind of apocryphal story that is regularly made up.

Lots of very important people among the Gas can testify to this. Unfortunately, I have not met any woman who has actually got a live sheep for having given birth to 10 children.

Indeed, I have never met any woman who has had 10 children.

I don’t know if I have been moving in the wrong circles, because I don’t even know any woman who has had five children. OK, as soon as I wrote that, I realised I was wrong.

‘Lonely battle’

Two months ago, I went to the funeral of a female relation of mine who was my classmate in primary school.

At her death, this relation of mine had 46 direct descendants; made up of eight children, 26 grandchildren and counting, and 10 great-grandchildren and counting.

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Ghana’s population has grown from five million in 1957 to nearly 30 million today. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

I was scandalised and I spent the entire funeral going over these figures and moaning to myself how easy it was to find the reasons for the poverty in Ghana.

I have been waging a lonely unpopular battle about the rate of population growth in our country and against women having so many babies, but to no avail.

I roll out what I consider to be a sound argument that I thought would win over all doubters.

I cite Norway, which had a population of 3.5 million to Ghana’s five million at the time of our independence in 1957.

Today, there are 5.3 million people living in Norway while Ghana has a population of nearly 30 million.

‘We don’t count children’

I make the argument that even if none of our rulers ever stole any public funds, we would still have economic difficulties at this rate of population growth.

The last time I visited Lillehammer in Norway, I wrote in my column about the difference in our two situations. I pointed out it is no wonder everything is bursting at the seams and we are forever worrying about the lack of classrooms.

Somehow, these arguments don’t cut any ice with people here because it is considered in extremely bad taste to complain about the number of children somebody has.

As someone once claimed to me: “In our tradition we don’t count children.”


Elizabeth Ohene:ELIZABETH OHENE

“Dr Appiah is an exceptionally brave woman. She has proposed that women should be restricted to having three children”


The good news is that now I don’t feel alone in this battle.

Into the fray has jumped the Executive Director of the National Population Council, Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah, and believe me, she is an exceptionally brave woman.

She is not speaking in parables, she is straight to the point. She has proposed that women should be restricted to having three children.

And she says this should be obligatory.

If a woman goes beyond this sacred number of three, she would be punished by being denied access to free government services.

‘Outrage from men’

We have to talk about the quality of life, Dr Appiah has been arguing.

I don’t recall that anyone in an official position has been this categorical in Ghana about family planning ever before.

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Ghana’s fertility rate is falling, but still, on average, a woman has four children. Photo: Getty Images

We have had a family planning policy since 1970 but usually people only talk about the spacing of births and then hope that the spacing will lead to the birth of fewer children.

This time around Dr Appiah is urging a cap on the number of children a woman should have.

It is interesting to note that that the people who claim to be outraged by the proposal to limit the number of children have been largely men. I’m sorry none of their arguments stick in my mind long enough to repeat here.

I have not yet heard any woman complain that they don’t want the number of children they can have to be restricted.

Ghana’s fertility rate, that is the average number of children per woman, currently stands at four, though that figure has fallen steadily over the last 30 years.

Another interesting statistic worth noting is that there has not been a single death from measles in Ghana since 2002. Measles used to be one of the main infant killers, and the main justification for having many births.

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There is a rural-urban divide in the birth rate in Ghana. Photo: Getty Images

This past week, I have been doing a very unscientific survey.

Every pregnant woman I have seen, I have asked which number it was and I have not yet met a woman in her third pregnancy. But I am probably looking in the wrong place by asking working women in banks, in offices and shops; the high birth rates can be found mostly in the rural areas.

There might yet be some women who are aspiring to get that live sheep.

We would probably have to find an equally attractive present for every woman who decides to stop at three or below. The problem is I can’t think what can possibly challenge the “10-baby sheep”, nyongmato.

Uganda’s brutal clampdown on MPs is caused by global indifference

MPs including the Afropop musician Bobi Wine are allegedly being tortured by the Museveni regime. The Magnitsky Act can curb this shocking abuse.

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In a country with such a complex and often conflict-prone history, acts of political violence and intimidation are common enough to be unremarkable. But this past week in Uganda has been exceptional, as outrage spills out into the streets over the government’s brutal arrests of four members of parliament and dozens of their supporters. Among those arrested was the rising political star Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a widely loved 36-year-old former Afropop musician popularly known as Bobi Wine. The state’s treatment of Wine, including credible allegations of torture, has prompted days of massive protests in the capital, Kampala, which have been violently suppressed by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) with tear gas and live ammunition.

President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, has breezily dismissed the treatment of Wine, calling the whole affair “fake news”. How the international community responds to Uganda in this moment is crucial – and the ruling party is betting on short attention spans and crisis fatigue to move on to other concerns. But the next generation of Ugandans deserves a more serious international response, as Wine’s plight is quickly becoming a symbol of the deplorable state of human rights in the country.

Although Wine was originally arrested over “obstructing a motorcade”, after stones were thrown at the president’s car, more charges were slapped together, including illegal possession of a firearm (although no such firearm was ever found). Despite being a matter for the civil courts, he was put into military detention until, on Thursday, the state dropped the gun charges – only to have him re-arrested and charged with treason along with the other three MPs. Wine is in jail because of who he is, not anything he may have done.

Over the course of his detention, Wine has allegedly been subjected to horrific abuse. According to accounts by his family, his face, torso, legs and genitals have been subjected to repeated heavy punches and kicks by UPDF soldiers. He has informed his wife that he has been given so many injections of unknown drugs by unknown people that he lost count, and consciousness, awakening only when he was wheeled into his arraignment hearing on 16 August – disoriented and unable to stand or speak.

Even Wine’s military doctors are said to have told him that it is likely he has suffered significant kidney damage, while the judge at that hearing ordered that he be granted his constitutionally guaranteed right to medical care. Many of his injuries may have a lifelong impact. But despite this evidence of abuse, the government continues to insist that he is in rude health, not a scratch or bruise on him.

Wine is in many ways an unlikely figure to become a symbol of opposition. He is new to politics, only winning his seat as an independent last year, and is not tied to one of the major opposition parties. There are many other longtime challengers in the opposition who have suffered similarly for years. Kizza Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change, has been attacked, threatened, physically abused and sent before military courts many times – in fact, he was arrested again hours after Wine was charged with treason.

His also may not be the worst case. Francis Zaake, the Mityana MP, was arrested on the same day, and UPDF agents allegedly tied a rope around his neck and beat him unconscious. He’s been unable to leave his hospital bedbecause of dislocated discs in his back and a severely injured neck. In September last year, the MP Betty Nambooze had her spine snapped in an attack by state agents – and that happened inside parliament. The stories go on and on.

Nevertheless, Wine’s case has captivated national attention in a unique way. As the “ghetto president”, Wine has unprecedented appeal among young people, allowing many disenchanted Ugandans to identify with him and participate in the political sphere. If he is dragged off, beaten, and tortured by UPDF thugs, his supporters feel it – and they will not back down.

It is the responsibility of the international community to take action to halt the human rights abuses in Uganda. Uganda is in clear violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, the UN convention against torture, the African Charter of Human Rights of the African Union, and a number of other international treaties. It is an important moment to demand the immediate release of these political prisoners, the dropping of all false charges, and the reinstatement of their basic political rights to free association and freedom of expression. Our law firm, acting on behalf of Wine, is calling for the application of the Global Magnitsky Act against state officials responsible for these human rights violations.

The Magnitsky Act, passed by the US Congress in 2016, in the wake of the murder of the Russian whistleblower-lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, allows for visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption. These types of individualised sanctions are a very effective deterrent against future attacks on human rights, while limiting the collateral damage to innocent citizens.

In recent years Uganda has avoided consequences for its repressive conduct – partly because the country is seen as a reliable security partner (contributing thousands of troops to Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere), and partly because of its stability as an investment destination. But the viability of these relationships is in jeopardy when rule of law is so brazenly discarded. The cause is just – we just need to summon the political will to bring positive change to Uganda.


  • Robert Amsterdam is the founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, which represents Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (aka Bobi Wine). For information about the case, go to CrowdJustice

Cover photo: ‘But the next generation of Ugandans deserves a more serious international response.’ Ugandans living in Kenya protest at Bobi Wine’s detention Photo: Daniel Irungu/EPA

Why the world has neglected the role of South Africa in the trade in lion bones

Africa’s wild lion population is estimated to be between 20 000 and 30 000. Researchers have good reason to believe that the real number is closer to 20 000. This puts lions in the “vulnerable” category of threatened species.

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The categorisation masks important realities. The only growing populations are those in fenced reserves with small wild managed populations. This is not only a species crisis. It’s also an ecological and economic crisis. Lions are apex predators, which means that entire food chains and ecological systems depend on healthy populations. Lions are also a significant tourism drawcard, and tourism is a significant employer.

South Africa, uniquely, also allows the breeding of lions in captivity, most of which have no conservation value. It has an estimated 7000 to 8000 lions in captivity across roughly 300 facilities. These lions are predominantly bred for canned hunting and the Asian predator bone market.

But, following a global campaign, the demand for canned hunting has plummeted in the last few years. Environmental lobby groups argue thatlions are now increasingly being killed for the bone trade.

A report prepared by by EMS, an activist charity, and the lobby group Ban Animal Trading, shows that lion bones are sold on the black market as tiger bones. The bones are dropped into rice wine vats and sold as tiger bone wine which is promoted in Asian markets as a treatment for rheumatism and impotence. The bones are also used to produce tiger bone cakes, an exotic small bar of melted bones mixed with additives like turtle shell.

The report argues that most lion bones come from captive-bred lions in South Africa.

Captive breeding is perfectly legal, if distasteful. But there are limits on the trade of lion bones. In 2016 the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties decided that no bone exports should be allowed from wild lions. But the conference also agreed that South Africa should establish a quota for skeleton exports from captive-bred lions. Captive breeding only occurs at scale in South Africa, so no other country is permitted to export lion bones.

A year later the Department of Environmental Affairs set an annual lion skeleton export quota at 800. It raised this to 1500 in July 2018. It did so without public consultation or the support of research. Even an interim report prepared for the department by the South African National Biodiversity Institute did not specify grounds on which to establish, or expand, a quota.

On top of this, there’s poor regulation of lion breeding facilities. The department doesn’t have a working database so doesn’t know how many facilities there are, or what the total number of captive-bred predators is.

How it works

In my new report, I discuss how breeding facilities are linked to the trade in lion bones.

The facilities arrange hunts that cost in the region of $22 000 for a male and female combination. Wildlife researcher, Karl Amman, describeshow trophy taxidermists then sell the lion skeletons (without the skull) on to buyers. These are usually in Asian countries. A skeleton can fetch $1500.

The importer then sells the bones on for between $700 and $800 per kg. A 100kg lion yields about 18kgs of bone, worth roughly $15 000 at this point in the supply chain. The bones are then imported into Vietnam, boiled down in large pots to yield 100g bars of cake which are sold for roughly $1000.

Conservationists are concerned that South Africa’s quota provides an incentive to breed lions not only for the bullet, but also for the bone trade.

The 2017 quota was fully subscribed within weeks while a newly released report prepared for CITES suggests that 3469 skeletons were exported that year, nearly double the allocated number.

This rise in the trade of lion bones shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2016 the US banned the import of captive-origin lion trophies from South Africa. Breeding facilities began looking for alternative markets. Selling lion carcasses was an obvious option given that a lioness skeleton fetches roughly R30 000, and a male skeleton about R50 000, when sold to a trader.

The predator breeding industry in South Africa argues that captive lion populations serve as a buffer against wild lion poaching because it can satisfy the demand for bones.

But those who oppose the trade in lion bones cite evidence that suggests the opposite is true. If anything, the quota could fuel the demand for lion products and provide a laundering channel for illegally sourced wild lion parts. This may imperil already vulnerable wild lion populations elsewhere in Africa. It also makes law enforcement extremely challenging: officials cannot be expected to distinguish between legal and illegally sourced bone stock.

What is being done about it?

The public outcry over an apparently arbitrary quota has been notable. The backlash against canned hunting and the bone trade has been similarly vocal.

The arguments against the trade have been put on the table at a two-day colloquium in South Africa’s parliament. The question being asked is: does the captive lion breeding industry harm, or promote, South Africa’s conservation image?

Ultimately, it is parliament’s job to hold the government to account. The colloquium may go some way towards doing so. It may even end the brutality of captive predator breeding.


Cover photo: First wild lions in the Karoo. Photo: Jenman African Safaris

How roadblocks fund rebels in the Congo

For over a decade it’s been widely recognised that rebel financing in the Democratic Republic of Congo is firmly linked to mining.

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First discovered by the Belgians in 1904, the Congolese soil harbours a huge amount of precious minerals. Subsequent industrial exploitation of copper and gold became the backbone of first Belgian colonialism and later Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracy.

After Cold War support for Mobutu waned, masses of ordinary Congolese invaded crumbling industrial mining concessions in the hope of digging out a livelihood. Today, hundreds of thousands of these miners persist. Knee-deep in the mud, for often little more than a dollar a day, they are the foot soldiers of the high-tech sector. With rudimentary tools, they supply not only copper and gold but also chemical elements like coltan, tungsten and tantalum.

This unregulated exploitation has fuelled conflict in the country. Part of the mining sites are controlled by either soldiers or rebels who seek to collect “rent” before minerals find their way to Asian producers and western markets.

Underscoring this dark connection between conflict and minerals, the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region in Africa recently reiterated that

the illegal exploitation of minerals remains the core cause of conflict and instability in Congo.

Donors have set guidelines, companies stepped up due diligence, and a myriad of partnerships labour to remove rebels and soldiers from mining sites. And important strides have been made. Over the past two years about 400 of 2400 monitored sites have been validated as conflict-free. Here, artisanal miners arguably make money without submitting to coerced labour or hefty illegal taxes.

But the rebels have found other ways of making money. Chased from mining sites, they simply try to control roads. Whoever controls the transport routes can levy taxes and control economic activities.

In a recent study, we mapped nearly 1000 roadblocks in Eastern Congo. It was difficult to find a road in Eastern Congo without a roadblock. I believe it’s time to acknowledge the existence of these roadblocks and the support they provide to rebels and undisciplined soldiers.

Land of a thousand roadblocks

Last year deep in Eastern Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu Province, General Mando, the leader of the Mai Mai Simba, the oldest rebel movement in Congo, and a plethora of state representatives and military officials gathered for important negotiations. The meeting’s aim was to convince the rebel leader to stop occupying a profitable gold mining site. A local researcher reported that, after listening to their arguments, Mando declared

But I have always lined your pockets with the proceeds of the mine. We have all benefited. You, Misses the Territorial Administrator, have always received your cut from me. And to thank me, you come with the army—so they will simply be the ones profiting from taxes now! Give me one good reason why I should leave?

After a few hours of heated debate, a pragmatic solution was found: Mando would be allowed to simply set up roadblocks a small distance from the site, taxing entry and exit at a distance. This would be a little less profitable than directly pocketing gold production, but had the benefit of being much easier to manage and to hide.

This allowed authorities to declare the site “conflict-free” to western donors, while at the same time accommodating local strongman.

Mando’s story is one of many. Congo is home to about 120 different armed groups, and roadblocks are key to their survival. This is particularly true for rebel leaders in areas where no minerals can be found.

Everywhere across Eastern Congo, as mining sites become cleared of armed actors, rebel leaders and military conflict entrepreneurs simply set up roadblocks to finance their activities. Congo’s roads are a magnet for extortion because everyone has to take their products to markets.

It is an easy strategy compared with robbery or controlling a mining site. It’s a lot easier to sit next to the road, tighten a string, and simply wait for the money.

Map showing roadblocks. IPIS

Roadblocks are also a crucial strategy for government actors. Congo is as large as western Europe but has only 2000 km of paved road. Given that the DRC state collects few taxes, remote government or military outposts are largely “self-financing” – government agents collect taxes to pay their salaries (or daily bread) locally – through roadblocks. Their commanders frequently impose a weekly quota of sums to make along the road.

As a result, everything that moves, will be taxed. Every item that goes between field and village, and then village and market, is subject to a host of little roadside impositions.

Roads to peace?

One piece of cord strung between two palm trees isn’t much more than a nuisance. But multiply it by a thousand and you get a significant source of conflict financing.

Congolese roads are a crucial space where conflict, illegal taxation, and conflict financing entangle. Ask anyone in Eastern Congo how conflict affects her life, and she probably won’t mention remote mining sites but rather start complaining about roadblocks and food prices. For ordinary Congolese, the cumulative burden of roadblock taxes form a key problem of the current conflict, leading to outrageous prices on even the most basic consumer goods in urban areas – and that for a population trying to survive on a dollar a day.

Roadblocks aren’t easy for the international community to fix. Whenever a well-intentioned United Nations patrol passes, roadblock rebels simply stand aside and set up shop again by stringing a cord over the road as soon as the blue helmets have passed.

But a way needs to be found. One possible solution is to turn conflict data into a tool to fight abuses. For instance, the development of an app to monitor abuses and hold authorities accountable for the panoply of illegal taxes. However seductive the “conflict mineral” story, the systemic exploitation of Congolese on the move shouldn’t be ignored. Roadblocks are sapping the ability of ordinary Congolese to trade in goods – and to survive.


Cover photo: Chased from mining sites, rebels simply try to control roads in the DRC. Photo credit: Peer Schouten


 

“No home for us”: Nairobi residents in danger as slum demolished for highway without compensation

A road project has taken the homes of 2,000 families without compensation – yet over half of Kenyans travel on foot.

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Early on Sunday morning on the outskirts of Nairobi, hundreds of people gathered amid the rubble where their church once stood. Pastors preached atop bare foundations. Worshippers, dressed in their Sunday best, sat on shattered bricks and broken concrete. Pamphlets, family photos and school papers littered the ground.

Days before, they had watched as bulldozers tore through their neighbourhood, mowing down churches, schools and businesses, to make way for a highway extension that aims to ease Nairobi’s notoriously bad traffic congestion. The new road will pass through the heart of Kibera, the largest informal settlement in Africa, where many of the homes are built from mud bricks and corrugated metal, and house some of the capital’s poorest people.

Two thousand families were forcibly evicted in the demolitions. There has been no offer of compensation or plans made for resettlement.

“Is this a free country? Why are they chasing away their citizens without telling them where they should go?” asks Elijah Musembi, a metalworker who has lived here since the 1980s. “Of what use am I to this country?”

“Progress is good. We are not refusing that,” adds Jackson Muindo, 25, who lost his home in the demolition and now sleeps outside. “But this is not progress. This is being taken advantage of.”

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Kibera is the largest informal settlement in Africa. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian.

In recent years, Kenya’s economy has grown rapidly. Since 2000, GDP has increased five-fold to $75bn in 2017. But in that same period the number of people in severe poverty increased by 10%, leaving many Kenyans to feel they have been left out of the boom. And the road project is a particular sticking point, given that more than half of Kenyans still walk to where to they need to go.

“It will not benefit us, we don’t have cars. It will benefit the rich men,” Bryan Matisa, 28, says as he stares out over the wreckage of the school where he once worked. The demolitions came just days before end-of-term exams, leaving hundreds of children in the lurch. “The road is not more important than the children. They should have let the children finish school.”

2018 study by the Overseas Development Institute warned that Kenya’s push to build new roads, a popular political platform on the campaign trail, has come at the expense of safety.

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The new highway extension is intended to ease Nairobi’s notorious traffic congestion. Photo: Tom Cockrem/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

“More than half of all road deaths take place on the handful of new roads, and the poorest – those who walk, cycle, and use motorcycles – make up more than 90% of the fatalities on the roads,” says Avi Silverman, deputy director of the FIA Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that promotes global road safety.

Research has also shown that new roads don’t necessarily mitigate congestion, and can exacerbate it. “Disproportionate investment in road building over safe, sustainable public transport, or measures to provide protection for those who walk or cycle, fuels the demand for private vehicles, which creates further congestion,” Silverman says.

With the battle for their homes lost, residents in Kibera are now demanding compensation. The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura), the government body managing the project, has taken a defiant stance against compensating the evictees, whom they consider to be squatters on government land.

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Kenya’s economy has grown rapidly since 2000. But the number of people in severe poverty has increased by 10% in the same period. Photo: Rajiv Golla

The Kenyan constitution does offer some support to occupiers who are removed from their land. Consultations with local community groups has led to an agreement in principle for compensation, but no details have been announced, let alone delivered.

Kibera has long had a precarious relationship with the government. When Nairobi was founded in 1899 as the colonial capital, it was segregated along racial lines: white settlers in the centre, Indian traders beside them, and migrant African labour far outside, in the surrounding forest. Those migrant camps soon became bustling informal settlements, of which Kibera was the largest and oldest. Kibera was initially settled by any southern Sudanese soldiers recruited into the British colonial King’s African Rifles regiment: when they retired, their pension included a permit to live on this vast government tract. Those permits were traded and sold, serving as unofficial title deeds.

However, as Kibera grew over the decades, the government made several failed attempts to demolish the site and resettle the residents. In the 1990s, it began a programme of “slum upgrading”, but the projects were accused of being corrupt and ineffective, serving mainly to displace existing residents and increase tenant costs.

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Residents began demanding more autonomy to develop their properties themselves. In 2017, the Nubian community, descendants of the original Sudanese soldiers, secured a title deed for 116 hectares (288 acres) of Kibera to be placed into a community trust. The rest of Kibera, however, remains in a precarious position on government land that can be reclaimed at any time.

Politicians have exacerbated the tensions in Kibera over the years. With the introduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s, Kibera became a hotbed of ethnic mobilisation and the site of some of the worst violence in the 2007 elections. That the demolitions came almost exactly one year after the heated 2017 general election was not lost on residents.

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Supporters of the opposition leader flee as shots are fired by riot police during a protest in Kibera during Kenya’s 2017 general elections. Photo: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

“We voted for these politicians but they are not helping us,” sayes Esther Muli, the founder and headteacher of Makina Self Help primary school in Nairobi. “They get an office and they just sit inside. But when they want their votes, their cars are going all over the place. They came here and did a lot of politicking, but, one year later, I don’t see anybody.”

Kura has already put out eviction notices to other sites across Nairobi to be demolished to make way for the road, pushing people to gather their belongings and leave before compensation or resettlement plans are made.

Meanwhile, outside Nairobi, 8,000 people have been forced from their homes in Mau Forest, ostensibly to protect an important water catchment area from deforestation and overgrazing. Critics say the evictions are a political strategy to shift support in the upcoming 2022 elections, with farmers and herders caught in the middle.

“It’s not just us – and it’s not just roads,” Muli says. “Kenyans must protect themselves from their leaders.”


Story Source: Guardian Cities

Cover Photo:  A Kibera resident kneels in the rubble of his church, 
demolished as part of the road development. Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters

It’s very hard for single Nigerian women to rent homes

Many landlords in Nigeria suspect single women of being prostitutes, making it difficult for them to rent apartments.

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A successful career woman, Olufunmilola Ogungbile, 30, never thought that she would be sleeping on a friend’s couch after five months of apartment-hunting in Abeokuta city in south-western Nigeria.

She had moved from Lagos after securing a good job with the Ogun state government as a project administrator. Despite being financially independent, she struggled to find an apartment in middle and upmarket areas because she was single.

“The first question the landlord would ask me is if I’m married?” Ms Ogungbile said, “I’d say ‘No’, and they’d follow with, ‘Why not’?”

She was often left puzzled.

“What does my marital status have to do with me getting a place to live in?”

‘We want decent people’

Ms Ogungbile said the discrimination was widespread.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the landlords I met did not want to rent to me because I am a single woman,” she told the BBC.

“Most landlords and agents would tell me, ‘Can you bring your boyfriend or your husband?’ In these kinds of apartments, we don’t like boys coming in. We just want decent people.”

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Many landlords believe women do not earn enough to pay the rent

Ms Ogungbile believes the hurdles she faced are down to cultural expectations – marriage is a benchmark used to measure decency.

“In this part of the world, if you are not married then you are a prostitute,” she added.

Sylvia Oyinda – a product manager in the retail sector in Lagos, Nigeria’s throbbing metropolis – agrees that the stigma makes it difficult for single women to rent in Nigeria.

Ms Oyinda, 31, was engaged when she started looking for an apartment. Landlords refused to meet her without her fiancé.

“There is a saying ‘small girl, big god’ that describes young single women who rent alone or squat with other females.

“The saying refers to single women who have sponsors, typically older men, who pay their rent,” she said.

‘Men have more money’

Ms Oyinda believes landlords assume most young single women are like this.

“The three landlords I met all refused to show me their apartments. They would tell me, ‘Don’t bother.'”

Out of frustration she stopped scouting on her own. On the fourth attempt, she went with her partner, to whom she is now married, and was taken seriously. The couple eventually settled for a four-bedroom flat in the high-end area of Lekki.

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Olufunmilola Ogungbile on her five-month flat hunt:

Olufunmilola OgungbileImage copyrightOLUFUNMILOLA OGUNGBILE

“Part of fighting the stigma was me refusing to bring a partner because that was part of the criteria before they would hand me the key”

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Coleman Nwafor, a landlord and property owner, said he does not discriminate, but most of his tenants and buyers are men because they have more money.

“Most single ladies are under the responsibility of their parents or a lover. You can never tell what will happen after the first year. And every landlord wants a tenant who will pay without stress and renew their contract once it expires,” he told the BBC.

“Most single ladies are not working. There are more jobs for men than women in Nigeria. That is just the way it is.”

‘Landlords try to police women’

Yinka Oladiran, 25, who moved from New York to Lagos in May 2016 to pursue a career as a TV presenter, said she lived independently in the US and wanted to maintain her freedom in Nigeria.

Apartment in Lagos
Many landlords feel that couples are more reliable tenants

She also wanted to reduce a three-hour commute to work from her father’s home, but she could not rent an apartment without her father giving his consent to landlords.

“There were landlords who said they did not want to rent to me until they had spoken to my father to make sure that he was OK with it, even though I was paying with my own money,” Ms Oladiran told the BBC.

“My opinion didn’t matter. The landlords try to police women,” she added.

After searching independently for more than six months, she finally got an apartment in April 2017.

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However, she said she felt constantly undermined by security staff, especially when she came home late from work, as they often asked her who she was visiting.

“For that to even happen over and over again was very insulting,” Ms Oladiran said.

As for Ms Ogungbile, her five-month hunt ended last week when she finally moved into a studio flat.

She said she secured it through a letting agency which focused on her income rather than her gender or marital status.

The 30-year-old, who is now excited about painting her new home in her favourite colours – purple and lilac – believes she fought back against discrimination in her own little way.

“Part of fighting the stigma was me refusing to bring a spouse or a partner because that was part of the criteria before they would hand me the keys,” she said.


COVER PHOTO is from Shutterstock via Woman.ng on the story “Is this what happens when Nigerian women are breadwinners”

Cambodia’s prime minister rigged an election: here is how he did it

 


Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won a recent landslide victory in the Southeast Asian country.

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Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Cambodia’s People Party (CPP), the party of Prime Minister Hun Sen (photo), 32 years in government, has won all the seats.

After outlawing the main opposition party that challenged the ruling CPP, Hun Sen secured more than 80 per cent of the popular vote and well over 100 of the 125 contested seats in the National Assembly. Despite calls to boycott the election, voter turnout was around 82 per cent, or about 6.88 million people.

The response from the international community has been split.

Australia, Canada, the European Union and the United States have expressed “profound disappointment” with the lack of opposition participation. Regional countries and populist European leaders, on the other hand, have endorsed the result.

The re-election of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his CPP contributes to the growing global democratic crisis. The government has taken advantage of the retreat of leading democracies to use blatant repression to suppress opponents, stifle media freedom and compromise rules-based institutions.

With the advent of digital technology and increased social media use in Cambodia, the government has also turned to “sharp power” to manipulate information, target crucial democratic institutions to exert control and change public opinion.

What went wrong this election?

Pulled out all the stops

In the last competitive elections in 2013, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) gained significant ground with 44 per cent of the popular vote, shaving the CPP’s vote share to 48 per cent. In this election, Hun Sen and the CPP were determined to pull out all the stops to prevent a replay of 2013’s humiliating results.

In 2016, a prominent political commentator and activist Kem Ley was assassinated.

Kem Ley is seen in this 2016 photo.

The following year, the main opposition party, the CNRP, was dissolved and banned from contesting the election. The CNRP’s leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested on trumped-up charges of “treason.” This move followed weeks of tensions involving the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute from the country and the shuttering of 32 radio stations critical of the government, including the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

A key assault on independent media included the imposition of back taxes on the leading newspaper, the Cambodia Daily, resulting in its bankruptcy. Meantime, the Phnom Penh Post was sold to a Malaysian businessman from a public relations company that worked for the Cambodian government.

Journalists were also constrained by a list of arbitrary, controversial rulesregarding how they cover elections. They were prohibited from having their “own ideas to make conclusions,” asking detailed questions about the election result or from “interfering” at the voting booths by talking to voters. Cambodian journalists also routinely deal with phone-tapping and death threats, and are forced to self-censor.

Other drastic measures to tilt the level playing field included opposition harassment, voter intimidation and vote-buying. While small parties were allowed to contest, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) reported the anti-regime parties faced harassment from government officials, creating “a noxious pre-election environment characterized by impunity, threats and intimidation.”

What’s more, high-ranking members of the armed and police forces campaigned for the CPP prior to the election, while others threatened to take away public services to residents in certain provinces unless they voted. The government also threatened people who wanted to boycott elections. Additionally, vote-buying was reported in which envelopes filled with 20,000 riel (approximately US$5) were handed out to voters at campaign rallies.

Fake news and online censorship

Aside from stifling the mainstream media, the government also cracked down on digital media to prevent the opposition from making any headway. To prevent digital technology from becoming a liberalizing or mobilizing tool, the government ramped up its surveillance of online activities.

In 2015, the controversial Law on Telecommunications was passed to authorize the government’s eavesdropping on all telecommunications. Every phone conversation, text message, email or post on Facebook, if deemed to have violated “national security” clauses, could result in a 15-year prison sentence.

Weary of the spread of online “fake news” — also known as negative media coverage — staff from three government ministries were tasked to control news content, writing, audio, pictures, videos and any other media with “the intention to cause instability” prior to the July 29 election.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen waves to supporters just before the July 29 election. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Internet service providers were also required to have software and equipment to filter or block websites, accounts or social media pages that “broadcast in violation of the law.”

The government is now drafting “fake news” legislation similar to Malaysia’s “Anti-Fake News Act” to punish those found guilty of creating or distributing supposedly false information with up to two years imprisonment and fines of up to US$1,000.

Many of Cambodia’s government-approved media outlets, with their links to China, are looking more like China’s authoritarian model, which should be cause for concern for proponents of democracy.

While internet penetration has increased in Cambodia, internet freedom has declined. Cambodia was ranked as having the worst environment for clean elections and for freedom of political parties from 2000 to 2015 in Southeast Asia. Once a thriving and open media hub, Cambodia now sits at 142 in the World Press Freedom Index.

Divided international community

The international community’s response to Cambodia’s sham election is divided. The U.S. and the EU, who provided aid to Cambodia after its first UN-administered election in 1993, cut electoral assistance and suspended funding prior to the vote. On the other hand, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China have remained loyal donors.

While Russia provided election monitors, China and Japan supplied election ballot boxes and booths. China also promised US$100 million in military aid to boost ties with Cambodia prior to the election.

Despite calls from local election watchdogs not to send observers, Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) reported there were more than 50,000 observers, including some from China, Myanmar and Singapore, who participated in election monitoring. And a group of European populist and nationalist politicians from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy Party, the Austrian Freedom Party and other right-wing party leaders also descended on Cambodia to observe and endorse the national election.

The CPP’s victory does not bode well for Cambodian democracy. Given the failure of international sanctions to have any effect, it is likely Cambodia will slide further into electoral authoritarianism in the coming years.


Disclosure statement

Netina Tan receives funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and International Development of Research Centre (IDRC).

Cassandra Preece receives funding from McMaster University.


 

OAU’s Department of Adult Education organizes skills fair for university community


By Olamide Samson Olalekan


The Department of Adult Education and Life Long Learning, in the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, organizes first of its kind Skills Fair in the history of Obafemi Awolowo University.

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The skills fair, which serves as a continuous assessment for the students offering DCE 403 with course title, “Organizations and Administration of Adult Education”, was held on the 3rd of August, 2018 at the Faculty of Education basement.

It encompasses various vocational trainings which includes tie and dye, soap making, bead making, bow tie, lapel, make up and gele, barbing, wig making etc

The skills fair was not only attended by students from the faculty of education, but also had in attendance lecturers in the faculty, students from other faculties and even persons from outside the University.

The newly elected Dean of Faculty of Education, Prof. M. A. Adeleke, also witnessed the Skills fair. He commended the efforts of the lecturers in charge of the course, Dr. Mrs. Babalola and Mr Paul Akpomuje, for being the brains behind the innovation.

He also congratulated the students offering the course for participating in the fair and advised them not to see it as a mere continuous assessment, but to see it also as a skill acquisition program.

In order to get more details about the real driving force behind this first of its kind Skill Fair in the University community, bloomgist’s Olamide Samson Olalekan had an interview with one of the Lecturers in charge of the course, Mr. Paul Akpomuje.

During the interview, Mr. Paul Akpomuje shed more lights on the reason(s) for the skill fair. He said: “We in the Department of Adult Education and Life-long Learning believe that education should be practical; we believe that when people come to the Faculty of Education, they should not just be trained to become classroom teachers only.”

“They may choose to be classroom teachers and do other things or do other things but classroom, so when we train people and do all these things; we believe we should bring education to reality.

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“Most importantly, there are three domains of learning; we have the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor. In our universities in Nigeria, I stand corrected, I’m sorry to say, I think we have missed it in the sense that, I don’t know of other universities but to the best of my knowledge, emphasis is only on the cognitive, that is why you see people cramming, going to write exams, cram to write tests and all.

“We believe that the other domains, affective and psychomotor, are tested. So what we are doing now is called “Skills Fair”, the skills fair is to test both the affective and the psychomotor domain of learning so that we will be able to test people’s character, behavior, attitude, emotional intelligence not only intellectual intelligence quotient.

“We don’t believe only in IQ in Adult Education, we believe in IQ- Intelligence Quotient, EQ- Emotional Quotient and SQ- Spiritual Quotient, so we believe in all the quotients of a person, meaning that we believe in the roundedness of a person i.e. a person must be rounded.

“Learning should be a rounding process; it should be able to go round a person’s whole skills. So what we are doing here is a test of the psychomotor and affective skills. While we are testing the affective skill, the behavior, mannerism and emotions, of students; we are also testing their ability to put their hands to work, that is, the psychomotor skill.

“For instance, one of the students in one of the groups, the tie & dye and soap making group, is visually challenged, taking this course (DCE 403) , and was the person who taught soap making.

“Ordinarily, she may write exams and not do well because you are testing the cognitive domain but here she is using other skills very effectively which is the psychomotor skill and different groups.

“Some people were taught how to make wigs, barb, do make up, finger foods etc., these are the things that may not be taught in the classroom. So, the essence is to practice training or teaching and also to test all other domains of learning”, he added.

 

Is it right for a Christian to support death penalty?

Pope Francis has declared the death penalty “inadmissible.” This means that the death penalty should not be used in any circumstance. It also alters the Catholic Catechism, a compendium of Catholic doctrine, and is now binding on Roman Catholics throughout the world.

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Pope Francis said the death penalty, can never be sanctioned because it ‘attacks’ the inherent dignity of all humans. Photo: HuffPost

But in spite of his definitive statement, Pope Francis’ act will probably only deepen the debate about whether Christians can support capital punishment.

As a Catholic scholar who writes about religion, politics and policy, I understand how Christians struggle with the death penalty – some cannot endure the idea and others support it as a way to deter and punish terrible crimes. Some Christian theologians have also observedthat capital punishment could actually lead to a change of heart among criminals who might repent when faced with the finality of death.

Is the death penalty un-Christian?

The two sides

In its early centuries, Christianity was seen with suspicion by authorities. Writing in defense of Christians who were unfairly charged with crimes in second-century Rome, philosopher Anthenagoras of Athenscondemned the death penalty and wrote that Christians “cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly.”

But as Christianity became more connected with state power, European Christian monarchs and governments regularly carried out the death penalty until its abolition in the 1950s through the European Convention on Human Rights. In the Western world, today, only the United States and Belarus retain capital punishment for crimes not committed during wartime. But China, and many nations in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa still apply the death penalty.

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Support for the death penalty is falling worldwide. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, CC BY-SA

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Survey, support for the death penalty is falling worldwide. However, in the United States a majority of white Protestants and Catholics continue to be in favor of it.

Critics of the American justice system argue that the deterrence value of capital punishment is debatable. There are also studies showing that, in the United States, capital punishment is unfairly applied, especially to African-Americans.

Christian views

In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 21:12 states that “whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, however, rejects the notion of retribution when he says “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

While it is true that the Hebrew Bible prescribes capital punishment for a variety of offenses, it is also true that later Jewish jurists set out rigorous standards for the death penalty so that it could be used only in rare circumstances.

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A 2010 photo of a victims advocate Ann Pace who supports the death penalty. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

At issue in Christian considerations of the death penalty is whether the state has the obligation to punish criminals and defend its citizens.

St. Paul, an early Christian evangelist, wrote in his letter to the Romansthat a ruler acts as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The Middle Ages in Europe saw thousands of murderers, witches and heretics put to death. While church courts of this period generally did not carry out capital punishment, they did turn criminals over to secular authorities for execution.

Thirteenth-century Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas argued that the death penalty could be justified for the greater welfare of society. Later Protestant reformers also supported the right of the state to impose capital punishment. John Calvin, a Protestant theologian and reformer, argued that Christian forgiveness did not mean overturning established laws.

The position of Pope Francis

Among Christian leaders, Pope Francis has been at the forefront of arguing against the death penalty.

The letter accompanying the Pope’s declaration makes several points. First, it acknowledges that the Catholic Church has previously taught that the death penalty is appropriate in certain instances. Second, the letter argues that modern methods of imprisonment effectively protect society from criminals. Third, the letter states that this development of Catholic doctrine is consistent with the thought of the two previous popes: St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

St. John Paul II maintained that capital punishment should be reserved only for “absolute necessity.” Benedict XVI also supported efforts to eliminate the death penalty.

Most important, however, is that Pope Francis is emphasizing an ethic of forgiveness. The Pope has argued that social justice applies to all citizens. He also believes that those who harm society should make amends through acts that affirm life, not death.

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Jesus’ message was of forgiveness. Brandon, CC BY-SA

For Pope Francis, the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life are the core values of Christianity, regardless of the circumstances.


This article first appeared on The Conversation on April 27, 2017.

Rwanda and Arsenal FC: when the poor sponsor the rich

Rwanda keeps surprising. Recently the Rwandan Development Board signed a sleeve sponsoring deal with London Premier League club, Arsenal. Over a three-year period, the 200 sq centimetre ad “Visit Rwanda” will cost the country USD$39 million.

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Arsenal FC’s new sponsor is Rwanda. Photo: Twitter/@Arsenal

President Paul Kagame is known to be a committed Arsenal fan. Recently, he even tweeted that the club needed a new coach after Arsenal’s once invincible league and cup winning manager Arsene Wenger’s poor record over the past number of seasons. One may suppose that it is a coincidence that the deal was struck just after Wenger’s retirement at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Rwanda is the 19th poorest country in the world with a per capita income of around USD$700. Arsenal is one of the richest football clubs in the world. It’s not surprising therefore that the nearly USD$40 million has upset quite a few people.

Dutch lawmakers, including some from the governing coalition, immediately reacted angrily to the news that such a poor country receiving a great deal of aid from The Netherlands would sponsor one of the world’s richest soccer clubs. Similar reactions could be heard in the UK, Rwanda’s second largest bilateral donor. An MP described the deal as “an own goal for foreign aid”.

In addition, those concerned with democracy and human rights think the deal is sending the wrong message about a country that has a strong authoritarian streak running through it.

The question is: Is Kagame entering into a deal with his favourite club to promote tourism or has he done it to enhance his image and shield him from criticism? He appears to have made the decision off his own bat: the contract appears not to have been discussed in the cabinet and the money does not figure in the budget approved by parliament.

Rwanda’s rationale

For the Rwandan government, the deal is part of a broader strategy to develop tourism, which in 2017 accounted for about 12.7% of GDP and USD$400 million of revenue. The country sees upmarket leisure and convention tourism as an important growth sector. It has a lot going for it: lush green landscapes, the mountain gorillas of the Virunga volcanos, the Akagera wildlife park, the tropical Nyungwe forest, idyllic Lake Kivu, and even genocide memorials – all compressed into a space of just 26,000 sq kms.

This strategy is integrated and makes sense on paper. The state has invested heavily in its national airline RwandAir and built the Kigali Convention Centre and high-end hotels. And the development of the new Bugesera International Airport, designed to become a major regional hub, is underway.

But there are doubts about the profitability of these ventures. For instance, RwandAir has yet to break even 14 years after it was launched. The government keeps it afloat with an annual grant of USD$50 million just for operations.

Investments in a constantly expanding fleet to cater for an ever growing network of continental and intercontinental destinations require considerable borrowing at a high cost. The fiscal risk involved in the government’s strategy is high, and economists wonder how sustainable these outlays will be in the medium term.

Calculations like these are for the Rwandan government to consider. But has Arsenal considered the signal it’s giving in light of Kagame’s human rights and democracy records?

Risks for Arsenal

Canadian investigative journalist Judi Rever recently recorded in a book, “In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front”, that the Rwandan regime has massacred tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, particularly in the 1990s.

And last year Human Rights Watch issued worrying reports about human rights abuses. These included the rounding up and arbitrary detention of poor people in “transit centres” across the country, widespread repression in land cases, extrajudicial killings and unlawful detention and torture in military facilities.

In October 2017 the United Nations subcommittee on Prevention of Torture suspended its visit to Rwanda because of “a series of obstructions imposed by the authorities”. It was only the third time in 10 years the subcommittee has done this.

On top of this there has been widespread analysis and commentary on the state of democracy in Rwanda. The country is a de facto one-party state with no meaningful political opposition, no press freedom and no independent civil society.

Kagame’s grip on power is absolute and in August last year he was reelected with over 98% of the vote. A referendum on a constitutional amendment in 2015 gave him the right to stay office until 2034.

Realising that battles are fought in the media as much, if not more than on the ground, Kagame’s party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has developed a formidable information and communication strategystretching back to the civil war it launched in October 1990.

Kagame once said:

We used communication and information warfare better than anyone. We have found a new way of doing things.

This has involved paying those who can help promote the right image, including public relations firms.

Political ethics and sport

True, political ethics and sports don’t match well. Until recently FC Barcelona agreed to a Qatar sponsorship that saw the country featured on the team’s jerseys. Qatar has a very chequered political record. Due to host the 2022 World Cup, it’s known for its notorious human rights abuse, especially when it comes to the rights of migrant workers and women.

Another example is Atlético Madrid which was controversially sponsored by Azerbaijan, where the Euro 2020 football tournament will take place. This east European country has been flagged by Amnesty Internationalfor its “crackdown on the right to freedom of expression, particularly following revelations of large-scale political corruption”.

Not that it should make any difference, but these two countries are very rich, while Rwanda is very poor.

And I nearly forgot: Many Arsenal fans were opposed to the deal, not because of Rwanda’s human rights and democracy records, but because they didn’t like the design of the sleeve print.


Disclosure statement

Filip Reyntjens does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

“I get hit by car while crossing roads”: the story of Nigeria children selling on highways

STORIES of children being used in Nigerian mines have hit the headlines. But this phenomenon isn’t uncommon. About 15 million Nigerian children work –- the highest rate of working children in West Africa.

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Globally there are over 168 million children, aged 5 to 14, that work. While most studies focus on child labour that happen in rural and agricultural areas, very few have reported the dangers experienced by children in urban areas of Africa where they work as street hawkers, hustlers, vendors and domestic servants.

But in a rapidly growing society such as Nigeria, where poverty is widespread, child labour in urban areas has become a systemic avenue for augmenting parental income. Though it may build the entrepreneurial skills of youngsters for later life, it can have detrimental consequences.

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I set out to find out more about the lives of children who are working. Drawing on interviews with 1,535 children (aged 8 – 14 years) and their parents, my study documented their experiences. It showed that although child labour provides significant economic assistance towards the sustenance of the family, children don’t get a proper education and experience negative health and social consequences in the process.

Working children

Over half the children interviewed were female and the average age of all children was 12 years, though some were as young as 7-years-old. Most were engaged in sales (such as street hawking) and services (like car washing). While some of the children worked as much as six hours a day, the average daily hours of work was four.

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When it came to the parents, more than two-thirds were engaged in trading and services, the remaining 28.4% were employed in administrative and professional occupations, indicating more education. Regarding parental income, an overwhelming 8 out of 10 parents earned about 20,000 Naira (about USD$55) per month. Such low earnings mean the households turned to using the labour of their children to supplement the family’s income.

Despite the economic benefits of child labour, the findings show that children face a variety of challenges in their daily activities.

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More than a third had experienced accidents involving motor vehicles. “John,” a boy aged 9, complained that: “I get hit by car and motorcycles when I want to cross the roads.”

Surprisingly, 1 out of 7 children told our interviewers about attempted kidnapping. “Laide”, a 10 year-old-girl, narrated a scenario where two men wanted her to follow them by promising to give her 5,000 Naira (about USD$14).

The study also found that about 1 out of 10 children had been subjected to rape, sexual molestation, or assault while on the streets selling foodstuffs and fruits.

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“Tayo”, a 13 year old girl said: “At times, some men would pretend that they want to buy things from me, but later would be touching my body.” “Kehinde”, a 14-year-old girl, said: “I was raped twice and became pregnant on one occasion by two men…My parents aborted the pregnancy so that it wouldn’t ruin my education.”

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Because children spend considerable time away from their family and household, about one-quarter (22.8%) reported that gangsters would invite them to join in their bad activities. “Tolu”, an 11-year-old boy said: “Touts and gangsters would come to me and ask me to smoke Indian hemp (marijuana). Sometimes, they would ask me to describe my house so that they can come to visit me and invite me to join them in their activities.”

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Almost one quarter (24.1%) of children miss one day or more of school each week. Moreover, 7 out of 10 of the working children attribute their poor school attendance to tiredness or sickness resulting from long distance walking due to their daily work activities, while the remaining 28% miss school because of their parents request that they should sell foodstuffs instead of attending school that day. This finding shows how child labour can have a detrimental effect on child health, which invariably affects their school attendance.

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When children do go to school, about half are sometimes, or always, late. When asked why they’re late, 52.6% cited child labour as the major reason. Another one-third mentioned tiredness or illness as reasons for the lateness. Again, child labour appears to have a negative impact on their punctuality which does not bode well for effective learning and success in school.

Children were also asked about opportunities for doing homework after school. Just a little over 40% said that child labour does not hinder their time for homework.

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Finally, interviews with the children reveal that two-thirds do not have time for recreation, although the remaining one-third manage to play with friends during the time they are engaged in child labour. Child labour disturbs children’s leisure time, hindering their optimal social development which they get through interacting with peers.

New policies

I recommend that policies need to be put in place that reduce the number of children working in Nigeria. Policy programmes such as credit facilities, poverty reduction schemes, by creating jobs for adults, and the provision of affordable medical facilities would improve the quality of lives and, consequently, reduce the need for child labour.

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Existing laws should also be enforced, including compliance with the minimum working age and ensuring universal enrolment of Nigerian children in schools.


CREDITS:

This story was written and published indepoendly with no affiliations with any media house or company, neighter does it generate fund for the Bloomgist as it is not an in-house original publication.


Disclosure statement

Prof. ‘Dimeji Togunde does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

New clothes and cash: how social media is fueling Niger ‘bride price’ controversy

Newlyweds showing off online heap pressure on teenagers to marry too soon while men ‘drag’ Facebook looking for affairs.

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Rakiatou Idi on the day of her marriage. Her brideprice was 300,000 CFA (£400) in cash. Photo: Tagaza Djibo for the Guardian

It was Rakiatou Idi’s wedding night. She waited for her new husband on their new mattress in their new house while a joyful gang of young wedding guests filed in and out to take pictures of her on their phones.

As is the tradition in Niger, the bride wasn’t invited to the ceremony so when Mohammed Yaou’s friends delivered him to her, carrying a ceremonial cloth over his head, it was the first time she had seen her new husband all day.

A few months earlier Mohammed, a city boy, had come to their village on the green banks of the Niger river and asked her to marry him.

He brought with him some suitcases full of new clothes and shoes, and 300,000 CFA (£400) in cash – the brideprice.

“It was an unforgettable evening,” he said.

The couple’s friends and siblings made a photo montage of the couple and the gifts, posting it on social media.

“It’s to avoid any doubt,” Rakiatou said.

In some parts of the world, a couple announce their betrothal with an engagement-ring selfie on Facebook. Among the urbanites of Niger, a pile of suitcases and a wad of money have become the equivalent. On heart-themed backgrounds peppered with kiss emojis these montages now fill Facebook feeds and WhatsApp groups across Niger. And, according to Nigerien women’s activists, they heap pressure on young women to get married too soon.

Brideprice photos fill Samira Ousmane’s social media feeds. But the activist and founder of Nigerielles magazine lamented the fact that the money, formerly a secret between the couple and their immediate families and usually ranging between 50,000 and 15m CFA, has become something to show off about.

“It creates a desire when you see others posting these kinds of photos and it pushes you to accept men you don’t love or when you’re not ready,” Ousmane said. “You don’t know anything about the guy but, because you see everyone else posting pictures with a brideprice of 2m CFA, you want it too; you want to be married; you want to be called madame rather than mademoiselle.”

There is already a lot of pressure on girls to get married early: three-quarters of Nigerien girls marry before their 18th birthday, the highest rate of child marriage in the world. A girl’s education is usually over when she gets married and married life is often hard, with high levels of domestic abuse.

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Rakiatou Idi on the day of her marriage. Photo: Tagaza Djibo for the Guardian

But technology is making it harder and is changing some aspects of dating and marriage.

Facebook has been used as a dating service in Niger for years. Nigerien women receive hundreds of friend requests and messages from men who “drag” Facebook trying to pick up women and girls.

Rabi Maikano met her husband on Facebook but the social network also nearly destroyed their relationship as after they were married he kept messaging other women, flirting with them and “liking” their pictures. They were on the verge of divorce but Maikano salvaged the situation by defriending her husband.

“Twenty years ago the number of divorces didn’t even reach the hundreds,” said Sheikh Djibril Karanta, sitting with three marabouts in white robes and gold watches in the Islamic association headquarters in the middle of a treeless clearing in Niamey.

Last year, by contrast, 820 couples got a divorce through the association. They lay the blame on Facebook and WhatsApp for making infidelity easy. “It’s not good. It’s against our religion. People are abandoning our culture for a foreign one and it’s all because of social media,” Karanta said, adding that women were more at fault than men. “Most of the time, the women are the problem. They watch TV series from abroad, and see how women earn money and are equal to men. But here in Niger men look after women and they are superior.”

Indeed, Nigerien women are getting ideas beyond their traditional station. For one thing many feel increasingly empowered to make their own relationship choices. However, some things are not changing: men can and often do have up to four wives.

Seven days after getting married Fati Boubacar’s “sister” – her husband’s senior wife – was making her life hell. The towering pile of pink suitcases from her brideprice picture were on top of the wardrobe but she was beginning to wonder whether she should repack them and if the 1m CFA (£1,350) brideprice she got was enough.

“The furniture I brought with me was worth more than that,” she said, struggling to keep the tears in. “Polygamy is so hard. She insults me all the time. I never expected this. Sometimes I even think about divorce.”

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Exchanges between two witnesses before the marriage ceremony. Photo: Tagaza Djibo for the Guardian

The solution, according to some male religious leaders, is for women to ditch social media. “A good wife shouldn’t use Facebook,” said Serge Abdul Razak, a young marabout (Muslim holy man) with his own television programme who recently put out a broadcast entitled How to choose a beautiful wife. “She should delete her account when she gets married and change her WhatsApp number.”

According to the marabouts, it is the wider changes that have given rise to the social media phenomenon that are really to blame.

People think they have the right to do everything now, they say.

Karanta added that 1,400 years ago the Prophet had written that there would be huge upheaval; this was it, he said. “We saw it coming.”


SOURCE: Omar Hama Saley contributed reporting | The Bloomgist/Guardian UK

Water shortages: what other cities must learn from ‘Day Zero’

Cape Town was set to run dry on April 12, 2018, leaving its 3.7 million residents without tap water.

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“Day Zero” was narrowly averted through drastic cuts in municipal water consumption and last-minute transfers from the agricultural sector. But the process was painful and inequitable, spurring much controversy.

The city managed to stave off “Day Zero,” but does that mean Cape Town’s water system is resilient?

We think not.

This may well foreshadow trouble beyond Cape Town. Cities across the Northern Hemisphere, including in Canada, are well into another summer season that has already brought record-setting heat, drought and flooding from increased run-off.

Water crises are not just about scarcity

Water scarcity crises are most often a result of mismanagement rather than of absolute declines in physical water supplies.

In Cape Town, lower than average rainfall tipped the scales towards a “crisis,” but the situation was worsened by slow and inadequate governance responses. Setting aside debates around whose responsibility it was to act and when, the bigger issue, in our view, was the persistence of outdated ways of thinking about “uncertainty” in the water system.

As the drought worsened in 2016, the City of Cape Town’s water managers remained confident in the system’s ability to withstand the drought. High-level engineers and managers viewed Cape Town’s water system as uniquely positioned to handle severe drought in part because of the vaunted success of their ongoing Water Demand Management strategies.

They weren’t entirely mistaken — demand management has cut overall daily consumption by 50 per cent since 2016. So what went wrong?

Limits to demand management

First, Cape Town’s approach to water management was not well-equipped to deal with growing uncertainty in rainfall patterns — a key challenge facing cities worldwide. Researchers at the University of Cape Town argued recently that the conventional models long used to forecast supply and demand underestimated the probability of failure in the water system.

Second, Cape Town’s water system neared disaster in part because demand management seemed to have reached its limits. Starting late last year, the city imposed a limit on water consumption of 87 litres per person per day. That ceiling thereafter shrunk to 50 litres per person per day.

Despite these efforts, Cape Town consistently failed to cut demand below the 500-million-litre-per-day citywide target needed to ensure that the system would function into the next rainy season.

The mayor accused the city’s residents of wasting water, but her reprimanding rhetoric should not be seen as a sign that the citizens were non-compliant. The continuously shrinking water targets were an untenable long-term management strategy.

Buffers are key to water resilience

In the end, “Day Zero” was avoided primarily by relying on unexpected buffers, including temporary agricultural transfers and the private installation of small-scale, residential grey-water systems and boreholesin the city’s wealthier neighbourhoods. The former increased water supply and the latter lowered demand from the municipal system. These buffers are unlikely to be available next year, however, as the water allocations for the agricultural sector will not be renewed and there is uncertainty in the long-term sustainability of groundwater withdrawals.

For more than a decade, Cape Town has levelled demand, reduced leaks and implemented pressure management and water restrictions. This made Cape Town’s water system highly efficient and therefore less resilient because there were fewer reserves to draw from in times of unusual scarcity.

The UN Water 2015  report found that most cities are not very resilient to water risks. As water managers continue to wait for climate change models to become more certain or more specific, they defer action, paralyzing decision-makers.

If we really want our cities to be water-resilient, we must collectively change long-held ideas about water supply and demand. This will require technological and institutional innovation, as well as behavioural change, to create new and more flexible buffers — for example, through water recycling, green infrastructure and other novel measures.

Although Cape Town avoided disaster this year, that does not make it water-resilient. Despite the arrival of the rainy season, Cape Town is still likely to face Day Zero at some point in the future.

There’s a good chance that the city is not alone.

‘Mum, please pay or they’ll kill me’: Congo’s child kidnapping saga

Beset by political and economic turmoil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo faces a fresh threat in the form of brutal abductors who hold children to ransom.

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It’s been a year since Chantal buried her eight-year-old son. “I lost my mind that day,” says the 46-year-old, wiping tears from her cheeks.

Curled on the porch outside her small house in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern town of Goma, Chantal says she’ll never forget the day when a man, wearing a hat that covered his face, delivered a letter saying that her son Charles had been kidnapped.

“They told me if I ever wanted to see my son again I had to call this number,” the mother of eight recalls.

Over the course of a week, the family was told to send varying amounts of money directly to the kidnappers if they wanted to see Charles again.

“That week was so devastating, thinking about how he was doing and the conditions he was living in,” she says. Helped by friends and neighbours, Chantal and her husband cobbled together roughly $1,000 (£755), which they sent to the kidnappers in small amounts using mobile cash transfers.

But seven days after Charles was abducted, his decapitated body was found dumped in a nearby neighbourhood.

Over the past three years, there have been a growing number of kidnaps in Congo’s conflict-ridden Kivu provinces.

People are even abducting themselves and getting a friend to say they’ve been kidnapped, to get money

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More than 730 people in North and South Kivu have been abducted or kidnapped for ransom since the beginning of the year, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, a joint project between Human Rights Watch and the Congo Research Group that has tracked the number of kidnappings since April last year.

But the kidnapping of children for ransom is a relatively new phenomenon, particularly in Goma, the capital of North Kivu. Exact figures are hard to come by, but one child protection group in North Kivu says that, in 2017, 215 children were abducted in the province and 34 killed. Between January and June this year, 97 children have been abducted and 21 killed.

It is unclear who is responsible, but authorities say conflict, high unemployment and the country’s dire political situation are driving people to desperate extremes. Meanwhile, international humanitarian groups are withdrawing from the area amid security fears, taking local jobs with them.

“People are even abducting themselves, getting friends to call family members to pretend they’ve been kidnapped so they can get money,” says Mutete Mwenyemauli, chief administrator for Goma’s Himbi district. The number of abductions in his neighbourhood has already reached 10 this year, the same number there were in all of 2017, he says. In April, three boys from the same family were kidnapped and killed.

“People have given up and are asking what they can do to survive. They’re looking for other ways to make a living,” says resident Fiston Materanya, 30, who hasn’t had a job in five years. Materanya says a lack of alternatives has persuaded many of his unemployed friends to join armed groups.

He has heard that other young men in the area have resorted to kidnapping.

The kidnappers are understood to be men, mostly, although some women are involved. “People realised there’s money to be made through kidnapping,” says a Goma-based international researcher, who did not want to be named. “I don’t know for sure why children are being targeted, but I reason that children are comparatively more gullible, less resistant and their kidnapping evokes greater panic in loved ones.”

Jean Claude Buuma Mishiki, a researcher at the National Youth Reflection Circle, blames Congo’s broken justice system. “This is a problem that is happening in many parts of the country and the phenomenon is spreading fast because impunity reigns everywhere,” he says.

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Children in Kivu, Congo, where one child protection group says 215 children were abducted and 34 killed in the province in 2017. Photo: Sam Mednick

In June last year, Goma resident Bridgette Ndoola received a call from an unknown number two hours after dropping her son, eight-year-old Josefat, at school.

“They asked me if I’d heard about kids who had recently been abducted and killed,” says the 30-year-old, clasping her hands. The man on the phone told Ndoola that he had kidnapped her son and wanted $6,000 for his release.

A single mother of five with no job, Ndoola didn’t have any money. During a subsequent call with the abductors they put Josefat on the phone, beating him and forcing Ndoola to listen to his screams. They told her it would be the last time she would ever speak to her son.

“He was crying and saying ‘Mum, please give money or they’ll kill me,’” she says.

With help from the community, Ndoola transferred more than $1,000 to her son’s captors. Six days after he was taken, Josefat was released. But his condition was critical. He had been stabbed several times in the chest, his ears were cut and five of his teeth had been pulled out.

Goma’s mayor, Timothée Muyisa, says the city has launched an investigation aimed at uncovering “who these men really are”. But residents remain wary of local authorities, believing they may be complicit. Josefat says one of his captors was a neighbour, but Ndoola has been too afraid to report him. “Many police collaborate with the abductors,” she says.

Jean-Paul Lumbulumbu, a prominent lawyer in the region, says kidnapping has existed in this part of the country for years, albeit it was once less prevalent. “There were rare cases,” he says. “But since 2014, the phenomenon has amplified and become a phenomenon of society, a means of easy gain of money.”

Lumbulumbu believes it can be stopped if the authorities act. As well as adopting a zero-tolerance policy on kidnapping, he says the government must compel mobile companies to establish geolocation software so that kidnappers can be found and stopped.

“The majority of cases of kidnapping prove to have a purely financial motivation. It is possible to put an end to it and we have proposed solutions to the authorities,” he says.

Josefat has now switched schools, attending one closer to home. Seated on the couch in his living room, the young boy smiles as he fiddles with a piece of string. “I like school because I’m free and happy there,” he says. “But sometimes I have bad dreams.”

Ndoola doesn’t like to talk to Josefat about the kidnapping because, she says, he finds it difficult to cope with the memories. Helped only by family and friends, he has not received any psycho-social support from aid groups in the area.

While she is happy to have him back, Ndoola worries it could happen again. She pulls out a plastic bag full of bloodstained clothes. “This is what he was wearing when he was taken,” she says. “It makes me sad, but I keep them to remember what happened.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

The rise of Mogadishu: ‘we laugh, sing and play music’

A new wave of artists, activists and entrepreneurs are trying to improve Somalia’s capital city.

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Young Somalis enjoying a relaxed moment on Mogadishu’s Lido beach. Photo: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

The surprising sounds of a late evening in Mogadishu: surf on the beach, laughs of revellers, clinking of cups and glasses, oaths of harassed waiters and the soft melodies of the oud of Aweys Kabanle.

Kabanle, a 45-year-old former dressmaker turned musician, is playing traditional Somali music at the luxury Mogadishu Beach View hotel at the city’s Lido to a smartly dressed audience in one of the world’s most dangerous cities.

“This is Mogadishu. We laugh and sing. We play music. Music is for peace so we no longer live in fear,” Kabanle says, sipping a cappuccino.

There are few cities with contrasts as stark as those of Mogadishu. Swollen by hundreds of thousands of people displaced by famine, drought and conflict in rural areas, its outlying districts resemble a vast refugee camp. Authorities are incompetent, corrupt or simply absent.

It is seven years since the Islamic militants of al-Shabaab withdrew but many streets bear the scars of more than two decades of incessant warfare.

Mogadishu’s inhabitants have long been known for their resilience, but a new wave of activists, entrepreneurs and artists are now trying to improve their city.

Two years ago, Kabanle survived an al-Shabaab gun attack and suicide car bombing close to where he now performs every evening. The attack left at least 10 dead, including three of Aweys’s friends. The oud player was forced to jump over the wall of the hotel where he was playing to escape.

“For several months following, there was no show,” he says. “People were unwilling to come back but I was committed to come here again. I started the first night by myself alone playing music and resumed hosting the show. Thanks be to God, people got confidence and now they are coming back for my show.”

Despite the ongoing violence in the Somali capital, the economy is growing, hundreds of expatriates are returning from the west or African nations, scores of colleges are opening to cater for the young population and there is growing investment from the diaspora. Estate agents thrive: a two-storey house can cost nearly £100,000. Mogadishu has hosted a TEDx conference.

Ahmed Hassan Sheikh decided to return to Mogadishu from Kenya a year and a half ago. He started his own arts company inside the fortified Mogadishu airport complex, where thousands of diplomats, United Nations staff and regional troops from the African Union stabilisation force are based.

There is no shortage of demand for Sheikh’s paintings.

“I do not need to fight with a gun. I have a powerful pen with which I draw my feelings. I believe through it I can bring change. I can make Mogadishu peaceful,” the 48-year-old artist says.

His paintings call for young people to take up pens and books instead of arms, to warn against illegal migration and its devastating effects on Somali families.

Other drawings recall life in old Mogadishu before the civil war, a time when the city was known as the most beautiful city in Africa. “When people see my artworks of former Mogadishu and how it used to be like, they appreciate how peaceful and prosperous Mogadishu was,” Ahmed says.

Then there is Ubaxa Caasimadda (Flowers of the City), a group of students who, 18 months ago, set out to smarten scruffy city streets and mark roads to increase public safety. They started with the safest roads such as those near the presidential palace, because some had already received death threats from al-Shabaab.

“When we started, we did not even know what will come out. It was just, go and do and then see. We knew the dangers we were facing but we took that risk,” says Amira Mahad Abdulle, a 24-year-old university student.

Abdulle wears a burqa to conceal her identity and does not respond to phone calls from unknown people for her safety. “There are a lot of threats coming in but I try to stay safe. I do not fear. I want to serve Mogadishu,” she says.

The group decided to act “because nobody else was willing to do it” and the government in Mogadishu is focused on fighting al-Shabaab. “We could not sit behind and wait for someone else to do this for the people of Mogadishu. We are the youth of this country and we decided to stand up for it,” Abdulle says.

So far the group has painted dozens of zebra crossings and have planted flowers on pavements. “We are committed. We were born in Mogadishu and we want to help our city become developed, beautiful and safe like other cities in the world,” Isse Hassan Ibrahim, a 23-year-old typographic graduate, says.

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An art installation in Mogadishu. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Though his best friend, a government employee, was assassinated by al-Shabaab last year, Ibrahim never stopped working as a volunteer in Mogadishu. “When my friend was killed, I got scared but I decided not to quit. I want to help my people and my capital city,” Ibrahim says. “We now have new youth groups joining us from other cities.”

In the last 18 months, US and Somali forces have intensified the battle against al-Shabab, though without achieving decisive success. Last week US officials said a new airstrike killed 14 militants. Though the increased military activity has weakened the extremists, it also led to more civilian casualties.

Kabanle believes his country will soon be at peace. “Somalia is no longer a war zone. It is a love zone,” he says, pointing to a group of young men and women sitting on the warm white sand of Mogadishu’s beach.


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/Upside Down. Email at theupside@theguardian.com

Africa is finally uniting: all we need now is good politics

With a free trade agreement signed, a new era of prosperity beckons for the African continent.

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A statue honouring the strength of Rwandan women stands before the construction site of the Kigali Convention Centre. Photo: Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

IAfrica, our biggest threats are also opportunities. By 2035, 450 million Africans will have joined the working age population, more than the rest of the world combined in that time. They will power our economies forward, as long as there are jobs they have the knowledge to perform.

But our schools and universities have not kept pace with technology. Over half of all jobseekers have few or no skills, while 41% have qualifications but no skills for the jobs available. The gap is wider still in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

I was delighted to participate, along with other government officials and the private sector, in the second African Transformation Forum this week in Accra, Ghana, where restructuring our economies for the digital age was high on the agenda. The forum took place at a time when conditions for the continent’s transformation agenda have never been better.

We are experiencing greatly accelerated progress towards the economic unification of our continent. In this year alone, the African Union has adopted the free movement protocol and inaugurated a single African air transport market, which will reduce not only ticket prices but also the need for stopovers on other continents.

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Heads of state pose at the Kigali summit where countries signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Area. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Most importantly, in March, 44 countries signed the Continental Free Trade Area agreement. Most other member states indicated their intention to follow suit in due course.

Joining up diffuse, fragmented markets would be a leap forward. Doing this across borders will require governments to work closely with each other, and with the private sector.

By creating a highly networked, frictionless marketplace, we will encourage the best products, services and ideas to rise to the top. This will boost the economy as a whole and open up opportunities for women, rural populations and other marginalised groups.

Ultimately, the goal is to make our economies bigger and more dynamic. No country or company will lose out in the long term. This is why business leaders are called upon to be champions of continental integration, first of all by seizing these new opportunities to grow Africa’s firms.

Business leaders now participate actively and meaningfully in African Union summits. This is based on the understanding that the shared prosperity at the core of the union’s Agenda 2063 can only happen when the public and private sectors are working closely together.

The business community should also contribute to holding governments accountable for putting what has been agreed into action, and pushing all of us to do more, and better.

For example, given the transportation and logistical challenges on our vast continent, much more investment in joint regional infrastructure, including digital networks, is required.

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People go about their business in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Globally, there is no shortage of finance, both public and private. We can attract more of it to Africa, and help close the investment gap, by planning big infrastructure regionally. This generates projects of sufficient size to interest major funds, and enhances the business case. It also makes regional integration tangible and irreversible.

We also need to match external capital with African capital. African savings are not being mobilised effectively. This can help reduce risk perceptions, and also ensure we share the upside of profitable deals.

Building the capacity of African firms creates badly needed jobs and skills right here on the continent and, as African construction and services firms grow, costs and operational risks will decrease.

The Continental Free Trade Area goes against the prevailing trend of moving away from regional integration and the multilateral trading system. This is already making Africa stand out to global markets and investors.

Finally, prosperity rests on good politics and a secure environment, because the transformation agenda requires a broad consensus that is sustained across decades. Transformation requires leadership and accountability at every level, beginning at the top, but not stopping there.


SOURCE: This story was originally published by The Guardian, UK. All rights reserved

Women’s unpaid work must be included in GDP calculations

It’s been nearly 80 years since British economists James Meade and Richard Stone devised a method of national income accounting that would become the global standard. Today, we call it a country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

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African women do a lot of unpaid work that isn’t captured in GDP calculations. Photo: Rafal Cichawa/Shutterstock

Their method was intended to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of an entire national economy, by estimating the monetary value of all “economic” production that took place in a country in a given year. Like most economic statisticians of the day, Meade and Stone focused almost entirely on measuring the value of goods and services that were actually bought and sold.

But a problem quickly emerged, thanks to the experiences and observations of a 23-year-old woman named Phyllis Deane. She was hired by Meade and Stone in 1941 to apply their method in a few British colonies. In present-day Malawi and Zambia, Deane realised that it was an error to exclude unpaid household labour from GDP.

In a research paper I published recently on the history of the GDP, I write that Deane believed this convention excluded a great share of productive activity – especially in rural Africa. She argued that it was “illogical” to exclude the economic value of preparing and cooking food and collecting firewood. She contended that such kinds of labour had historically been excluded because they were commonly viewed as women’s work.

To decide which activities to include in her GDP calculations, Deane spent months conducting village surveys in order to measure, and include in GDP estimates, particularly burdensome activities like the collection of firewood.

She concluded that if governments wanted to formulate policies that increased aggregate national income and ensured an equitable distribution of that aggregate, the contributions of all producers – including rural women – had to be counted.

Over the next seven decades, GDP calculations would not generally include unpaid (and mostly female) labour. But Deane’s work shows us this was not the only way to measure economic production. As GDP calculations come under increasing criticism, we should look to her research for a way forward.

Invisibility of female labour

Richard Stone paid little attention to Deane’s recommendations. In 1953, he oversaw the publication of the United Nations’ first System of National Accounts. This report provided detailed standards for calculating GDP.

The system ignored Deane’s call to include unpaid household labour. And because UN technical assistance programmes sought to ensure that low and middle-income countries followed the system’s standards, Stone’s method had global consequences. Activities which were central to every day life in low-income African countries – like fetching water, grinding corn, and weaving mats – were not included in national accounts.

This invisibility of female labour in national income accounting eventually provoked a backlash. While pushing for female domestic labour to be economically quantified, scholar-activists like the Italian-born philosopher Silvia Federici, who taught for many years in Nigeria, argued that male “economic” production was impossible without women’s uncompensated “non-economic” labour.

For instance, without a wife to tend to the children and the home, how would a male factory labourer have the time or the energy to fulfil his stereotypical role as the breadwinner?

Time rather than money

Some feminist economists held a different view. In 1999 the New Zealand-born economist Marilyn Waring articulated concerns about including unpaid labour in national accounts. Rather than using economic activity to measure the value of labour, Waring called for a different indicator: time.

Time, she explained, was “the one investment we all have to make”. Drawing on research she conducted in rural Kenya, she argued that time-use surveys would demonstrate “which sex gets the menial, boring, low-status, and unpaid invisible work”.

Such surveys would show how targeted interventions, like access to clean water and efficient cooking stoves, could alleviate the drudgery of domestic labour and allow billions of women to gain greater freedom in how they spend their days.

In 2008, the authors of the newly updated System of National Accountsresponded to their feminist critics by way of a compromise. They agreedto include the production of all goods – whether these were sold or not – in GDP calculations, so activities like weaving mats or brewing beer would be included.

However, they continued to exclude most unpaid household services, like cooking and cleaning. And the revised system ignored both Deane’s and Waring’s calls for more data on the distribution of time-use by gender. This has caused ever more criticism to be levelled at the system.

In recent decades, the work of feminist economics has shown how the methods of calculating GDP render much of women’s labour invisible. Meanwhile, surveys and time-use studies show the toll this has taken on women’s lives, particularly in the Global South. One recent report found that hundreds of millions of women worldwide have to walk more than a 30-minute round-trip to reach clean water for their families.

Future of the GDP

2009 report commissioned by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that because GDP is “treated as a measure of economic well-being” it “can lead to misleading indicators about how well-off people are and entail the wrong policy decisions”.

More recently, the World Bank pointed out that GDP only measures flows of income but doesn’t tell us whether health care, education, and the wealth of the natural world are being built up or plundered. The Economist called for a “new metric” of economic progress that included “unpaid work in the home, such as caring for relatives”.

None of these insights are new. But they do mark a renewed appreciation for the economic indices and policies that feminist scholars have long favoured. For instance, Silvia Federici’s insistence that household labour should be paid has been at least partially realised in the spread of cash transfer programmes across Africa.

If we want to really bring women’s work out of the shadows and overturn the stereotypical gender roles that relegate women to more than their fair share of household labour, we must first take the blinders off the GDP.

What’s driving the high child marriage rates in South Sudan?

Last month, a Sudanese court sentenced a 19-year-old woman to death for killing her husband who had repeatedly raped her. The prosecution of Noura Hussein, forcibly married at the age of 16, has triggered global outrage and drawn attention to the millions of girls worldwide who are married against their will.

Child marriage

A high-profile campaign has been initiated to overturn Hussein’s death sentence, with celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Emma Watson, and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard lending their support.

The Sudanese court’s decision to apply the death penalty in the case is shocking. However, the practice of child forced marriage is putting the lives of millions of adolescent girls at risk around the world. One in five girls worldwide is estimated to be married before the age of 18, including even in parts of the United States.

Not only are these girls often left isolated from their families and support networks, they face a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and experiencing dangerous complications in childbirth. They are also much more likely to experience domestic violence and be taken out of school. Often, they are married to much older men and with limited economic opportunities are more likely to live in poverty.

Child forced marriage in South Sudan

Rates of child forced marriage are exacerbated by conflict and crisis, which have been particularly pronounced problems in South Sudan, the nation that split from Sudan in 2011 following decades of debilitating war. Conflict has continued nearly unabated since then, displacing millions of people and causing widespread food shortages.

The minimum legal age for marriage in South Sudan is 18. This is set out in the transitional constitution and the Child Act of 2008. The minimum age limit is much higher than in neighbouring Sudan, which allows a girl to marry with a parent’s permission at just 10 years of age.

Despite the laws in South Sudan, however, UNICEF estimates 52% of girls are married there before their 18th birthday, the fifth-highest rate of child marriage in the world. (In Sudan, the rate is 34%.)

Adolescent pregnancy frequently follows early marriage, as well. At 158 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19, South Sudan has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the world. Combined with one of the world’s worst maternal mortality rates at 789 deaths per 100,000 life births, early marriage has dire consequences for adolescent girls.

Drivers of early and forced marriage

As part of a recent study between Plan International and Monash GPS, we conducted research with adolescent girls in South Sudan and in refugee camps in northern Uganda. We found that there are numerous and overlapping drivers for forced child marriage in South Sudan.

The current food crisis and economic downturn means that the collection of a bride price makes early and forced marriage a viable – yet negative – coping mechanism for families. One of our research participants, a member of civil society in the capital, Juba, remarked “with this current situation some parents take their girls as assets, which are sold expensively, so in most cases most parents sell off their daughters for money.”

In Nimule, another noted “Due to the conflict, most of the parents are forcing their girls to get married so that they can get money to survive in this current situation.”

We found family separation increased the risk of early and forced marriage. Many adolescent girls who, due to the ongoing conflict, are separated from their parents and residing with extended family, are far more vulnerable to forced marriage. This is primarily driven by male relatives such as uncles and cousins.

We also found that once married, girls nearly never return to school. One of the adolescent girls we interviewed told us: “The future is not good at all … many girls will end up getting married as a means of survival.”

But forced child marriage cannot be explained simply as a transactional arrangement for families to secure resources to survive. Its prevalence results from an interplay of factors, including entrenched gender inequality, harmful gender norms, continued conflict and communal violence, and limits on the agency and decision-making of adolescent girls, all of which conspire to put them at risk.

In some instances, girls actively sought to mitigate the threat of forced marriage by engaging in small-scale livelihood activities such as collecting firewood or selling goods in the market, or showing their value to their family and community through educational performance and household labour.

Efforts to address the forced marriage of children

Putting an end to child forced marriage in South Sudan and other countries requires addressing all the drivers of this practice, such as poverty and food insecurity, limited access to resources, sustainable livelihoods and education, and lack of sexual and reproductive healthcare.

At the same time, humanitarian actors must work with the community to address the lack of awareness on the rights of girls and the legal frameworks in place to uphold them.

Waiting until another adolescent girl is on trial for murder is too late.


SOURCE: This story was first published by The Conversation, and the author would like to acknowledge the work of Hannah Jay, a senior research coordinator at the Monash University Gender, Peace & Security Centre, in writing this article.

CAR Widows: ‘My husband’s parents kicked me out of our house’

If a man dies in the Central African Republic, his wife is at risk of being evicted from their home by his relatives.

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In Central African Republic, war exacts a toll on the rights of widows. From left: Sylvie Gina Ndoguedia, Marie Noélla Sambelle and Esthelle Mazou walk along a dirt road in Sibut. Photo: Will Baxter

Marie Noélla Sambelle was with her husband Gilbert Yalivenda for more than two decades. They had six children and saved for years to build a home of their own. But in 2014 Yalivenda was shot dead by Seleka rebels. His family seized the couple’s house and other possessions.

“After my husband was killed, I was kicked out of our house by his parents,” says Sambelle. “The parents of my husband said ‘all this property, it is not for you. It belongs to the members of our family’.”

In Central African Republic (CAR), when a man dies, his widow is sometimes evicted from their home and land by her husband’s relatives – a practice that is illegal in most cases. The toll that this dispossession takes on a woman and her children is amplified by a brutal conflict, a lack of social safety nets and diminishing family ties.

Thousands have been killed in CAR since 2013, when the Seleka – a predominantly Muslim coalition of rebels – overthrew the government of François Bozizé. The anti-Balaka, a mostly Christian militia that opposes the Seleka, has also committed grave atrocities. Attacks on civilians began to increase again in 2017 and now up to 80% of the country is under the control of armed groups.

The underlying motivation for evicting widows is greed, says Rosalie Nguitimale, president of the Kémo prefecture branch of the Organisation of Central African Women (OFCA).

“The purpose is just to take all the property,” she says. The husband’s family usually confiscate items such as motorcycles, farming implements, beds, clothes, TVs, savings, and anything else that catches their eye.

Sambelle has struggled to accept the theft. “When my husband was alive we farmed together, we sold the crops, and then we shared our fortune with his parents and other relatives. The money that we earned is what allowed us to build the house,” she says. “I was so disappointed when my relatives-in-law took it from us.”

In the parts of CAR not controlled by armed groups, weak state institutions mean these women do not receive any support. With nowhere else to turn, many try to move back in with their parents or another relative, says Emma Ouayagalé Yeo, a technical coordinator at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which runs a programme to assist widows in Sibut, 181km north-east of the capital Bangui. But with more than 1.2 million people displaced by the conflict, Ouayagalé says the women often find the family home destroyed or occupied by others, or their families are unable to support them because they too are affected by the conflict.

Factors including illiteracy, a dysfunctional judicial system, and a lack of awareness of their rights mean widows don’t press for fair legal settlements. According to CAR’s family code, property acquired during a marriage belongs to both spouses (with some exceptions) and a widow is entitled to half the estate and is allowed to continue living in the home for at least two years.

In Sibut, the OFCA and NRC try to mediate. “When such cases occur, we try to gather people together in order to convince them not to kick the widow out by force. People don’t want to listen to us, but they usually calm down after these interventions and we have been successful at preventing recent evictions,” says Nguitimale.

Evictions sometimes involve a drawn-out campaign of verbal and emotional abuse that eventually forces the woman to leave. Children are not safeguarded, says Ouayagalé.

Three months after Charlotte Mbetilissio’s husband, Daniel Gazaworo, was killed in 2014, she was kicked out of her home by his family along with her three children, now aged 18, five and four.

“When Gilbert was alive, he gave food to the extended family. But when he died … I could no longer give anything to them,” says Mbetilissio. “They said ‘you have to move, leave this home, you constitute a burden upon us’. Even the children I had made with their son were pushed away when they wanted to eat with their grandparents.”

Mbetilissio’s youngest son, Félicien, needs blood transfusions. “When I take him to the hospital, I am supposed to pay for the blood unit. But because it is too expensive, sometimes I cannot pay,” she says.

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Charlotte Mbetilissio, 35, poses for a portrait at her father’s house in Sibut, where she now lives. In 2014, three months after her husband was killed by Seleka rebels, his family forced her to leave her home, along with their three children. Photo: Will Baxter

Mbetilissio says the cost of the transfusion can come to 10,000 CFA (£13.33) – a small fortune to someone with almost no disposable income.

“I was only able to pay the full amount once. Two other times one of my relatives donated blood for my son,” says Mbetilissio, admitting she has stopped taking her son for treatment. “Because of the cost of the blood, I have just started using a traditional medicine instead. It’s a mixture of avocado and papaya leaves, which are boiled and mixed with sugar.”

Pélagie Sana has been struggling with school fees since her husband Kevin Daouda was shot dead by an armed group in 2014.

“If there is no money, the children are kicked out of the school,” she said. “I worry about this constantly. It makes me really depressed.”


SOURCE: BBC/Agencies

Ruthless violence against English-speaking Cameroonians forces families out of their homes

Ruthless violence between francophone state forces and English-speaking separatists has forced tens of thousands of Cameroonians into Nigeria, splintering families and leaving many people sleeping rough, without access to staples such as food, clothing and education.

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“You can’t sleep,” says bishop Andrew Nkea, of the Mamfe diocese in south-west Cameroon. “Even with all the stamina I have from my faith, I couldn’t sleep when I went to Kembong and saw the houses that had been burned down … I saw a corpse which had been lying there for four, five days, and dogs were tearing it apart.”

deadly conflict in Cameroon sparked by increasing tensions between English and French-speaking populations has driven tens of thousands from their homes. At least 160,000 people are displaced inside Cameroon, and more than 21,000 have fled to Nigeria to escape what has been described by bishops as “blind, inhuman, monstrous violence”. Most have settled in Cross River State.

Some people are staying with family in Nigeria, but most are sleeping rough in abandoned buildings, or out in the open.

What began as a request for English to be used in the courtrooms and public schools of the country’s two anglophone regions has escalated into this crisis.

If the situation is not defused through dialogue, the entire country could be destabilised before October’s elections, according to the International Crisis Group.

A number of anglophone activists are calling for secession and the creation of a new country, which they want to call Ambazonia.

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Journalists have been barred from entering conflict zones and aid agencies are struggling to access the areas.

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Dennis: Searching for his family

Dennis Anyaka (not his real name), a 36-year-old businessman and farmer, arrived in Nigeria on 16 April. “The trouble started in my village in March. The Cameroonian military came and there was a lot of firing and killing. I saw one of my neighbours killed in front of his doorway. This was when I decided it was time to flee.” Anyaka took a heavy bag full of clothes and belongings. “But one of us was shot by the Cameroonian military and we dropped the bag and kept running,” he says.

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“We passed from place to place until we finally arrived here [in Boki]. I am staying on a farm and am working the fields to pay my rent. I am sleeping on sacks on the ground. It’s not comfortable,” says Anyaka.

“Back home I lived with my wife and six children. I don’t know where my family is, I am trying to contact them but I haven’t succeeded. I’m still trying. I’ve heard they are maybe in the bush, maybe they have left to the city. I don’t know. For now, I propose that peace should be reinstalled so I can go back and find my family.”

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Paulina: Wants to go back to school

Paulina, 19, left Cameroon after violence flared up last October. Her father is Nigerian, her mother is Cameroonian, and the family grew up in the village of Babong in Cameroon’s north. She and her family now live in her father’s house in Akankpa. Paulina’s father is Nigerian and the owner of the home.

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The area is hosting hundreds of Cameroonians and access to clean drinking water has become a major concern. When violence erupted, Paulina said her family spent three days in the bush trying to find the the road that led to Nigeria. “We put whatever we could on the forest floor to sleep on, we only had some cassava to eat,” she says. “I don’t do anything all day since we arrived here. It’s not possible for me to earn a living. I want to go back to school.”

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The Itomin family: Feeding extra mouths

The Itomin family, displaced from the village of Ayaoke in Cameroon, stand on the porch of their host family’s house in Akankpa. Valentine Itomin, the owner of the home and a fatherof four, has welcomed 20 members of his extended family from Cameroon. “They have come to me so I have a responsibility to shelter and feed them. They don’t have as much food as they had in Cameroon. Our financial status has been reduced as a result of this financial pressure. I am a cassava farmer; it’s a subsistence living, so there is added pressure hosting so many people.”

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Staying with Valentine is Beatrice Itomin and her four-year-old twin sons, Clinton and Clifford. They share a room with nine other family members. “We arrived here in November. People in my village were killed by soldiers, that’s why we fled.” The family walked for three days and slept in the open. “We ate bush mangoes. There were mosquitoes, there were wild animals also, so we were scared. The children are not feeling good here. We don’t have enough food or clothing, or school for them either.”

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Felix, 32, is one of 270 Cameroonians to have taken refuge inside a local government building in Ikom in Nigeria since fleeing. He shares a room with his wife, Beatrice, 28, their son, Promise, who is three weeks old, and their daughter, Lage, who is eight. The building opened to refugees in January. Many of the people sheltered there do not have relatives in Nigeria and many say they are hungry and there are not enough toilets.

“The army came into our village and started shooting. That’s why we ran,” says Felix. “We walked for three days. We were hungry. We don’t have any family in Nigeria, that’s why we are staying here. We don’t have enough food, it’s hard. We can’t go back now, the army are there with guns. We are frustrated we have nowhere to go. I’m a farmer, I grow cocoa beans. Our fields would be ruined by now without anyone there to tend to them. Our children are not in school, they’re wasted here.”

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His wife Beatrice says: “I am so sad. I made and sold clothes in my village. The army shut down my shop.”

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No end in sight

“Not a week goes by without houses being burned down, people kidnapped or killed,” says Hippolyte Sando, emergency officer at Caritas, the only aid agency with access to the anglophone areas of south-west Cameroon. Caritas has recorded 25,624 Cameroonian refugees in Cross River State. Four-fifths are women and children.

“In these conditions, going back home would be suicide. The situation remains tense and gives no sign of better days ahead.”

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Bishop Nkea has been negotiating with soldiers for civilians in his diocese to be able to return to their farms in peace.

“We should stop killing ourselves and burning down our institutions. Whoever is burning, they should stop the burning.

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It is time for dialogue. Because the violence is too much, the killings are too much, the suffering is too much.”


SOURCE: Extra reports by The Guardian, UK, BBC Africa/Agencies

Coke promised ‘less sugar’, but is it really less? It’s too much!

At last count, 28 countries and seven large cities in the USA had moved to introduce a tax on sugary drinksPotential benefits are clear and include reducing costs from obesity and health-care spending, as well as the potential to increase a healthy life. Health groups in Australia have long called for the same to be done here.

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When Britain legislated for a sugary drink tax, graded according to the quantity of sugar used, some manufacturers significantly reduced the amount of sugar in their drinks before the law even came into practice.

Echoing the tactic of some British companies, Coca-Cola in Australia is claiming it has taken action by “reducing sugar in 22 of our drinks since 2015”, and is committing to “make all our new Coca-Cola flavours either reduced or no sugar”. Their aim is for a 10% reduction across their range by 2020.


Coca-Cola’s products with less sugar include:

Coca-Cola have said they’re committed to more sugar-free or reduced sugar drinks. Screenshot, Coles online
  • Coca-Cola with Stevia: 19g of sugar per 375mL, compared with the classic product with 40g per 375mL
  • Kirks reduced sugar drinks: now 38g sugar per 375 mL (4-5% reduction)
  • Sprite, sugar reduced with added stevia: 40g sugar per 375 mL (14% reduction)
  • Raspberry Fanta, sugar reduced with added stevia: 36g sugar per 375 mL (19% reduction)
  • Lift hard hitting lemon, sugar reduced: 31.5g sugar per 375 mL (23% reduction)
  • Deep spring mineral waters, three orange-based flavours sugar reduced: 28g sugar per 375 mL (26% reduction).

No nutritionist is going to knock reductions in sugar content, but even a single can of the new Coca-Cola with Stevia has 37% of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended maximum daily intake of sugar for an adult. The other products listed still have 55-78% of the WHO maximum recommendation.

Smaller pack sizes are being introduced and will help. And no-sugar versions of their major products are available, sweetened with intense (artificial) sweeteners such as stevia, acesulphame K, sucralose and aspartame.

Peddlers claim stevia is ‘natural’ because it comes from a plant. But it’s no longer ‘natural’ by the time it’s in your sweetened beverage. from www.shutterstock.com

Sugar alternatives?

Stevia can be made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant which contain a variety of steviol compounds. These bypass digestion in the small intestine and are broken down by bacteria in the colon.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has approved the use of a wide range of different steviol compounds. Labelled either by its name or “additive 960”, stevia is marketed by some as a “natural” product. Although what is added to drinks and other foods is a highly purified extract, often blended with a sugar alcohol (usually erythritol) or complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides


In its favour, stevia has virtually no kilojoules, and can be used by those with diabetes. But its effect on “good” bacteria in the colon may be undesirable.

Arguments continue to rage over whether intense sweeteners are beneficial or not. Some studies claim they help with weight loss. Others say they may increase the risk of excess weight and some associated health problems. Their effect on the “good” gut bacteria also needs careful evaluation.

The real problem is that sweet drinks maintain a taste for sweet drinks.

Nor does the dental disaster associated with soft drinks disappear with low or no sugar varieties. This is because much of the damage to dental enamel comes from their inherent acidity. The solution is to confine drinks to water or milk.

Sugar coating?

Those marketing sugary products cannot ignore the public outcry against sugar. But nor can their business stand too strong an anti-sugar movement. The “less sugar” move may be an attempt to tone down the criticism.

Coca-Cola’s advertisement in major daily newspapers in Australia. Screenshot, Mumbrella

How do we define moderation? It’s an issue that has dogged those formulating dietary guidelines. In 1979, one of Australia’s dietary goals was to “decrease refined sugar consumption”. Two years later, the first guidelines included advice to “avoid eating too much sugar”.


Sugar sales fell, moving the sugar industry to mount a massive seven-year PR and advertising campaign to influence health professionals, the population, health ministers and food companies that sugar was “a natural part of life”.

With every subsequent revision of the guidelines, the food industry has campaigned strongly for the sugar guideline to be dropped. They succeeded in so far as the wording was changed to “eat only a moderate amount of sugars and foods containing added sugars”. Sales steadied.

A review for the 2013 guidelines showed even stronger evidence that all added sugars should be limited, especially sugar sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.

Confectionery, cakes, biscuits and pastries were also specifically added to the list along with advice that for many Australians there was no room in the diet for any of these foods. “Only moderate” amounts may be comfortable for the industry but it was way too vague to fit the evidence.

“Less” sugar in sugary drinks is also too vague. Even for those who are not overweight, these drinks remain a hazard for our teeth. The only solution is to stop drinking them.


This story originally appeared on The Conversation. All rights reserved

What facial scarring meant in Igbo culture

Scarification, or facial marks, were reserved for the brave among the Igbo of south-eastern Nigeria.

Known as “igbuichi” in Igboland, the scars marked status and nobility – and unlike other groups in Nigeria, was not done to identify ethnicity.

It was usually done to men who wanted to have the prestigious title of “Ozo”, the highest accolade.

The scarification ritual was regarded as a natural sifting process. If you lived to tell the tale, then you were worthy.

According to the Journal of International African Studies, extensive full-face scarring began to fade out in the late 17th century.

It was a terribly painful experience. Many people died or went blind as cuts were made over the eyes and the wounds would bleed profusely.

Men arose in the middle of the night to begin the scarification ritual. It was believed that it was the best time as the body was still half asleep.

They were cut on the face with a long pointed knife; no drugs were given to numb the pain or control the blood flow.

The men were forbidden to cry out in pain. If they did, all their possessions could be seize and they would be disgraced in the eyes of the community.

The marks either symbolised the moon:

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or The Sun

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The astral bodies were two deities that were very important to Igbo.

Scarification was not imposed on people, they had to opt to have it done.

However, if your father was an Ozo title holder and you were the first-born son, you might be regarded as a weakling if you didn’t go through the process.

Women could not hold the Ozo title, but could receive less extensive scarring for honour and prestige.

These days facial scarrings are rare as most Igbos are Christian and do not believe in such practices.

Those who are Christian and interested in the Ozo title usually have a small cross cut on their forehead.

The Tunisian who bakes bread for France’s president

A French-Tunisian baker, who has won the right to supply the French presidential palace with baguettes for a year, says kneading is the secret behind his prize-winning loaves.

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A jury of around 15 people taste dozens of baguettes before choosing a winner. Photo: AFP

“A lot of people go too quickly with the kneading,” Mahmoud M’seddi told the BBC.

He is the latest winner of the annual best baguette in Paris competition.

Mr M’seddi makes his first visit to the Elysée Palace on Friday and will now start hand-delivering his baguettes.

He is the fourth North African in the last six years to win the award.

But Mr M’seddi said this was either coincidence, or maybe because a lot of the traditional bakeries in the Paris region are owned by North Africans.

He says he gets up early to ensure his loaves are properly fermented, which he believes is a vital part of the process of making baguettes. “A lot of people don’t leave the time for the dough to ferment,” he said.

“You have to give it the time, so the fermentation happens naturally. I either get up really early, or sometimes I leave it overnight.”

The 27-year-old will also receive a cash prize of nearly £5,000 from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo during a bread festival in May.

Samuel, 13, center, the son of Fraciah Wangari, exercising during a physical education class at Muthaiga Primary School in Nairobi. He is teased about his weight.

An unexpected epidemic across Africa: Obesity

NAIROBI, Kenya — As she walks through the alleyways of her poor neighborhood, to a job washing other people’s clothes, Valentine Akinyi weathers the jeers yelled at her: “Elephant, elephant, elephant.”

Samuel, 13, center, the son of Fraciah Wangari, exercising during a physical education class at Muthaiga Primary School in Nairobi. He is teased about his weight.
Samuel, 13, center, the son of Fraciah Wangari, exercising during a physical education class at Muthaiga Primary School in Nairobi. He is teased about his weight. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

She has gotten used to the insults, she said, but still, it hurts.

“Who’s going to want to marry me?” she asked.

It used to be difficult in Kenya to find many people built like Ms. Akinyi, who, at 5 feet 9 inches tall and 285 pounds, is obese.

In Africa, the world’s poorest continent, malnutrition is stubbornly widespread and millions of people are desperately hungry, with famine conditions looming in some war-torn countries.

But in many places, growing economies have led to growing waistlines. Obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa are shooting up faster than in just about anywhere else in the world, causing a public health crisis that is catching Africa, and the world, by surprise.

In Burkina Faso, the prevalence of adult obesity in the past 36 years has jumped nearly 1,400 percent. In Ghana, Togo, Ethiopia and Benin, it has increased by more than 500 percent. Eight of the 20 nations in the world with the fastest-rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa, according to a recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

It is part of a seismic shift in Africa as rapid economic growth transforms every aspect of life, including the very shape of its people.

Many Africans are eating more junk food, much of it imported. They are also getting much less exercise, as millions of people abandon a more active farming life to crowd into cities, where they tend to be more sedentary. More affordable cars and a wave of motorbike imports also mean that fewer Africans walk to work.

Dr. Anders Barasa, a cardiologist, measures a patient’s waistline during an appointment at the heart clinic at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi
Dr. Anders Barasa, a cardiologist, measures a patient’s waistline during an appointment at the heart clinic at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

Obesity may be an especially tough battle in Africa for other reasons. For one, people who did not get enough nutrients when they were young (which is still a problem in Africa) are more prone to putting on weightwhen lots of food is available. And second, African health systems are heavily geared toward combating other diseases.

African doctors say their public health systems have been so focused on AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and tropical fevers — historically, Africa’s big killers — that few resources are left for what are called noncommunicable diseases, like diabetes and heart ailments.

“What we are seeing is likely the worst epidemic the country will ever see, probably in the long run worse than the H.I.V. epidemic of the ’90s,” said Anders Barasa, a cardiologist in Kenya, referring to obesity and its related diseases. “But changing the health care system to cater for obesity related diseases is like turning a supertanker.”

In Kenya, one of Africa’s most developed nations, there are around 40 cardiologists for the entire population of 48 million people. In the United States, there is one cardiologist for every 13,000 people.

Even as the obesity problem worsens, Africa’s older problem of malnutrition has hardly vanished. While millions of Africans are eating unhealthy foods or overeating, millions of Africans are still starving or near to it.

Last year was one of the worst on record for hunger. In March, United Nations officials warned that famines could break out in three different African countries — Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan — because of wars and long dry spells.

Full-blown famines have not materialized, because aid agencies got to the hardest hit places quickly enough. But thousands have died from a cholera epidemic catalyzed by malnourished people streaming into camps, and famine still stalks a large part of Africa.

Health professionals say that people who grow up deprived of nutrients, as millions of Africans do, run a higher risk of later becoming obese. During famine times, one of the body’s defense mechanisms, some experts say, is to slow down metabolism to hold onto every calorie.

When feast times come, metabolism often remains slow. Such metabolic disorders can lead to all kinds of health problems later on, some of them life threatening.

One leading Kenyan endocrinologist, Nancy Kunyiha said that when she started a diabetes practice years ago, her medical school colleagues thought she was crazy.

“ ‘There’s no way you can survive off diabetes,’ ” she said they warned her. “ ‘You got to do something else.’ ”

But Type II diabetes is closely linked to obesity, and sub-Saharan Africa is in the midst of a “rapidly expanding diabetes epidemic,” according to a report last year in a medical journal, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

In the past decade, Dr. Kunyiha’s diabetes practice has quadrupled, and most days, her brightly lit, no-frills waiting room at the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is standing room only.

Kenya’s obesity rate, which is close to one in 10 people, is still far below industrialized countries like the United States (where more than one-third of adults are obese). But Kenya’s rate is rising fast, more than doubling since 1990, and many Kenyans are thinking about obesity for the first time.

Ms. Akinyi says she reads any article in the local papers about “lifestyle diseases,” as obesity and hypertension are often referred to here. But what the writers recommend to lose weight, she cannot afford.

She is a high school dropout, a single mother and a washerwoman; on about $40 a month, she supports herself and three children. Millions of Africans are just like her: trapped between the old and the new. They might not be destitute like their parents were. But they are still poor.

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People eating at Burger King at the The Hub, an upscale shopping mall in the Karen neighborhood of Nairobi. The Hub has a variety of Western fast food options including Burger King and Dominos. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

While they have just enough money to buy processed foods like potato chips, which are now widely available in low-income areas for a few cents, they often do not have enough to join a gym or buy fish or fresh vegetables.

And instead of working in the fields (which is how most Kenyans lived just a generation ago), they are marooned in squalid urban areas and are less physically active. Some of the least expensive foods to buy in the Kibera slum where Ms. Akinyi lives are French fries and fried dough, each around 20 cents. Apples, at the equivalent of 40 cents, are outside her budget, though soda isn’t.

“And I love Sprite,” Ms. Akinyi said with a guilty smile.

One of Coca-Cola’s strategies in Kenya has been to reach the lower economic classes by making smaller 200 milliliter bottles, or about 6.75 fluid ounces, that cost about 15 cents (compared with the standard 300 milliliter bottle that costs 25 cents). Burger King, Domino’s, Cold Stone Creamery and Subway have all recently opened their first stores in Kenya, part of their strategy to break into Africa.

Despite insults like “elephant,” there is also a stigma to being thin in some Kenyan circles. It goes back generations but was especially true in the 1990s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic when millions of Africans died.

To many Kenyans, Dr. Kunyiha said, being thin still means being poor or sick.

“It’s really frustrating,” Dr. Kunyiha said. “The image here is: The bigger your tummy, the better you’re doing.”

One of her patients, she says, is a rich man who drives a Mercedes and suffers from hypertension and obesity. She keeps telling him to switch from fast food and meat to the old fashioned Kenya diet of beans, carrots and a vegetable called sukuma wiki that is similar to kale.

“But he tells me he’s come too far to eat like that because that’s what he ate when he was a poor kid,” she said.

Dr. Barasa has had many similar conversations with his patients. “I tell people: ‘Eat like your grandmum did. It’s so much better for you,’ ’’ he said.

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Ms. Akinyi prepares dinner for her family at home. She can afford French fries and fried dough, but apples are outside her budget. Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

Several Kenyan parents said they felt deeply conflicted about restricting their children’s diet. Fraciah Wangari grew up in a poor village and does not want to deny her son.

“I remember what it was like to really want biscuits but not be able to afford them,” she said.

So she indulges her only child, Samuel, 13, who is obese, with a plump round face and a big belly. He’s beginning to have circulation problems and says his joints hurt. He gets called animal names, too, like buffalo and pig.

Ms. Wangari recently splurged for a doctor’s visit but many of the nutritious foods the doctor suggested, like fish, were way beyond her budget.

Affluent Kenyans have more options. It is not uncommon in Nairobi’s fancier neighborhoods to see middle-aged men and women jogging their way up the hills, decked out in bright spandex. Just 10 years ago that was an unusual sight.

The Kenyan government, like other African governments, seems to have been slow to recognize the problem. The Health Ministry is still much more focused on promoting protected sex than good nutrition.

Africa is urbanizing faster than any other region of the world. In 1980, only 28 percent of Africans lived in urban areas. Today, that number is 40 percent, and by 2030, it is predicted to be 50 percent.

The urbanization is driven partly by high birthrates and a shrinking availability of land, creating an exodus of millions of Africans from rural areas.

“If you’re working in the field eight hours a day, you can eat anything you want,” Dr. Barasa said. “But if you’re sedentary, your requirements totally change.”

Many Kenyans used to walk miles a day to work or to school. But the road network has vastly improved, and it is now much easier to travel via minibus. Countless Kenyans also use motorcycle taxis, which were not widely available 10 years ago.

Ms. Akinyi, 30, said she still enjoyed walking.

“It’s a way to get to work and get a little exercise,” she said.

Best of all: It is free.

Reuben Kyama contributed reporting.

Rwanda genocide: 100 days of MASS slaughter

In just 100 days in 1994, some 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

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Why did the Hutu militias want to kill the Tutsis?

About 85% of Rwandans are Hutus but the Tutsi minority has long dominated the country. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and tens of thousands of Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda. A group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990 and fighting continued until a 1993 peace deal was agreed.

On the night of 6 April 1994 a plane carrying then President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi – both Hutus – was shot down, killing everyone on board. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF and immediately started a well-organised campaign of slaughter. The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.

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How was the genocide carried out?

With meticulous organisation. Lists of government opponents were handed out to militias who went and killed them, along with all of their families. Neighbours killed neighbours and some husbands even killed their Tutsi wives, saying they would be killed if they refused. At the time, ID cards had people’s ethnic group on them, so militias set up roadblocks where Tutsis were slaughtered, often with machetes which most Rwandans kept around the house. Thousands of Tutsi women were taken away and kept as sex slaves.

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French forces in Rwanda were accused of not doing enough to stop the killing. Photo: AFP

Did anyone try to stop it?

The UN and Belgium had forces in Rwanda but the UN mission was not given a mandate to stop the killing. A year after US troops were killed in Somalia, the US was determined not to get involved in another African conflict. The Belgians and most UN peacekeepers pulled out after 10 Belgian soldiers were killed. The French, who were allies of the Hutu government, sent a force to set up a supposedly safe zone but were accused of not doing enough to stop the slaughter in that area. Rwanda’s current president has accused France of taking part in the massacres – a charge denied by Paris.

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Clothes of people killed in the Nyamata Church, which has been turned into a memorial. Photo: AFP

Why was it so vicious?

Rwanda has always been a tightly controlled society, organised like a pyramid from each district up to the top of government. The then governing party, MRND, had a youth wing called the Interahamwe, which was turned into a militia to carry out the slaughter. Weapons and hit-lists were handed out to local groups, who knew exactly where to find their targets.

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The skulls and bone of some of those killed in Nyamata church. Photo: AFP

The Hutu extremists set up radio stations and newspapers which broadcast hate propaganda, urging people to “weed out the cockroaches” meaning kill the Tutsis. The names of those to be killed were read out on radio. Even priests and nuns have been convicted of killing people, including some who sought shelter in churches.

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The Uganda-backed RPF took the capital in July, ending the killing of Tutsis. Photo: AFP

How did it end?

The well-organised RPF, backed by Uganda’s army, gradually seized more territory, until 4 July, when its forces marched into the capital, Kigali. Some two million Hutus – both civilians and some of those involved in the genocide – then fled across the border into DR Congo, at that time called Zaire, fearing revenge attacks.

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Some two million people fled into DR Congo (then Zaire). Photo: AFP

Human rights groups say the RPF killed thousands of Hutu civilians as they took power – and more after they went into DR Congo to pursue the Interahamwe. The RPF denies this. In DR Congo, thousands died from cholera, while aid groups were accused of letting much of their assistance fall into the hands of the Hutu militias.

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What happened in DR Congo?

The genocide in Rwanda has directly led to two decades of unrest in DR Congo, which have cost the lives of an estimated five million people. Rwanda’s government, now run by the RPF, has twice invaded DR Congo, accusing its much larger neighbour of letting the Hutu militias operate on its territory. Rwanda has also armed local Congolese Tutsi forces. In response, some locals have formed self-defence groups and the civilians of eastern DR Congo have paid the price.

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Rwanda is one of Africa’s fast-growing economies. Photo: AFP

What is Rwanda like now?

RPF leader and President, Paul Kagame, has been hailed for overseeing rapid economic growth in the tiny country. He has also tried to turn Rwanda into a technological hub and is very active on Twitter. But his critics say he does not tolerate dissent and several opponents have met unexplained deaths. Almost two million people were tried in local courts for their role in the genocide and the ring-leaders at a UN tribunal in neighbouring Tanzania. It is now illegal to talk about ethnicity in Rwanda – the government says this is to prevent more bloodshed but some say it prevents true reconciliation and is just putting a lid on tensions, which will only boil over again in the future.


SOURCE: BBC Africa/Rwandan Times/Agencies

Breast Ironing

Breast ironing: the Silent archaic African practice for the “Good of Girls”

By Kylie Kiunguyu


Breast ironing, a traditional practice commonly done in Cameroon, is the use of hard or heated objects like a wooden pestle or scalding grinding stones to stop or slow the development of breasts in young girls, supposedly to “protect them from sexual harassment, rape and early pregnancy”.

Breast Ironing


Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) stands as one of the most horrific forms of injustice done to young girls on the continent. Its effects and consequences are well known and activists are hopeful that the world will see the end of the practice within a generation. But there are other harmful forms of mutilation that African girls face under the guise of protection and the preservation of virtue. Unlike the highly publicised FGM, which claims to ensure cleanliness and better marriage prospects, prevent promiscuity and preserve virginity, breast ironing is a silent practice done to combat the scourge of gender-based violence. However, like FGM, breast-ironing has been identified by the UN as one of five under-reported crimes relating to gender-based violence.

According to Wikipedia, breast ironing is typically carried out by the girl’s mother to ‘protect’ the girl from sexual harassment and rape, prevent early pregnancy that would tarnish the family name and allow the girl to pursue education rather than be forced into early marriage.

Breast ironing is mostly practiced in parts of Cameroon, where the perception by boys and men is that if a girls breasts have begun to grow’, she is ready for sex. The most widely used implement for breast ironing is a wooden pestle normally used for pounding tubers. This is followed by leaves, bananas, coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulas, and hammers heated over coals.

The practice has also been reported across West and Central Africa, in Benin, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Togo and lower down in Zimbabwe.

Modern Reasons

One wonders what place such an unnatural practice would have in a modern, enlightened African society. Breast ironing in recent times has been accredited to the earlier onset of puberty, caused by dietary improvements in Cameroon over the last 50 years. The mutilation is designed to make teenage girls look less “womanly” to deter unwanted male attention, which could lead to all the aforementioned consequences.

Statistics show that half of Cameroonian girls who develop under the age of nine have their breasts ironed, and 38% of those who develop under the age of 11. According to a 2011 German development agency GIZ report, one out of every 10 Cameroonian girls has been subjected to breast ironing.

Magdalena Randall-Schab, from the UK National Committee for UN Women, said to Express in 2015: “These violent acts are not only perpetrated by men on women, but by older generations of women on young girls. The issues therefore are quite complex as we are dealing with deep-seated cultural beliefs, but there is a need to help people to see that however well-intentioned they may believe their acts to be, they are acts of violence.”

The practice cuts across socio-economic barriers, but rather than use barbaric tools such as stones and hammers, the rich opt to use an elastic belt to compress the developing breasts, thus preventing them from growing.

The website of London-based charity Women’s and Girl’s Development Organisation (Cawogido) states: “Breast ironing is a well-kept secret between the young girl and her mother. Often the father remains completely unaware. The girl believes that what her mother is doing is for her own good and she keeps silent. This silence perpetuates the phenomenon and all of its consequences.”

Health Consequences

Breast ironing is extremely painful and can cause tissue damage. Even though there have been no medical studies on its effects, medical experts warn it might contribute to breast cancer, cysts, depression, and perhaps interfere with breastfeeding later in life.

Other possible side-effects reported by the German development agency GIZ include breast infections, formation of abscesses, malformed breasts and the complete stunting of one or both breasts. Due to the range in the severity of the practice, from using heated leaves to press and massage the breasts, to using scalding grinding stones to crush the budding gland, health consequences vary from benign to acute.

Eradication

Unfortunately, because of the highly clandestine nature of the practice and that it is perpetuated by women in their family settings, eradication would be difficult.

There is no known law against breast ironing, despite efforts by survivors and rights agencies to get the governments to ban the practice. Additionally, no one has been arrested or convicted in Cameroon for breast ironing despite the over 4 million victims.

Read: Fighting violence against women and patriarchy: Leave no one behind

A GIZ survey found that 39% of Cameroonian women opposed breast ironing, with 41 percent expressing support and 26% being indifferent. This indicates that the best bet for eradication is education. A UNICEF report indicates that the motives behind the practice are obviously ineffective as flattened breasts have not reduced the rate of teenage pregnancies and rape incidents. The report states that 38% of children in Cameroon are married by their 18th birthday; that more than a quarter of adolescent girls are mothers; and 20% of them drop out of school after getting pregnant.

Making this information widely known in the countries and communities where the practice is done, as well as stressing the heavy physical and psychological consequences, may begin an upward trend towards eradication.

Speaking about the less commonly known forms of gender-based violence, well intentioned or not, will mean a future where Africa’s daughters are not taught to be quiet as they are mutilated and tortured for tradition or as some kind of convoluted protection. Society’s refusal to lay the burden of sexual and gender-based violence solely with the perpetrators is the reason young female victims suffer tenfold.

The fact that young girls experience torture and mutilation in anticipation of possible gender violence is an indication that patriarchy must end, not just for the good of woman kind but for the betterment of all mankind.

“Don’t teach your daughters to be careful, teach your sons not to rape!”


SOURCE: This is Africa (Hilversum)

Osun state. Photo: Twitter/aufaregbesola

Imo is most educated state in Nigeria as Osun, Ekiti rated most peaceful

The Nigerian Peace Index Report has indicated that Osun, Kogi, Ekiti Kwara and Imo states are the five most peaceful states in Nigeria while Yobe, Kebbi, Bauchi, Zamfara and Sokoto are the least peaceful states.

Osun state. Photo: Twitter/aufaregbesola
Osun state. Photo: Twitter/aufaregbesola

The research, conducted by Foundation for Peace Professionals, also revealed that the South East has the highest number of higher education institutions in the country with Imo State rated to be the most educated state.

Osun is the most peaceful state, followed by Kogi, Ekiti, Kwara and Imo state. Akwa Ibom was rated most peaceful state in the South South, Kaduna in the North West, Kogi in the North Central, Osun in the South West, Imo in the South East and Taraba in the North East.

Lagos state has the least poverty rate, Zamfara, the least crime, Ekiti, the least incarceration rates and Taraba, the least human right abuses.

Executive Director of the Foundation, Abdulrazaq Hamzat, during the Media Launch of the Research Project yesterday, disclosed that data was collected between 2010-2016, an average of which was used for the report.


SOURCE: The Guardian, Nigeria

‘The wars will never end’ – millions flee bloodshed as Congo falls apart

Starving and sick, people living in the Democratic Republic of Congo are caught in a bloody cycle of violence and political turmoil.


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A 22-old rebel soldier, wounded and now dying, in a hospital in Masisi, DRC. Photo: Jason Burke for the Guardian

Justin Kapitu is dying. He does not know it yet, and the doctors treating the 22-year-old rebel fighter are unlikely to tell him soon, but his chances of surviving more than a few months are virtually non-existent.

Kapitu was wounded in a clash between his rebel group and a rival faction in December. Even in the remote green forested valleys and hills of the far east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the battle took place, few paid much attention. Such scrappy, bloody confrontations have become an almost daily occurrence.

Bullets shattered Kapitu’s right arm and damaged his intestines. Emaciated and traumatised, he is being treated at the single hospital serving the half million inhabitants of Masisi territory, about a thousand miles east of Kinshasa, the capital.

Kapitu weighs only 30kg (4st 7lb), is in constant pain and can absorb just a fifth of the nutritional value of the small amount of food he can ingest. Abandoned by his former comrades, he is unsure of the whereabouts of his family.

“I was just a foot soldier so I don’t really know why we were fighting,” he said. “There are lots of reasons I think …. I don’t think the wars here will ever stop. They will probably get worse.”

Kapitu’s analysis is shared by many. The vast central African country has been hit by waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil in recent months, leading to worries about a new civil war like that which killed five million people between 1997 and 2003.

Across the country the security situation has deteriorated markedly as government authority has collapsed, emboldening rival militia groups who hold sway over large areas of territory, often competing for the DRC’s rich resources.

The president, Joseph Kabila, is desperately clinging to power as various groups and individuals use violence to gain cash, territory and support before possible elections later this year.

I don’t really know why we were fighting … I don’t think the wars here will ever stop

Justin Kapitu

The humanitarian situation is dire. More than 13 million Congolese need humanitarian aid, twice as many as last year, and 7.7 million face severe food insecurity, up 30% from a year ago, the United Nations said in March. Many humanitarian officials complain that global attention has been diverted to more heavily reported crises in the Middle East.

More than 4.5 million people are displaced, the highest number in the DRC for more than 20 years, latest figures show. There are outbreaks of cholera. The fighting is, as Kapitu feared, getting worse.

In recent weeks, thousands of army soldiers attacked villages across the province of North Kivu, where rebel groups are based. Around the town of Beni, DRC’s army is fighting an Islamist-inspired militia blamed for killing 14 UN peacekeepersin November, the worst loss of life in a single incident for the organisation for 25 years. Dozens have died in frequent ambushes and skirmishes.

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Tanzanian soldiers at an airbase in Dar es Salaam carry the coffin of a Tanzanian peacekeeper killed in DRC in November. Photo: -/AFP/Getty Images

Though Goma, the biggest city in the east, remains calm, militias have clashed with security forces on its outskirts. Elsewhere in the east, ethnic tensions have led to massacres. Around the town of Bunia, hundreds have died.

There have been fierce battles west of the town of Masisi, as government troops attacked the base of a powerful local warlord known as General Delta.

Among the more than 1.4 million forced from their homes in North Kivu province by the recent fighting is Baraka Buira, who fled with her brother and sister when armed men from one of the most powerful local militia attacked her village near the small town of Nyabiondo shortly after government troops launched an offensive against its bases three weeks ago.

Hidden among the trees, the 14-year-old watched as men were beaten and women dragged screaming into huts. Buira saw several corpses on the ground but believes her parents also fled. She is unaware of their whereabouts.

“We are suffering. This is our unhappiness,” said Buira, who carried her two smaller siblings for 48 hours to reach the relative safety of a camp for displaced people.

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Women carrying bags walk through the Kyala neighbourhood in Butembo, North Kivu province. More than 1.4 million people have been forced from their homes there. Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

The camp has no water and no food distribution since aid organisations withdrew from the region citing growing insecurity months ago. A family has allowed Buira to share their makeshift shack, but can provide little else.

One of the few international NGOs still working in the area is Médecins Sans Frontières. It supports, among other projects, a hospital with more than 300 beds at Masisi, where 17,000 people received care in 2017, a health centre in Nyabiondo, a network of mobile clinics and a fleet of ambulances. The work is increasingly dangerous. In the last two months, MSF personnel and vehicles have been attacked five times.

Logistics pose enormous challenges too. It can take an entire day to drive the 60km from Goma to Masisi on muddy dirt tracks. There are no paved roads and many remote communities can only be reached by motorbike, some only after days walking on forest tracks. Patients regularly die when roads are cut by landslides, torrential rains or fighting.

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“The problem is that a volatile situation like we have now means people need us more than ever, but makes reaching them harder,” said Sebastien Teissier, who leads the MSF project at Masisi.

The crises have been exacerbated by an absence of international forces. The United Nations mission in the DRC is the largest and most expensive peacekeeping effort, but five UN bases near Masisi were shut last year, following a US-led push to cut costs.

Major Adil Esserhir, a spokesman for the UN peacekeepers, said the force was now “more agile”. “We have had to do the same work with less resources. The problem we are facing as a military [force] is that we must give a solution to a problem that is not military,” he said.

Meanwhile the country has been roiled by protests, often bloodily repressed, since Kabila’s second electoral mandate expired 15 months ago. A rebellion in central provinces cost thousands of lives last year and there have been a series of mass prison breaks.

“There is a lack of political will to crack down on the militia … The only way this regime can keep power is to maintain a situation which allows them to keep pillaging. Each armed group can be tied to an official in Kinshasa, either in government or in the army,” said Fidel Bafilenda, an analyst in Goma.

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Displaced Congolese push a boat out over Lake Albert to escape to Uganda, fleeing inter-communal violence. Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Senior officials admit the problem.

“This is a country where anyone can exploit a militia. I can’t deny that there are contacts between politicians and the [armed] groups but there’s no proof that they are financing them. We are a young democracy,” said Julien Paluko, the governor of North Kivu.

Paluko, a Kabilia loyalist, blamed “an absence of state authority” for the problems in North Kivu, which lies more than 1,000 miles east of Kinshasa. The army and police are demoralised, corrupt and poorly trained. An economic downturn and soaring prices have hit salaries.

“Where there is no police, army or justice system, it’s the law of the jungle. We have to do better. We have had some difficult times but we’ve made a lot of progress too,” he said.

The renewed fighting has meant a wave of sexual violence.

Whenever there is fighting there is systematic rape – in villages, at checkpoints on roads, wherever

Anastasia Icyizanye

Anastasia Icyizanye, an MSF health worker working in Nyabiondo, said fighters from one armed group raped 60 women in January when it seized a village market. MSF say they have recorded twice as many incidents of sexual violence each month in 2018 compared to last year.

“Whenever there is fighting there is systematic rape – in villages, at checkpoints on roads, wherever,” Icyizanye said.

DRC observers are particularly fearful of the growing tension between ethnic communities. Despite fertile soil and plentiful water, there is fierce competition for land in the heavily populated green hills above Lake Kivu, as well as for lucrative mines where gold, coltan and other key commodities prized in the developed world are scratched from the ground by artisanal miners.

Leaders of the many local rebel groups say they are acting in self-defence.

“We are simply protecting our villages. When the government and its allies stop trying to force us off our land then we will stop fighting. Until then the wars will continue,” Colonel Faustin Misibaho, a senior officer in the Patriots’ Alliance for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) told the Guardian.36003

Many of the fighters are very young. Kapitu was 14 when he joined the rebels, seeking revenge after government soldiers killed his father and grandfather during a raid on their village.

“My group killed a lot of people. We were really feared and respected,” he said. “I don’t think about those I killed personally. Why should I? They wouldn’t think about me if it was the other way round.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/ additional reporting by agencies

A crisis the world can no longer afford to ignore

ANALYSIS 


The numbers are hard to fathom. Nearly two million people driven from their homes in 2017 alone. The worst cholera epidemic of the past 15 years, with over 55,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths. Countless others killed, maimed or sexually assaulted.

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Violence wracks Kinshasa as political process falters. Photo: Congo Research Group

The human costs of the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo are borne disproportionately by women and children, whose homes have been pillaged and burned, who are not in school and thus vulnerable to soldier recruitment, and who have now been left with almost nothing.

“These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years.” –Jan Egeland

Charlotte Ukuba, 60, fled to Site Etat at Kikwit, Kwilu Province in the southwest of DR Congo.

“I’m living now outside with my eight children,” Ukuba told IPS. “My husband was killed last year by the Kamwina Nsapu’s violence in Kasai province. When I came here, I was living first in a church with other displaced persons. But last week, a pastor chased us away. I have no money and need clothes for my children.”

Her eldest daughter is suffering from malaria. “There are no drugs for this girl. I’m calling for help,” she added.

Violence broke out in Kasai in August 2016 following the uprising of local militia in Kasai Central. The crisis has been characterized by repeated clashes between militias and local security forces, which have subsequently generated inter-community conflicts.

Another displaced woman named Rose Thimbangula died at the age of 47 on Feb. 14 in Nzinda commune in Kikwit. The cause of death was tuberculosis complicated by fistula due to sexual violence. She had no money for medicine.

Dressed in a long black dress, Marie Ntumbala, 37, sleeps on the floor of a small room in Mweka, Kasai province. She is originally from a village called Tutando, 150 kilometers from Tshikapa, but was forced out by conflict. Ntumbala was fortunate enough to be taken in by a local family. But she says she is still living on the edge.

“When I’m ill, I can’t go to the hospital because I’m penniless. The Congolese government must help all the displaced persons in our country,” she said.

DR Congo has some 4.5 million internally displaced people, the largest number in Africa. Elections scheduled for 2017 were postponed to the end of this year, as political instability and clashes between soldiers and militias continues to escalate. An estimated 120 armed groups are operating in eastern DR Congo alone.

Humanitarian actors launched the largest ever funding appeal for the country this year, asking for 1.68 billion dollars to assist 10.5 million people. Only half of the 812.5 million dollars appealed for in 2017 was funded.

Brigitte Kishimana is 28 years old and six months pregnant. She lives at the Moni Site in Kalemi, Tanganyika province in the southeast. “I need prenatal care,” she said. “Several other pregnant women at the sites need it too. If not, their lives will be in danger. Last year, four displaced women died during pregnancy or childbirth,” she told IPS.

Georgette Bahire, a 45-year-old farmer in Sud-Kivu province, fled Lulumba village on June 29, 2017. Fighting between government soldiers and the Mai-Mai, an armed group, drove her from her land. She was taken in by a family in the city of Kibanga.

“Humanitarian workers helped us in 2017 with food and some drugs. But the needs are still great,” she said.

Since the beginning of this year, armed conflicts have continued to plague the country, particularly in the areas of Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, South-Lubero and Beni. The gradual withdrawal of humanitarian aid workers from these areas has amplified the vulnerability of people affected by the humanitarian crisis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a September 2017 report.

“The crisis in DR Congo has deteriorated exponentially over the last two years,” Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IPS in an interview. “These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years. Regions that were normally peaceful and stable areas of the country such as the Grand Kasai region and Tanganyika have now become hotbeds of unrest, with intercommunal violence displacing hundreds of thousands.”

“The fighting in the Kivus and Ituri is pushing the conflict in DR Congo closer and closer to a regional humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes into neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. A fresh appeal is necessary because while humanitarian needs are exploding and assistance is not able to meet the pace of needs.”

Egeland called on the international community to prioritize the humanitarian crisis in DR Congo and step up their efforts to help the 13.1 million people in need of assistance.

“If not,” he warned, “there will be fatal consequences for the country and possibly for the region.”

IOM is working to provide durable solutions for 5,973 IDP households in the North-Kivu province.

“Currently, IOM is helping 77 displaced women suffering from fistulas caused by sexual violence,” IOM Programme Officer Jean-Claude Bashirahishize told IPS. “In 2017, IOM received 205 cases of sexual violence in 12 sites,” he said, adding that cultural taboos made it difficult for women to talk about what had happened to them.

IOM helps victims of sexual violence get economic assistance, but also to train in livelihood activities so they can become self-sufficient.

“Insecurity is the greatest barrier to IOM accessing areas where armed groups are fighting government military forces,” Bashirahishize added.

Patrice Mushidinima, a civil society leader at Bukavu, the county seat of Sud-Kivu province, confirmed this, telling IPS, “Sud-Kivu province has 33 distinct armed groups operating in the area.”

In October 2017, the Congolese government and FAO helped more than 20,000 internally displaced persons, of whom about whom 70 percent were women and children at Kikwit, Kwilu province. But the situation is growing increasingly dire.

“Farmers who fled due to conflict have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced,” FAO, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a statement.

“IDPs have rights that need to be respected by the government and other authorities in the country. The Congolese Constitution claims that human life is sacred,” Valentin Mbalanda, a human rights activist in DR Congo, told IPS.

The European Commission, United Nations, and Dutch government will co-host a pledging conference in April. Jan Egeland said that international donors must give the same attention and priority to DR Congo that they do comparable crises around the globe.

“That means they must put their muscle and weight behind a successful donor conference and fulfill any pledges made. Donors must also look at needs on the ground and not just the bottom line. The DR Congo crisis of 2018 is not what is was in 2000 or 2005,” he said.

“Lastly, the international community must acknowledge the consequence of doing nothing. The stakes in DR Congo are high if inaction is the route we choose. There could be mass loss of life and humanitarian neglect could destabilize the entire region. This is a crisis of conscience that the world cannot afford to ignore.”


SOURCE: Inter Press Service

How South Sudan Elites use country’s oil money to empower militia groups

South Sudan’s elite is using the country’s oil wealth to get rich and terrorize civilians, according to documents reviewed in an ongoing investigation by The Sentry, an investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast.

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Children look on questioningly as their colleague cries. The children are part of the many refugees at the Pagirinya Refugee settlement in Adjumani, near Uganda’s border with South Sudan. Photo: Edgar R Batte/Daily Monitor

Little has been known about the financial machinery that makes South Sudan’s continuing war possible, but documents obtained by The Sentry appear to shed new light on how the country’s main revenue source–oil–is used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homeland because of the ongoing, devastating conflict.

The war in South Sudan, which has featured the use of child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, and mass atrocities, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and has left more than 4 million people displaced.

J.R. Mailey, Special Investigations Director at The Sentry, said: “South Sudan’s leaders should be using South Sudan’s natural resources to benefit the population–but the documents we have obtained indicate that they have used the country’s oil to buy weapons, fund deadly militias, and hire companies owned by political insiders to support military operations that have resulted in horrific atrocities and war crimes.”

John Prendergast, Co-founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: “Our investigation indicates that members of South Sudan’s ruling clique appear to be profiting from the war itself. In order to build the leverage needed for peace, the international community should target the assets of those responsible for continued violence and deny them from accessing the international banking system.

The long-term, ongoing investigation by The Sentry will continue to reveal and detail further findings in coming months.

The documents reviewed by The Sentry purport to describe how funds from South Sudan’s state oil company, Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nilepet), helped fund militias responsible for horrific acts of violence.

One key document, part of a collection of material provided to The Sentry by an anonymous source, appears to be an internal log kept by South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining detailing security-related payments made by Nilepet. The document titled, “Security Expenses Summary from Nilepet as from March 2014 to Date” (“the Summary”) lists a total of 84 transactions spanning a 15-month period beginning in March 2014 and ending in June 2015.

Key Information Contained in the Documents:

More than $80 million was recorded as paid to South Sudanese politicians, military officials, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians and members of their families who were, according to the Summary, paid for services such as military transport and logistics to forces implicated in atrocities.

South Sudan’s petroleum ministry assisted in the provision of food, fuel, satellite phone airtime and money to a group of militias in Upper Nile state, according to the Summary. The militias are reportedly responsible for destroying villages and attacks against civilians, including a February 2016 attack against civilians at a U.N. site in Malakal that left dozens dead.

Interstate Airways, partially owned by South Sudan First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit, reportedly received six payments beginning in April 2014 for army logistics and transportation of military hardware.

Nile Basin for Aviation, a little-known airline owned by family members of top military and government officials–including the wife of former military chief of staff Paul Malong and a nephew of then-petroleum minister and current Minister of Finance and Planning Stephen Dhieu Dau–is identified in the Summary as receiving payments from Nilepet in early 2015 for military logistics operations.

According to the Summary, Crown Auto Trade, a Toyota dealership with a majority owner–Obac William Olawo–who is a prominent South Sudanese businessman, received over $8 million in payments from Nilepet in 2014 alone for activities ranging from supplying vehicles to importing armored personnel carriers and transporting tanks and supplies. A report by Control Arms, a research and advocacy group, stated that the type of armored personnel carriers described in the Summary were “observed in different locations within South Sudan between May and December 2014, including in areas of Unity State where the conflict has been intense.” In an interview with The Sentry, Olawo denied that any of his companies have ever been involved in transporting troops, weapons, or equipment for the military. He said that the documents and reports suggesting as much may be confusing his company with “Sierra” an operation connected to Erik Prince, who he said is one of his business partners.

There are indeed two payments recorded in the Summary that mention Prince’s company, Frontier Services Group, in connection with “Project Sierra.” Two $16.4 million payments were recorded as paid in July and October 2014, labeled “Air Logistics & Support Services… (Project Sierra, Frontier Services Group).” Olawo described Sierra as an air cargo operation for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the National Security Service. In April 2016, The Intercept reported that FSG had attempted to provide attack aircraft to the Government of South Sudan in addition to other defense-related services. Representatives from FSG have previously denied doing business with South Sudan’s military but did not respond to questions about the payments described in the Nilepet security expenses summary.

The Summary also lists Golden Wings Aviation–another company owned by Olawo–alongside several other companies in connection with a $4,250,802 payment dated June 1, 2015, labeled “payment for army logistics operation.” The company is also mentioned by the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan as having transported weapons to Unity state on several occasions during a period of particularly horrific violence in 2014 and 2015.

The Sentry recommends the following steps in order to expand financial pressure to hold companies and individuals to account:

Target the Networks Behind Violence: The United States, European Union, and others in the international community should investigate the top officials who have played a role in military operations that have resulted in atrocities and, where appropriate, impose network-focused sanctions on them, their business associates and facilitators, and the companies they own or control.

Impose Sectoral Sanctions: The use of sanctions related to the oil sector should also expand beyond designations of key officials and their companies. Given the ubiquitous use of the U.S. dollar in the oil sector, such a measure could have a strong impact.

Banks and Financial Regulators Have a Key Role: Banks and financial regulators should step up efforts to halt the flow of illicit funds out of South Sudan. Banks found to be connected to be money laundering may incur heavy penalties and be subject to other law enforcement measures. The Sentry will continue to investigate these issues and raise appropriate findings to relevant authorities.

South Sudan’s Neighbors Must Escalate Financial Pressure, or Risk Damage to Their Own Financial Systems: Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have been reluctant to enforce and escalate international political and financial pressures. There are numerous opportunities for the international community–including U.S. and European governments and financial institutions–to encourage South Sudan’s neighbors to increase pressure on those responsible for South Sudan’s civil war.

About THE SENTRY

The Sentry is composed of best-in-class financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry’s partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world’s largest banks.

The State vs. Okah: South African courts can’t help in such cases

On 23rd February the Constitutional Court handed down a unanimous judgment in the consolidated applications in the State vs. Okah matter.

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Nigerian Henry Okah, found guilty of masterminding two car bomb blasts in Abuja, Nigeria, speaks to his legal representative at the High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Werner Beukes/Sapa

This followed the November 2017 hearing in which the Constitutional Court deliberated on the issues of whether South African courts possess extra-territorial jurisdiction for crimes of terrorism and serious offences committed outside South Africa; and whether this was limited to prosecutions for the financing of terrorism only.

Justice Edwin Cameron delivered the unanimous judgment, dismissing Mr Okah’s cross appeals.

The State v Henry Emomotimi Okah

Summary: Does the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act give South African courts jurisdiction to try terrorist acts committed abroad, besides financing terrorism?

On 23rd February the Constitutional Court handed down a unanimous judgment in the consolidated applications in the State v Okah matter. This followed the November 2017 hearing in which the Constitutional Court deliberated on the issues of whether South African courts possess extra-territorial jurisdiction for crimes of terrorism and serious offences committed outside South Africa; and whether this was limited to prosecutions for the financing of terrorism only. Justice Edwin Cameron delivered the unanimous judgment, dismissing Mr Okah’s cross appeals.

Background:

Mr Okah is a Nigerian citizen holding South African permanent residence. He was charged with 13 counts under The Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act 33 of 2004 (The Terrorism Act). The charges relate to two bombings in Nigeria- which took place on the 15th March 2010 in Warri as well as on the 1st October 2010 in Abuja. Both bombings were intended to inflict maximum carnage and resulted in the death of at least nine people. Mr Okah was in Nigeria at the time of the Warri bombings and in South Africa during the Abuja bombings. The High Court convicted him on all 13 counts and sentenced him to 24 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) however held that South African courts have extra-territorial jurisdiction only in relation to “the crimes of financing the offence,” and overturned the Warri convictions and reduced the sentence to 20 years.

Findings by the Constitutional Court:

The Constitutional Court found that the narrow interpretation adopted by the SCA resulted in an absurdity where a court would have jurisdiction to “prosecute the banker, but not the bomber”. The court stated that “The general duty to combat terrorism is broad. It commands a reading of the Terrorism Act that enables South Africa to participate, as a member of the international community, in the fight against an international and transnational phenomenon. The conspicuous consequence of the contested interpretation is that it would pull the Terrorism Act’s teeth, rendering futile its expressed endeavour to give bite to this duty”. The undisputed facts before the trial court establish that both the Warri and Abuja bombings were carried out in clear violation of international humanitarian law. Mr Okah intended for those bombings to be indiscriminate and deadly.

SALC’s amicus submissions before the Constitutional Court:

SALC was invited by the Court to make submissions and was admitted as amicus curiae. SALC’s submissions dealt with the interpretation of section 1 (4) of the Terrorism Act. SALC supported the State’s argument that the SCA erred in its narrow definition of “specified offence.” SALC submitted that a thorough reading of the entire Act requires a broader meaning of the term “specified offence” which covers more than just the financing of terror offences. This is particularly clear when, for example, the following provisions are read, section 4 dealing with acquiring, collecting, using and owning, among others, property which is used for terror activities; and section 11 dealing with harbouring of terror suspects, among others.

SALC’s Executive Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh stated that, “SALC was pleased to be able to assist as a ‘friend of the court’ in this matter. The case is significant in confirming that South African courts do possess extra-territorial jurisdiction in respect of terrorism offences”. The Terrorism Act confers extra –territorial jurisdiction for courts to try crimes that occurred outside South Africa. The SCA did note that while jurisdiction has traditionally been limited to crimes occurring within a state’s territory, international terrorism conventions have, of necessity relaxed this limitation.

The Constitutional court found as follows: The State’s appeal is upheld; Mr Okah’s appeal is dismissed barring the special entry on consular access. The sentence reverts to 24 years.

SALC was represented in this matter by Advocate Kameel Premhid and Webber Wentzel Attorneys.

Dressed for death: the girls Boko Haram sent to blow themselves up

Survivors tell of being forcibly prepared for ‘suicide missions’, henna on their hands and bombs around their waists.

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Two of the women who survived Boko Haram’s attempts to have them carry out ‘suicide missions’. Photo: Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

When Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 17-year-old Nadia and took her to their camp, their commander noticed her straight away. She was squatting with dozens of other abducted women in front of him, listening to his lecture.

When, a few minutes later, the commander ordered his men to take Nadia to his house, she asked: “Why only me?” But she went with the men and waited.

The commander, whose name she never learned, “was dirty, ugly, dark-skinned and had a beard. He had a lot of hair on his head like a madman,” Nadia remembered. He looked mean. And he wanted her as a second wife.

Three months later, Nadia woke up one morning to find her body strapped with explosives. She had been drugged the night before. The commander’s men pushed her on to a motorbike, and dropped her and two others near Gamboro, a town in Borno, the Nigerian state hit worst by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The mission they had been given: to blow themselves up in as big a crowd as they could find.

They gather all the women and preach and preach. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go to paradise?’

Aisha

Boko Haram, the terrorist group best known for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in the middle of the night three years ago, has been under heavy attack from the Nigerian military in recent months.

But as their longed-for “caliphate” across north-eastern Nigeria has shrunk, the number of bomb attacks has increased, with the insurgents increasingly sending the women and children they have abducted to blow themselves up.

The week before Nadia was abducted, Boko Haram had attacked her village. Hiding behind her house, she had listened as they searched for her father, screamed at her mother for trying to hide him, and finally found and shot him.

When the commander announced to Nadia that he was making her his concubine, she was told she was one of the “lucky few” to be selected. But terrified as she was, Nadia had no intention of going along with it.

“He came that night and tried to rape me,” she said, her diamante earrings glinting through her pale blue hijab. “We wrestled seriously. I thought, this is a life-or-death situation, he probably has an STD which would kill me anyway, so I might as well die honourably. I used all my strength to fight him, and he was so angry when he couldn’t succeed in raping me. In the morning he went out and called his boys, and told them to take me out and flog me.”

After more death threats and another rape attempt, he tried a different tack: talking to her, trying to persuade her to accept the marriage. But after three months of cajoling, he had had enough, and decided to get rid of her.

That was how Nadia found herself approaching a checkpoint run by the civilian joint taskforce (CJTF), a paramilitary group helping fight Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, trying to keep her arms out from her sides and not to swing them, to avoid accidentally detonating the bomb strapped to her waist.

When the men at the checkpoint saw the three women approaching, they shouted at them to stop. The women had prepared for this moment – in the minutes after their captors had left them, they had agreed to try to hand themselves in.

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In this 2015 photograph civilians walk past a checkpoint manned by Nigerian soldiers in Gwoza, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Photo: Lekan Oyekanmi/AP

“We stopped. We shouted: ‘We’re carrying bombs, we were forced to,’ and we lifted up our veils and showed them the belts,” she said.

They were fortunate: no gun was raised to shoot them. The men called the military and after a 40-minute wait, standing still under a tree, soldiers came and removed the bombs from their bodies.

“I was so happy; we were smiling and laughing,” Nadia said. “We had survived.”

Many do not survive: according to figures collated by the Long War Journal, 154 bombers have died in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad since 2014, and this is a conservative estimate, as many attacks go unreported in the media.

When preparing someone for a “suicide” mission, Boko Haram members treat the bomber as if they are already dead, preparing the body as if for their own funeral.

“What they normally do is to dress you very beautifully, and put henna on your hands,” said Aisha, who was “married” to Boko Haram’s fourth-in-command and recently escaped. She saw many women and children recruited and sent on such missions.

This happened to Fatima, now 20, before she was sent to blow herself up in 2015. “They tie your hair back to prepare you for death,” she said, her voice quiet as she removed her red headscarf to show how her hair was braided off her face, as is the custom in funeral rites.

Fatima was raped every night by several different men for eight months, and is still terrified that somehow Boko Haram will find her and kidnap her again. By the time she was chosen for a bombing mission, she was so frightened that she could not speak, and stayed silent throughout the preparations.

“I was so afraid. I didn’t know what they meant. I’d never heard of anyone blowing themselves up. They told us we should go into a crowd and hit here,” she said, touching her hip. “Nobody told us what [the vest] was, but I knew it wasn’t something good. I didn’t look at it.”

She was dropped near Kukara, the target her captors had chosen for her, but she never considered going through with what she had been instructed to do.

“I went up to some soldiers and said: ‘I’m carrying something round my waist,’” she said. “They raised my veil and when they saw it they all jumped back. One said: ‘It’s a bomb!’ I was terrified, I was crying, but they told me not to move.”

Like Nadia, Fatima was believed by the soldiers. The bomb was removed, she was put through a rehabilitation process for three months, and is now living with her mother and sister. However, fearful of the heavy stigma that comes with having lived under Boko Haram, she has told them a sanitised version of her experiences during the abduction. (The names of all the women in this article have been changed.)

Nadia and Fatima were sent on their aborted missions in 2015. At that time, Boko Haram tried to hide the fact they were forcing people to blow themselves up from their other prisoners, afraid they would attempt to run away, according to Aisha, who observed how things changed over her three years in captivity. Now, she said, they have become completely open about it.

“They preach that if you go to [the state capital] Maiduguri and kill people, you will go to paradise without question,” she said. “They have a lot of ways to persuade them. They say: ‘Don’t consider them Muslim brothers and sisters any more – just go and kill them.’

“They gather all the women in one area and preach and preach. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go to paradise?’ Everyone raises her hand. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go now?’ Some raise their hands, so they take them and train them in suicide bombing. If nobody raises her hand, they say: ‘God created you, fed you, did everything for you, and this is how you reward him for all this?’ They make sure they get at least one person.

“It doesn’t take long to train them. They either tell you to hold the bomb or they strap it on to your body, round your waist or inside your bra. They tell you to go anywhere where there are a lot of men. They say: ‘Pretend you have stomach pain and fall on the ground. When people gather round you, press the button.’

Aisha saw how they recruited children as young as five for the missions.

“They say: ‘Who wants to go and see their mother in paradise? If you want to see her, that’s where she is.’ The children accept it easily, because they don’t know how dangerous it is. They tell them they won’t feel any pain even if their body is destroyed. I heard them saying that to the children in my camp.”

More and more children are being used in such missions: according to figures collected by Unicef, 27 were killed while wearing bombs in north-eastern Nigeria in the first three months of 2017, a sharp rise from 2016, when 30 were killed in the whole year.

It is the job of Bamussa Bashir, chair of a Maiduguri branch of the CJTF, to ensure that some of his 102 members are always guarding their area of the city, looking out for strangers who could be Boko Haram members or bombers. Women, and especially young girls, are increasingly being regarded with suspicion in Maiduguri.

In February Bashir, a quiet, serious-looking 23-year-old, was in a Maiduguri market, full of people buying beancake and grilled meat, when two girls got out of a car. A young man he didn’t know, buying credit for his phone, said to Bashir: “I don’t trust those girls.”

One of the girls hailed a tuk-tuk and zoomed off. The other started walking towards the market stalls. Bashir jumped up, wondering what to do, and was amazed to see the young man he had just been talking to head straight for the girl and put his arms around her.

“He grabbed her, trying to drag her away from the crowd. Then the bomb exploded.” As well as the young man and the girl, seven others died in the explosion, but the death toll could have been higher.

The hugging technique – when someone grabs a suspected attacker and uses their own body as a shield so fewer people around them die – is one of the only things locals can think to do in the face of the bomb attacks.

“People started doing it in one area, then another – it spread,” said Bashir, adding that he was ready to do it himself if it meant risking his life to reduce casualties.

“I know what death means. I’ve seen my relatives die and they have not come back. My brother was killed by Boko Haram two years ago. That’s part of the reason I do what I do, but what I really want is peace.”

Air pollution is killing millions globally every year

Air pollution is killing millions globally every year

A THICK SMOG settled over New Delhi as winter began in India last year, forcing medical professionals to declare a public health emergency. Residents swarmed local hospitals complaining of respiratory problems. Cricket players were forced to put on anti-pollution masks during a national match between India and Sri Lanka. And United Airlines canceled flights into the city, citing the air-quality concerns.

Air pollution is killing millions globally every year
King’s Way in New Delhi is seen shrouded in smog on Dec. 4, 2017. Photo: HuffPost

Air pollution isn’t among the causes of death that medical examiners list on death certificates, but the health conditions linked to air pollution exposure, such as lung cancer and emphysema, are often fatal. Air pollution was responsible for 6.1 million deaths and accounted for nearly 12 percent of the global death toll in 2016, the last year for which data was available, according the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Air pollution is killing millions globally every year
Heavy smog engulfed Gurgaon, India, a city southwest of New Delhi in North India. The air quality index was at 320, which agencies consider unfit for inhalation even by healthy people and which made commuting difficult. December 2017. Photo: SANJEEV VERMA/HINDUSTAN TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES

“Air pollution is one of the great killers of our age,” Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai wrote in an article published in the medical journal The Lancet.

India’s late environment minister, Anil Madhav Dave, made headlines last year for denying there was proof that air pollution was singularly responsible for death in India. Dave conceded that air pollution “could be one of the triggering factors for respiratory associated ailments and diseases,” but he blamed the negative health effects on other issues: poor diet, occupational hazards, socioeconomic status and genetics.

Dave died in May 2017 from cardiac arrest. The new environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, has also said that “to attribute any death to a cause like pollution, that may be too much.”

But there are numerous studies linking air pollution to morbidity around world.

“There is a huge amount of data linking outdoor and indoor air pollution with adverse health effects, including acute and chronic disease, exacerbations of chronic disease and death,” said Dr. Barry Levy, adjunct professor of public health at Tufts University School of Medicine.

The right to breathe is, you would think, the most fundamental right ― more than food, more than water. And that right is being seriously compromised right now.Mayur Sharma, TV personality

Of the 6.1 million air pollution death in 2016, 4.1 million are attributable to outdoor, or ambient, air pollution, according to IHME. Such pollution comes from sources like vehicles, coal-fired power plants and steel mills. Household, or indoor, air pollution is a more pressing problem in low-income countries due to the use of indoor fires for cooking and heat, and it’s linked to an estimated 2.6 million deaths per year. (In India at least, the total air pollution death rate has declined since 1990 even as the outdoor death rate went up in recent years ― due largely to a decrease in the number of deaths attributable to indoor air pollution. Scientists don’t completely understand how ambient and household air pollution deaths interact, and there’s some overlap between them, which is why the sum of ambient and household air pollution deaths exceeds total air pollution deaths.)

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Photo: David Henry Montgomery/Huff Post

Developing countries bear the brunt of the world’s pollution problem

Air pollution is undoubtedly a global public health problem, but not all countries are equally affected.

As many as 1.6 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in India in 2016, according to IHME. That same year, all air pollution was linked to almost 123 out of every 100,000 deaths in the country ― among the highest in the world.

“When it comes to the number of deaths from air pollution, India is No. 1,” Landrigan told HuffPost.

Afghanistan and several African countries have higher ambient air pollution death rates than India, likely because of the extremely dusty conditions in those countries, combined with other pollution sources, like vehicle emissions and crop burning.

“With globalization, mining and manufacturing shifted to poorer countries, where environmental regulations and enforcement can be lax,” Karti Sandilya, one of the authors on the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, told Reuters. “People in poorer countries ― like construction workers in New Delhi ― are more exposed to air pollution and less able to protect themselves from exposure, as they walk, bike or ride the bus to workplaces that may also be polluted.”

North India’s topography makes its pollution problem worse, Vox noted in November. The region acts as a basin, trapping pollution from crop burning outside the city and mixing it with industrial pollution from within city limits. And that mix of pollution sources is most intense during the coldest months of the year.

In fact, the problem is getting so bad that some people are moving out of New Delhi altogether. Television personality Mayur Sharma is perhaps the most notable example: He left his job and moved his family out of the capital to escape the pollution.

“The right to breathe is, you would think, the most fundamental right ― more than food, more than water. And that right is being seriously compromised right now,” Sharma told NPR.

As India’s economy has expanded, the country has struggled to keep up with the environmental costs of that growth. Premature deaths from air pollution have stabilized in China, which rivals India in terms of pollution problems and population. That stabilization occurred partly because China has used fines and criminal charges to crack down on pollution. India’s government, however, seems more focused on economic growth than on protecting air quality and the environment.

Air pollution is killing millions globally every year
King’s Way in New Delhi is seen shrouded in smog on Dec. 4, 2017. Photo: HuffPost

Air pollution ― and climate change ― link the global community in deadly ways

Because air pollution and related health problems can travel, no country can solve its air pollution problem alone.

Air pollution from Chinese consumption was linked to an estimated 3,100 premature deaths in the U.S and Western Europe in 2007, according to an article published last year in the journal Nature. At the same time, nearly 110,000 premature deaths in China were linked to pollution prompted by consumption in the U.S. and Western European.

Air pollution can travel long distances and cause health impacts in downwind regions,” Qiang Zhang, co-author of the article and a researcher at Tsinghua University in Beijing, explained to Popular Science.

Air pollution doesn’t care about political boundaries.Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health

Climate change will likely exacerbate those global concerns, according to public health experts.

They anticipate that climate change will trigger a host of public health problems, including heat- and cold-related deaths, increased disease risk and mental health problems from climate displacement and extreme weather conditions.

Climate change also contributes to air pollution trends ― hotter temperatures increase wildfire risk, and wildfires create ambient air pollution. It also increases ground-level ozone, which is a main ingredient in urban smog, and can trigger health problems like chest pain, throat irritation and lung inflammation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Higher temperatures are expected to increase the rate of ozone formation,” Levy said.

This makes it even more crucial for local, national and intergovernmental organizations to join forces to address air pollution.

As Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, put it, “Air pollution doesn’t care about political boundaries.”


SOURCE: Huffpost

These women has learnt how to live with lions

These women has learnt how to live with lions

By Niki Rust


Lionesses have a lot of power in lion society. The females typically work together to hunt down prey, and form crèches to look after their cubs. This cooperative behaviour brings in lots of food, and ensure that plenty of lion cubs survive to adulthood.

These women has learnt how to live with lions
A pair of lions Photo: Karl Ammann/naturepl.com

The female lions’ empowerment stands in stark contrast to the human societies that live alongside the lions in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve. There, as in many other cultures throughout history, women have been discouraged from taking control – in part due to a male-dominated culture.

As it happens, lions – despite the lionesses’ efforts – are vulnerable to extinction. So what might happen if we took a leaf out of the lions’ book and began to allow women to make more decisions?

One Kenyan lion conservation organisation, Ewaso Lions, decided to find out.

These women has learnt how to live with lions
The Mama Simba uniform is bright red. Photo: Kelly Wilson

Ewaso Lions helps local communities find ways to coexist with wildlife. This is crucial, because one of the greatest threats to lions is humans killing them.

As some of Samburu’s lions live outside formally protected areas, they often come into contact with the Samburu livestock. In retaliation for cattle killed by lions, the Samburu sometimes hunt the lions.

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Conservation training. Photo: Ewaso Lions

The Mama Simba project began when local women went to Ewaso Lions asking to be educated. Mama Simba means “the Mother of Lions” in Maa, the local language.

“The women had seen how warriors in their community were being engaged in conservation through another of Ewaso Lions’s projects,” says Heather Gurd, conservation manager at Ewaso Lions. “They were adamant that they could do just as good a job as the warriors if only they were given the chance.”

Samburu women actually spend a great deal of time in wildlife areas whilst they collect firewood, fetch water and look after livestock. This means they often come into contact with animals like lions.

These women has learnt how to live with lions
The Mama Simba project aims to empower women. Photo: Ewaso Lions

Yet before this project, the women were rarely actively included in conservation activities.

Ewaso Lions is educating the Samburu women in basic literacy, numeracy, and wildlife conservation. They also train them in beaded art craft, so that they can diversify their income and not depend solely on livestock.

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A group of Mama Simba participants, February 2016. Photo: Ewaso Lions

Since Mama Simba was launched in 2013, over 300 Samburu women have participated in the programme. There is a core group of 19 who spread the word.

“Empowerment means that women are given a chance to lead, like men do,” says Ntomuson Lelengeju, a Mama Simba participant.

“Women and men are now getting equal opportunities in terms of resource sharing,” says Noldonyo Letabare, who also takes part.

These women has learnt how to live with lions
A lion (Panthera leo) in Samburu National Reserve. Photo: T. J. Rich/naturepl.com

As well as benefiting the women, the project should also help the lions.

To achieve this, the women are trained in how to better protect their livestock enclosures from predators. They also learn how to identify carnivore tracks, and tell Ewaso Lions about lion sightings and any conflicts that arise.

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At the Mama Simba school. Photo: Tyrel Bernardini

It is too soon to tell whether this new project has benefited the lion population. But there is evidence that people’s attitudes towards lions are becoming more positive.

“I have changed as a result of the Mama Simba programme,” says Lelengeju. “I now cannot accept people to kill lions.”

“Since joining the programme I have learned to love lions, unlike before,” says Letabare.

“We have seen a real change in the confidence and enthusiasm that the ladies have,” says Shivani Bhalla, executive director of Ewaso Lions. “They were once very quiet and shy, never speaking up at any community meetings or talking about wildlife. Now they are vocal about conservation.”

These women has learnt how to live with lions
A Samburu woman making a beaded lion. Photo: Ewaso Lions

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The forgotten mining town where rape is 'normal'

The forgotten mining town where rape is ‘normal’


Aneni sits on a wooden armchair, staring out of her open front door, which lets a chink of sunlight into her dimly-lit lounge. Her three-year-old child, wearing a bright pink dress, plays with a tattered doll and sings nursery rhymes to herself as Aneni recounts the day in November when she was repeatedly gang-raped by three men in balaclavas.

The forgotten mining town where rape is 'normal'
Women from Durban Deep protest against gender-based violence and police inaction in December 2017. Photo: Shaun Swingler/GroundUp

Originally from the small town of Lupane in the west of Zimbabwe, 33-year-old Aneni had arrived in South Africa with her daughter two months before to join her husband, who’d come to seek work.

On the day of the rape, Aneni was moving some of the family’s possessions from the sprawling shantytown of Matholiesville to their new home in Durban Deep, a defunct and dilapidated gold mine on Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand gold reef.

As she was walking in the pouring rain, three men jumped out of a passing taxi and pushed Aneni and her daughter, who was strapped to her back, into an open patch of veld. They kicked Aneni’s legs from under her. Her daughter began to cry. The men slapped the child until she fell silent. She was forced to watch her mother being raped for hours.

Aneni and her family are among the many migrants and low income residents to have moved into the properties formerly inhabited by Durban Deep’s white mine employees until the mine ceased its operations in 2001.

In the past few years, growing competition for the 12-million ounces of gold still believed to be unmined in the Durban Deep area has sparked a deadly turf war in which informal miners, mostly from Zimbabwe and Lesotho, have been murdered by rival gangs and syndicates on an almost weekly basis.

Cut off from support networks and services in this forgotten place, women like Aneni routinely bear the brunt of Durban Deep’s poverty, violent crime and lawlessness.

“I don’t feel right,” Aneni told GroundUp in December, almost a month after she was raped. “Whenever I go outside, I feel terrified of any men I see. Any of them could be the ones who raped me.”

According to Cora Bailey, who founded the CLAW animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep in 2002: “Almost every child here has witnessed rape or domestic abuse. It’s almost as if rape is normal. The police treat it as if it’s a petty crime.”

On a hot December morning, a group of about 30 women from Durban Deep march to the nearby SAPS station in Roodepoort to present a memorandum to the station commander, calling for greater protection against crime and gender-based violence.

The women carry placards reading “Enough is enough”, “I will not be silenced” and “Sick and tired of rape.” Some carry babies and small children strapped to their backs.

“There is a lot of crime happening in Durban Deep and women are the most affected,” says one of the protesters, Lumka Golintete, 29, who works as a clinic assistant and driver at CLAW. “SAPS never comes to Durban Deep because they say that no one is supposed to be living here. It’s like they are saying it’s OK for the women there to be violated.”

But in a community of only about 800 people, Bailey adds that many women are afraid to report crimes to SAPS because of potential reprisals. For other women, there’s the fear that their illegal immigration status will be discovered, leading to deportation.

Brigadier Sam Manala, station commander at Roodepoort Police Station, told GroundUp that his department has been trying to engage with Durban Deep residents to reiterate the importance of opening cases of rape and domestic violence.

“I’ve already met some of the women and told them that there is no way they will be arrested for being a foreign national when they come to open a case,” he added. “I think there have now been some positive developments in the relationship between the women and the police. We are on top of the issue.”

The Gauteng MEC for Community Safety failed to respond to GroundUp’s requests for comment on this story.

The situation in Durban Deep has rapidly deteriorated since 2014, when Johannesburg developer Dino Properties bought the old mining village, which includes two dilapidated hostels, with a view to building up to 15,000 new low cost housing units. Dino Properties has signed a joint venture agreement with Australian mining company West Wits Mining, which plans to resuscitate the mine.

Durban Deep residents, who have been without municipal water and electricity since about the time of the sale, have been left in a state of limbo, fearing that their eviction is imminent. Neither Dino Properties nor West Wits could be reached for comment on this.

Because of the lack of services, CLAW is frequently called upon to do more than care for the area’s animals. Among other things, the staff run an aftercare centre for local children and a women’s group. “There is so much need here,” Bailey says. “Nobody pays any attention to what is happening.”

Since two female paramedics were attacked and one of them was raped while attending to a burn victim in Durban Deep in 2010, ambulances routinely refuse to respond to call-outs to the area, Bailey says.

After Aneni was raped, Bailey was the first person her husband called. Bailey ferried Alice to the overstretched clinic in the neighbouring informal settlement of Sol Plaatje, where, she says, rape survivors can wait months to get an appointment with a counsellor or psychiatrist.

For many rape survivors, a volunteer group called Women as Safety Providers (WASP), consisting of approximately 60 local women, often serves as the only care provider beyond CLAW.

“We deal with a lot of rape cases,” says Felicia Thisani, a coordinator for WASP. She says that some of these cases have caused her to experience bouts of depression. “Sometimes I can’t sleep at night,” she says. She recounts a particular case from 2015, when she found a mother who’d been raped and killed in her home. A six-month-old baby was still trying to draw milk from her dead mother’s breast. According to Thisani, this case is still open and no arrests have been made.

“When we’ve laid cases, the police just seem to disappear,” she says. “You don’t know what they are doing. We are tired of them. We just see them going up and down asking for money from the illegal miners.”

But Brigadier Manala told GroundUp that residents had been calling the wrong number to report crime and that he had now provided them with his direct line and that of the commander on duty at any given time. “If people call those numbers, the police will come directly,” Manala said. He has previously acknowledged that “there are some police officers that are corrupt, but our crime intelligence is working on that.”

Bailey says that children are frequently victimised, too. And CLAW is also currently treating a dog that was raped by a local man, the second such case that Bailey says she has had to deal with in the past year. “There’s a clear link between animal abuse and other forms of domestic and sexual abuse,” Bailey says.

After the protesters have handed over their memorandum at Roodepoort police station, they slowly make their way home to Durban Deep. Bailey, after offering lifts to some of the women in one of CLAW’s bakkies, heads over to the clinic in Sol Plaatje to collect Aneni, who is also heading home after her second medical check-up since she was raped.

Aneni’s check-up has revealed that she is HIV positive. She will have to begin antiretroviral treatment. She’s worried about how her husband, who she says has been very supportive since the rape, will respond to the news.

Her child sits on her mother’s lap, staring out of the car window.

*Not her real name.


SOURCE: GroundUp

Nigerian electricity and the high cost of living in darkness

Nigerian electricity and the high cost of living in darkness


Revealed: How and why Nigerians pay extortionist bills for little or no power supply

AS was often the case in the past, officials of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EKEDC, recently stormed the popular Festac Town in Lagos for another round of mass disconnection due to what they claimed was the continued refusal by the residents to pay their electricity bills. But it was a mission that almost turned into a tragic misadventure.

Nigerian electricity and the high cost of living in darkness
Photo: Premium Times

Unknown to the disconnection team before it embarked on this mission, information had earlier filtered to the residents about what was in the offing and they proceeded to lay an ambush.

So, as soon as the EKEDC officials arrived the estate, they were confronted by a group of irate residents who promptly demobilised their vehicle and seized their ladders and other tools they brought along with them for the purpose of electricity disconnection. And while the confrontation lasted, members of the disconnection team were manhandled and held incommunicado as they were prevented from making phone calls.

However, the timely intervention of security agents probably prevented the EKEDC disconnection team from getting the mob treatment. The bitterly aggrieved residents had used the opportunity to give vent to their grouse which bordered on extortion of residents by the EKEDC through outrageous estimated bills, refusal of the electricity company to provide pre-paid meters as requested by residents, frequent mass disconnection, endless power outage, etc.

Incidentally this confrontational drama over electricity supply is not limited to Festac Town, it plays out rather too often across the country. Indeed most electricity consumers across the country are angry. They are angry because power supply has continued to deteriorate while tariffs have increased way beyond reason.

Privatization of the electricity sector

All that have happened after the privatisation of the electricity sector, especially the generation and the distribution sub-sectors, are increased darkness and high electricity tariffs from the Distribution Companies, DisCos. While percentage of tariffs increase, nothing has changed by way of improved power supply. Inefficiency has worsened and all that the DisCos have to offer the public are excuses.

How we got here

After decades of inefficient service delivery by the defunct National Electric Power Authority, NEPA, which transmuted into Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, the Federal Government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to privatise the electricity sector. It was considered a drain pipe on government purse as several billions of Nigeria was annually budgeted for NEPA without proportional service delivery.

Out of frustration, the Federal Government undertook a power sector reform under the Electric Power Reform Act 2005, which created room for the unbundling of the sector into 18 successor companies: six generation companies, 11 distribution companies and the Transmission Company of Nigeria. While all the generation companies, GenCos and DisCos were privatised, the government thought it wise to keep the transmission company.

The DisCos are Abuja, Benin, Eko, Enugu, Ibadan, Ikeja, Jos, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Yola. The six GenCos are Afam Power Plc, Egbin Power Plc, Kainji Hydro-electric Plc, Sapele Power Plc, Shiroro Hydro-electric, and Ugheli Power Plc.

Although the Obasanjo administration made a significant progress in the power reform process, it dragged on until the Goodluck Jonathan administration completed the privatisation exercise in 2013. The expectations of the Federal Government and proponents of the privatisation policy was that with private businesses running the sector, the nation’s power problem which has largely destroyed industries would be fully and effectively addressed. However, four years after, the companies were either sold or given to private firms to manage, the Nigerian public continues to suffer the same inefficient service delivery that characterised the defunct NEPA/PHCN.

High tariffs

The belief in many quarters is that the main interest of the Discos is how much they can rake in from consumers, not the volume and quality of power delivery. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, the regulator in the new power sector arrangement, appears to be interested only in how much the Discos make rather than the services they render to consumers.

Mr. Sam Amadi, former Chairman of NERC under whose supervision the astronomical tariff increase was effected in 2015 made several arguments on what is generally referred to as “cost-reflective tariff”.

He told a gathering of manufacturers in Lagos in 2015 thus: “From what the DisCos have submitted to the Commission, there is a range of tariffs for consumers of electricity. In few DisCos, consumers would see slight increase in tariffs of between 20 per cent to 30 per cent, while it would be higher by 40 per cent there about.

“The charging of tariffs would be based on the cost profile of the Discos, the number of customers available to them and the quantity of power available to them.”

From the forgoing, how much a consumer pays does not depend on the volume of power he is supplied but other extraneous factors such as the number of consumers.

Correlation between current tariffs and quality of service delivery

In the build up to the tariffs increase, Chief Executive Officer, of Eko DISCO, Oladele Amoda, also told a consumer consultation forum that: “There is no way we can have stable power supply without adjusting our tariffs because currently we are running at a loss. The company is being run at a loss since its inception because our investors had invested lots of money into the system which has not reflected on the supply distribution chain to the customers.

“Most of our equipment like transformers, cables, lines and so on, are being imported, and the cost effect of rising dollars had affected the cost of these materials. Gas supply is also another issue, gas suppliers have drastically increased the price and they now feel reluctant to sell gas to industrialists due to price differential.”

The big rip-off

There is no correlation between current tariffs and quality of service delivery. For instance, many residents in medium density areas of Abuja pay between N8, 000 to 15, 000, up from an average of N3,000 to N6, 000 pre-privatisation. However, there has been no significant improvement in service delivery.

This was precisely what has led to the several confrontations between Festac Town residents and the company in charge of supply of electricity in the area. For instance, in a petition dated September 18, 2017 and titled Re: Persistent Fraudulent Estimation Bills, Despite Demand For Pre-paid Meters addressed to the Customer Complaint Unit, Government & Consumer Affairs,Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC,Garki-Abuja, the residents had listed a litany woes they had suffered on account of the inability of the electricity company to meet their electricity needs.

According to them: “Despite our earlier petition on the above subject matter, things appear the way they are or even worse, with EKEDC still giving residents estimated bills of between N9,750 to N15,000 for just the month of September 2017, which was dumped at the close on September 16, 2017.” Their earlier petition under reference is hereby reproduced:

“Sequel to the mass disconnection of the entire ‘A’ Close, 312 Road, Festac Town, Lagos, on account of the residents demand for Pre-Paid meters on July 26, 2017 by your officials, we write to demand that each flat be provided with a pre-paid meter henceforth. It will interest you to know that residents of the above Close have been exploited and extorted for more than two years on account of outrageous estimated bills, which reached its climax on July 26, 2017, when the residents decided that enough was enough and said that they will not pay the estimated bills further till they are provided with the pre-paid meters.

“To refresh your memory on the issues, residents of the above Close had on November 12, 2015 marched to your office at 23 Road, Festac Town, to complain of the same exorbitant estimated bills and demanded an audit of the appliances in the respective residents flats, which was carried out by your staff on November 14, 2015, tagged ‘Operation Show Your Electrical Appliances’. Till date, we were not availed of the result of the said audit.

“Despite individual residents’ efforts and that of the Close executive, it appeared that the more the residents complain, the more the exorbitant estimated bills keep pouring in.

“As you may be aware, unless it turns out you are not, most flats are billed an average N17,000 per month and you will agree with us that this is not only arbitrary but criminal and unacceptable.

“We wish to also bring to your notice that your officials, led by one Mr. Osakwe had sometime in 2014, labeled all the meters supplied by then NEPA and PHCN as outdated and not functional; to use his words: ‘they have been compromised’. And these are same meters being used by other DISCOs. We know of a fact that this was done by your men to create the impression that the meters were not working to give way for the exorbitant estimated bill, under which guise your men have been extorting and exploiting us, which we have decided to stop now.

“The build-up to our recent face-off with your staff in Festac Town started on July 12, 2017, when residents rejected bills for June 2017, which were served on the residents on the said date, that was after three and half weeks of darkness.

Sadly, instead of your staff to take the matter to the office for a resolution of same, we suddenly saw the same bills returned to us some three days later, with the same figures we complained about, in what appeared to be a clear disregard to our complaints.

“But in clear contempt to our sensibilities, your men on July 26, 2017, stormed the said ‘A’ Close for mass disconnection. This was resisted by the residents who mobilised other residents who were at home as most others have gone to work, but your officials, while discussions were on with a woman who said she was the Festac PRO, went to the transformer, where they disconnected the entire close and ‘A’ Close has been in darkness since then.

Unreasonable estimated bills

“Having reviewed the events of November 14, 2015, that of July 12, 2017 and that of July 26, 2012, and bearing in mind that we are most times in darkness due to endless power outages, the Close at a meeting on July 29, 2017, resolved and demands the following:

That all the residents be provided with pre-paid meters henceforth.

That your unbearable bills since January 2017 shall be paid by the residents at N3,000 per month, as an average resident in the same locality with pre-paid meter spends about N1500 per month.

Provide us with result of ‘Operation Show Your Electrical Appliances’ carried out on November 14, 2015, to enable us know how you came about previous bills estimates.

“At the time of writing this petition, the entire A Close is in darkness, and some other Blocks on 31 Road, which were erroneously disconnected also, courtesy of your officials who felt that it was an affront on our part to complain of unreasonable estimated bills and the exploitations we have been subjected to all this while.


SOURCE: Vanguard Nigeria

Fulani Herdsmen crisis - What's at stake?

Fulani Herdsmen crisis – What’s at stake?

Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers is one of Nigeria’s most persistent security problems and has left thousands of people dead in recent decades.

Fulani Herdsmen crisis - What's at stake?
Farmer vs Herdsman. Photo: This Day

The International Crisis Group think tank has warned it could become “as potentially dangerous as the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast”.

What is the dispute about?

The clashes are driven by a range of factors from the environmental to political — but at their core is the problem of land scarcity.

Climate change and the desertification of Nigeria’s north have forced the nomadic cattle herdsmen farther south to feed and sell their cattle, encroaching on the territory of sedentary farmers.

Rapid population growth — Nigeria has 180 million people today and is set to become the third largest in the world by 2050 — has worsened the competition for land.

Why has there been a surge in attacks?

For decades, herders and farmers mainly lived in peace. However as Nigeria grew, it became clear that for herdsmen and farmers to co-exist peacefully, something had to be done.

In the 1960s, the government attempted to introduce legislation to guarantee migratory routes for the herdsmen and ensure farmland was respected.

But the laws never were enforced, leaving communities to deal with disputes themselves.

In recent years, the violence has increased, with some herdsmen carrying heavy arms and the farmers assembling militias.

Both sides are now engaged in a devastating cycle of reprisal attacks, particularly in the central region.

What has the government done?

Each time there is an outbreak of violence the Nigerian government has promised to crack down on the perpetrators.

But the reality has seen herdsmen and farmers take matters into their own hands to settle scores.

“There’s no accountability, that’s the issue,” said Isa Sanusi, spokesman for Amnesty International Nigeria.

“Previous perpetrators have never been punished,” he said. “Impunity is the most dangerous thing.”

Individual states are trying to introduce new laws with mixed results.

In Benue state, where 80 people have been killed since the start of the year, a ban on open grazing angered herders who said it threatens their way of life.

What do Nigerians think?

Nigeria is a country split almost evenly between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south, and religious tensions bubble constantly below the surface.

Many Nigerians — and especially lawmakers playing identity politics — have seized on the fact that the herders are mostly Muslim while the farmers are mainly Christian.

President Muhammadu Buhari has warned against what he says is “simplistic reductionism” but he has been accused of not acting decisively because he is an ethnic Fulani.

“This latest round of attacks has cemented the perception that the federal government, particularly the Buhari administration, is biased in favour of the herdsmen,” said political analyst Chris Ngwodo.

Many feel Buhari is not addressing the herdsmen conflict as decisively as he did with Boko Haram jihadists and Niger delta militants.

“Whether this is arising from incapacity or complacency or complicity is open to question,” Ngwodo said, warning the attacks could harm Buhari’s support at elections in 2019.

Can the violence be stopped?

The violence could be contained if the government focused on boosting security and enforcing legislation, said Azeez Olaniyan, a political scientist at Ekiti State University.

A first step would be to arrest perpetrators, he added.

“If the people had been apprehended earlier on and dealt with, we would have been talking about another thing entirely,” Olaniyan said.

At the same time, legislation guaranteeing herders and farmers access to land has to be enforced.

Unchecked, the conflict risks mutating into a greater security threat where ethnic groups are pitted against each other, Ngwodo said.

“If it’s not dealt with as a criminal justice issue, it escalates and you have a cycle of blood feuds,” he said. “Then it becomes more catastrophic.”


SOURCE: Vanguard

The things war cannot destroy

In South Sudan, street photography is essentially illegal. It is another casualty of the civil war. Young, fit, twitchy soldiers are everywhere, ready to crack down on anyone who pulls out a camera. No reasons are ever given and no laws are on the books specifically banning photography, but security services across the country have arrested photographers and roughed them up for taking even the most innocent pictures, like a shot of women baking bread.

It wasn’t always like this, but in the four years since the war broke out , scattering millions of people and unleashing unspeakable horrors, the South Sudanese government has become incredibly suspicious. In a country that has ripped itself apart by internecine conflict, anyone can be the enemy.

Stepping off a plane in Juba, the capital, you feel this tight-shouldered tension immediately. Sara Hylton, a Canadian documentary photographer who came here on assignment in August, had anticipated the hostility. What surprised her was the city’s bold style.

Togune, a Juba resident, wears a T-shirt that features his favorite Ugandan musician, Diamond.
Togune, a Juba resident, wears a T-shirt that features his favorite Ugandan musician, Diamond.

Amid all the shot-up buildings, fear and danger, she was struck by the great pride many South Sudanese take in how they look. She saw women in bright print dresses and chunky brass jewelry; some wore purple hair extensions. Men sported bleached dreads and sharply cut suits. There was a fearless sense of style that the war had not managed to kill off.

Nadia Tushabe, the owner of Galaxy salon in Juba, styles Hariet Aroma’s hair.

It wasn’t easy for Ms. Hylton to capture it because she couldn’t take pictures in public. She had to work off the streets, in safe spaces, in people’s homes, their backyards, their tiny, tidy shops. Sometimes, Ms. Hylton found, the nicer the space, the sadder the experience. Many South Sudanese carry their trauma quietly, and those who were trying to will away all the brutality and destruction around them seemed the most vulnerable. They were emotionally exposed in a place where so many dreams have been crushed.

“The fashion industry is very young,” said Juana, a 24-year-old designer. “We don’t have something distinguishing us.” She believes that style is “not just clothes, it shows unity.” Sara Hylton for The New York T

Winnie, who runs a small boutique that sells dresses, purses and one or two paintings, seemed to be swimming upstream. The war has sunk Juba’s economy, and for the two hours Ms. Hylton spent in Winnie’s immaculate shop, where so much thought had been invested into every detail, not a single customer walked in.

“If I was living in this environment, I would have given up,” Ms. Hylton said. “That was the biggest surprise — that people here hadn’t given up, there was still so much hope.”

But there was also still so much sadness. It wasn’t always obvious, but it was there. As Ms. Hylton said: When you interview people, they often put on a brave face and tell you what you want to hear. But when you take out a camera and ask someone to stare into the lens, it’s different. An honesty is revealed. She especially felt this when making a portrait of Wokil, a comedian.

“His posture was very cool, he was trying to be very cool,” she said. “But you could tell he lived through some of the worst stuff.”

“Loss, I recognized loss,” she said. “It was in his gaze.”

Madite, a musician with the artist collective Anataban, poses for a portrait before a performance aimed at spreading the message of peace.

Sara Hylton for The New York Times

Just about everyone Ms. Hylton approached in Juba (she stayed away from soldiers) was willing to be photographed, including a group of young men playing basketball behind a primary school. If South Sudan has anything, it has height; the Dinka and the Nuer, South Sudan’s two largest ethnic groups, are considered among the tallest people on Earth. And basketball is

the sport here , maybe even a ticket out. The former N.B.A. player

Manute Bol , who died in 2010, grew up herding cattle in South Sudan and then made millions. Most of it he gave away, to South Sudanese rebels fighting for freedom.

For as long as anyone can remember, life in South Sudan has revolved around war. That’s as true today as ever.  The endless military checkpoints across Juba and the marauding soldiers who prowl around every neighborhood make it impossible to go out at night.

So young South Sudanese have found a way to do what young people do the world over, just slightly differently. They pack into dark buildings during the bright, hot hours to groove to hip-hop and rap. These places are called “day clubs” (as opposed to nightclubs), and they allow Juba’s youth to hang out, meet strangers, dance, drink and forget for a moment what lies outside the club’s doors.

Crazy Fox , a popular dancehall artist, fled South Sudan for Uganda as a refugee. But after four years, he was “tired of running” and recently came home.

But home for the South Sudanese is a place they themselves broke. South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having won its hard-fought independence from Sudan in 2011. Two years later, a political dispute between Dinka and Nuer leaders in Juba blew up into a full-scale military conflict between Dinka and Nuer across the country.

The war keeps spreading, engulfing other ethnic groups and new areas. It has killed more than 50,000 people, destroyed oil wells, farms, schools and hospitals, and sucked in countless children as child soldiers and then spat them out dead or mutilated. Many people fear what is ahead. It is etched in faces all across Juba.

Still, as death goes on, life goes on. Routine is a refuge, and many South Sudanese are trying to reclaim their lives. Ms. Hylton spent hours in barbershops and in salons where hair extensions hung on the walls like tools at a hardware shop.

“When you come to Galaxy salon, we can change you,” said the owner, Nadia Tushabe, with more than a touch of pride.

It may be hard to believe that a country where the per capita income is around three dollars a day, where three quarters of adults can’t read and a 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school , has any fashion or beauty industry at all. But it beats on, fragilely, in packed little houses and tin-walled kiosks lit by a single bulb.

“We don’t have something distinguishing us,” said Juana, a fashion designer. Her patterns are intensely colorful, and she hopes fashion can bridge the poisonous divides between ethnic groups.

Akuja de Garang is, after the model Alex Wek, one of the best-known names in South Sudanese fashion. Large brass jewelry and black nail polish are her signatures. Before the war, she used to organize fashion shows.

“Culturally people take pride in how they look,” she said.

War or not, the South Sudanese are like anyone else.

They want to look good.

This article was first featured on New York Times, read the original here. 

How homeless drug addict was sent to rehab by a childhood friend

A chance meeting between two childhood friends helped one begin a journey back from drug addiction after many years living on the street.It was early October and Wanja Mwaura, 32, was on her way to the market in Lower Kabaete, not far from Nairobi, when she heard someone shout out her name.

She looked up and was surprised to see a tall man with bulging eyes, an emaciated frame, dirtied black overalls and an equally stained thick woollen hat, sitting on the side of the road. She did not recognise him.

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But when Patrick “Hinga” Wanjiru, 34, introduced himself, Wanja says she found herself in shock. Standing before her was a friend she had known since she was seven years old.

“Patrick, or Hinga as we called him, and I had met at primary school in 1992,” says Wanja, who is a nurse from Kiambu County, just outside the Kenyan capital.

“Hinga used to be a great soccer player all throughout school. We nicknamed him ‘Pele’.”

Hinga was estranged from his parents and lived with his grandmother in a squat. When she couldn’t afford to pay his school fees, he was forced to skip classes. Eventually they were evicted even from the squat. But against all the odds, Hinga did well in his exams, until his grandmother died – then he dropped out of school and his life began to take a downward trajectory.

Hinga started abusing drugs, first marijuana and then heroin. He spent hours sifting through garbage to find things he could sell on the streets.

Hinga and Wanja lost touch.Wanja and Hinga hug in the street.

When they met again, more than 15 years later, Hinga had been homeless for more than a decade. He looked nothing like the childhood friend who had once been known as “Pele”.

Sensing Wanja’s dismay, Hinga reassured her that he had only wanted to say hello. She asked him if she could buy him lunch. At a local cafe, she ordered the dish she remembered had been his favourite years earlier – pork ribs and mashed potatoes. She said he appeared distracted, unable to finish sentences.

“I gave him my mobile telephone number and told him to call me if he needed anything,” Wanja says.

Over the next couple of days, Hinga borrowed phones and would regularly call his childhood friend, often just to hear her voice for a chat. He told her that he was committed to getting clean from drugs.

“I decided then, that something needed to be done to help him,” Wanja says.Wanja and Hinga sit on a desk indoors as she teaches him from a book. Hinga is smiling.

Taking to social media, Wanja appealed to her friends to see if she could raise funds for drug rehabilitation.

“Rehab here is very expensive and I had no ways of raising funds on my own,” she says.

“We set up a crowdfunding page, but we only managed to raise around 41,000 Kenyan shillings (£300) initially. However the cost of nine days rehabilitation at Chiromo Lane Medical Center in Nairobi was more than 100,000 KES.

“I wasn’t sure how we would be able to cover this.”

But Wanja had promised to help Hinga, so she took him to the centre anyway, unsure how they would cover the cost.Wanja and Hinga hug. Hinga has completed his 9 day detox and looks healthier.

A spokesperson for the rehab programme says Hinga was a dedicated patient, who committed fully to the nine-day detox.

Within days Hinga had gained weight and his concentration improved. Wanja took to Facebook to speak about her pride at her friend’s transformation in such a short period of time.

“A week ago Hinga and I couldn’t hold a normal conversation without me trying to hold his head up with my hand in order for him to concentrate. Today we can have a normal conversation with him confidently looking at me,” she wrote.

Mombasa businessman Fauz Khalid spotted Wanja’s public post on Facebook and said he wanted to share the story on a wider platform. He posted the photos on Twitter and his post has now been shared more than 50,000 times.

After that, the Kenyan media began to cover the story and Chiromo Lane Medical Center agreed to waive the entire fee for Hinga’s treatment.

Wanja says this was “a blessing”, but she was keen for her friend to undergo a more sustained recovery, and is now raising funds for him to follow a 90-day programme at The Retreat Rehabilitation Centre, where he is currently staying.


Heroin in Kenya

  • It is estimated that between 20,000 and 55,000 Kenyans inject heroin but Kenya does not have a government-funded rehabilitation facility
  • According to the International Drugs Policy Consortium, heroin was used first in cities which were transit points (such as Mombasa) before spreading to Nairobi and other parts of the country
  • The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, a Kenyan government research body, says it is monitoring 25,000 intravenous drug users around the country – the number of people who snort heroin could be even higher, according to the Anti-Narcotics Unit officials
  • Most of the world’s heroin is produced in Afghanistan, and reaches markets in Europe and North America via Central Asia and the Balkans – but the quantity of heroin seized off the coast of Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania has increased exponentially in the last eight years, leading the UN to conclude that the “Southern Route” is growing in importance

Wanja and Hinga, who is giving thumbs up sign and looking happy sitting on chairs at rehab centre.

“Unfortunately, there is still great stigma around drug abuse in Kenya,” Wanja says. This may be one reason why the government doesn’t provide free drug rehab treatment.

“Rehabs are expensive and out of reach for many people, not only in Kenya but also the greater part of Africa. I am committed to crowdsourcing so I can support my friend at this time,” says Wanja.

“Wanja is an angel sent from God. I owe her my life. She has stuck with me more closely than a brother or a sister,” Hinga said

On Twitter several users echoed this sentiment. Abraham Wilbourne‏, a financial analyst from Nairobi, told Wanja “You have a seat in heaven!” Many called her a “mashujaa”, which means “hero” in Swahili.

“People say I changed Hinga’s life, but he changed mine too.” says Wanja. “I realise now that a small act can change a person’s life.”


Story jointly curated by Bloomgist and partly culled from BBC News

Ethnic cleansing: How US, UN failed South Sudan 

When South Sudan’s Yei region turned violent in the midst of the country’s civil war last year, a handful of U.N. and U.S. officials begged their leaders for help. Government soldiers were burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children, they warned.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The U.N. did not send peacekeeping troops to stay in Yei, and the U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s military, possibly in violation of U.S. law, according to an AP investigation based on dozens of internal documents and interviews.

Yei became the center of a nationwide campaign of what the U.N. calls “ethnic cleansing,” which has created the largest exodus of civilians in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than 1 million people have now fled to Uganda, mostly from the Yei region. And tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have died.

Kate Almquist Knopf, director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Defense Department, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda.

“The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”

The U.N. says it is still considering sending a permanent peacekeeping force to Yei if it gets more troops. The U.N. now has about 12,000 peacekeepers throughout South Sudan, but U.S. officials say it would take roughly 40,000 to secure the country.

“It’s all about what resources the mission has available,” said spokesman Daniel Dickinson.

The U.S. budgeted $30 million in aid to South Sudan’s military for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and gave further $2 million in July for a military and security operations center. The assistance appears to violate a U.S. law prohibiting support to any unit that has committed a gross violation of human rights. South Sudanese soldiers are accused of gang-raping women and killing people, including civilians and a journalist. The government has denied “ethnic cleansing.”

A spokesperson for the State Department said military officials who received assistance “were vetted and not credibly implicated in the gross violation of human rights.”

However, the U.S. aid is a “red flag,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the law. “The South Sudanese security forces, like their rebel counterparts, are notorious for violating human rights without fear of being punished. We do not want the United States to be associated with such misconduct.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has received more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid every year from the U.S. and the U.N. In 2013, civil war broke out. A peace deal brokered by the U.S. and the international community collapsed in July 2016.

That month, government troops rampaged through the town of Nyori in the Yei region, according to a former local official. Like others, he spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

He ran into the bush to hide, and returned three days later to carnage.

“I witnessed with my own eyes, young children, they were slaughtered,” he said.

Rose Kiden fled when the soldiers swarmed her house. She said she came back to find her sister on the floor, after being raped by eight soldiers. Her husband was killed by government troops when he went to collect food.

But even as the violence near Yei spread, Kiden said, U.N. vehicles drove by without stopping.

“They didn’t do anything,” she said. “They just passed.”

When U.N. officials visited Yei in September 2016, they were horrified by stories of women gang-raped and a baby hacked with a machete.

“If the security situation is not rapidly stabilized, the protection crisis in Yei will swiftly become a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis,” said a U.N. report from Sept. 15 obtained by AP to the top U.N. leader in South Sudan at the time, Ellen Loj.

After nearly two months, the U.N. started sending small, temporary patrols to the Yei region, but the violence merely continued after they left. On Nov. 11, special advisor Adama Dieng warned about “the potential for genocide.”

That month, the U.N. decided not to send a permanent force to Yei. When asked why at her farewell press conference on Nov. 28, Loj said the U.N. did not as yet have enough troops.

“South Sudan is a big country and we cannot have a soldier behind each and every South Sudanese,” she said.

During another U.N. visit in February this year, a community leader from the Yei area said he had begged for peacekeepers three times in the past few weeks.

“We need imminent protection before it’s too late,” he said, according to an internal report. “If we get killed because we told you the truth today so be it.”

Hours later the U.N. left.

The U.S. also struggled to respond to the crisis in South Sudan, according to documents and interviews. In July 2016, the South Sudanese military fired dozens of bullets into two U.S. embassy vehicles.

Still, the U.S. continued to believe it could fix South Sudan’s military. In September, President Barack Obama sought a “long-term military to military relationship” with South Sudan and allowed military training and education, according to a letter to Congress obtained by AP.

“Once again in South Sudan, we have shown a pattern of having bad analysis, either ignoring the symptoms of the problem entirely, not seeing them, or analyzing them in the wrong way,” said Cameron Hudson, the director of African affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush administration.

The U.S. also got approval from the U.N. Security Council for 4,000 extra U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, but failed to get the South Sudan government to accept them.

In the fall, a dissent cable drafted within the State Department argued that U.S. support for the peace deal and failure to act was fueling violence.

“The risks of famine, continued mass atrocities, and genocide are among the highest in the world,” the draft cable said. The risks of not changing U.S. policy, it continued, “are immediate and unacceptably high.” The draft was never finalized because it did not gain enough support, and senior officials said pulling out of the peace deal would have created even more violence.

Today, more than 18,000 homes have been destroyed in the Yei region. Hundreds of people have died, and many more have fled.

A pastor from the Yei area at a refugee camp in Uganda said he felt abandoned by the U.N. and the world.

“They could have protected people’s lives,” he said. “They could have saved us from coming to this camp.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a rare novelist to become a public intellectual

A special feature for one of the most prominent women in Africa and one of the most celebrated novelist in the world. 

NOT LONG AGO, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stood in front of a small class of literature students at Cardozo high school in Washington, D.C. Over the last few years, Adichie’s books have appeared on thousands of required-reading lists — more or less every American student between 14 and 22 has been assigned her work.

While introducing her, Dr. Frazier O’Leary, the class’s soft-spoken teacher, mentioned that Adichie had visited at the school a few years before, and that between that visit and this one, Adichie had had a daughter, now 23 months old. Then he ceded the floor to Adichie. She stood before the 20-odd students, her fingertips on the podium, and swept her almond eyes around the room.

“So, what should we talk about?” she asked. In front of an audience, Adichie speaks with great precision, measuring every word, her Nigerian-British accent sounding to American ears both opulent and daunting.

No one raised their hand.

Adichie was wearing a T-shirt that read, in glittering letters, “We Should All Be Feminists,” and she carried a Christian Dior bag that bore the same message, both inspired by her 2012 TEDx Talk, which has been viewed over four million times. The students had been assigned to read Adichie’s essay based on the talk, and thus it was dispiriting when the first question came from a young man, originally from Ghana, who very politely asked how Adichie was balancing her work with the responsibilities of motherhood.

She looked down and smiled. She took her time, and then, with her chin still lowered, she raised her eyes to look kindly at the student.

“I’m going to answer your question,” she said, “but you have to promise me that the next time you meet a new father, you ask him how he’s balancing his work and the responsibilities of fatherhood.”

The young man shrugged. Adichie, who is 40, smiled warmly at him, but thereafter, the class, already intimidated and shy, grew only more so.

“Why don’t I read a bit?” she said finally, and she did.

AFTERWARD, ADICHIE and I sat at a restaurant in Columbia Heights. “He was quite sanguine, wasn’t he?” she said about the young man she’d carefully corrected. “Maybe he’s young enough that he hasn’t been indoctrinated into the cult of how and when to take offense. He can still look at the merits of an argument. Either that, or he was looking pleasantly at me and thinking, ‘Bitch, go away.’ ”

Adichie looks with a gimlet eye at American liberal doctrine, preferring open and frank debate to the narrow constraints of approved messaging. Though she is considered a global icon of feminism, she has, on occasion, displeased progressive sects when she’s expressed her beliefs about gender with candor and without using the latest terminology.

“It’s a cannibalistic ethos,” she says about the American left. “It swiftly, gleefully, brutally eats its own. There is such a quick assumption of ill will and an increasing sanctimony and humorlessness that can often seem inhumane. It’s almost as if the humanity of people gets lost and what matters is that you abide to every single rule in the handbook of American liberal orthodoxy.”

The day was not warm, but we ordered lemonade. Moments later, the waiter said they needed our table for a large party. We moved into a corner and the waiter forgot about us completely. Which seemed improbable, with Adichie’s glittering bag on the table serving as a kind of tabletop lighthouse.

“I’ll have you know,” she said, “that this bag was designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman creative director at Dior. A very interesting person. When she proposed the T-shirt, she sent me a handwritten note.”

I asked if Dior planned to make merchandise for every one of her books. Maybe a necklace that said “The Thing Around Your Neck”? A sconce that said “Half of a Yellow Sun”? Adichie laughed her distinctive laugh, which overtakes her whole torso but sounds like the giggle of a teenager. I should note here that I’ve known Adichie for about 10 years now, and she has always been startlingly easy to make laugh, and one of her very favorite subjects for ridicule is the exalted reputation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

She grew up in an upper-middle-class home, the fifth of six children. Her father was a professor at the University of Nigeria, her mother was the university’s registrar — the first woman to hold that post. Her parents expected Chimamanda to be a doctor, and for a year she studied medicine at university, but her heart wasn’t in it.

“When I said I wanted to write, they were very supportive, which was very unusual,” she said. “Nobody just leaves medical school, especially given it’s fiercely competitive to get in. But I had a sister who was a doctor, another who was a pharmacist, a brother who was an engineer. So my parents already had sensible children who would be able to make an actual living, and I think they felt comfortable sacrificing their one strange child.”

Adichie was just 26 when she published her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” in 2003. It won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Her second, 2006’s “Half of a Yellow Sun,” was a shimmering work of historical fiction that reminded the world of the Biafran War and made it deeply personal; it won the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (now called the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction) and garnered comparisons to one of her heroes, Chinua Achebe. The next year, she won a MacArthur grant and found time to finish a master’s degree in African studies at Yale. “The Thing Around Your Neck,” her first collection of stories, was published in 2009, followed by 2013’s “Americanah,” an intimate and accessible multigenerational story about family and immigration set in Nigeria and New Jersey. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award and has become an enduring best seller. While the majority of her previous work had been tightly controlled and gravely serious, “Americanah” was loose and irreverent.

“I decided with that book that I was going to have fun, and if nobody read it, that would be fine,” she said. “I was free of the burden of research necessary for the other books. I was no longer the dutiful daughter of literature.”

In “Americanah,” the protagonist, a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu, moves to New Jersey and is first confused and then amused by the cultural differences between African-Americans and Africans living in America. Ifemelu decides to explore the subject in a blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. Through the blog, Adichie was able to speak with disarming forthrightness about life as an African living in America: “I was tired of everyone saying that when you write about race in America, it has to be nuanced, it has to be subtle, it has to be this and that.”

The directness of the blog, I suggested, seemed to provide a bridge to her TEDx Talk, which became a book, which became a T-shirt and a bag.

“Yes and no,” she said. “But I’ll allow your thesis.” She laughed her laugh.

Now there is a follow-up called “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.” Asked by a friend, a new mother, for advice in making her daughter Chizalum a feminist, Adichie wrote another very (direct, lucid) work. Suggestion No. 1 reads, “Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.” No. 8: “Teach her to reject likability. Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.” And No. 15: “Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference.”

The reaction to these manifestoes among a reading public longing for probity and directness has been profound. In a San Francisco auditorium last year, I witnessed Adichie step onto the stage in front of almost 3,000 people — the average age of the audience was about 20. She wore ankara-patterned pants and a white blouse and stood on four-inch heels, and the audience response was euphoric.

“It’s not that I told people something they don’t know, it’s just that I did it in language that was more accessible.” She looked around the restaurant. “But I don’t think we’re ever going to get our lemonade.”

ADICHIE AND HER HUSBAND, a physician, spend half of each year in Maryland, and the other half in Lagos, where they have a home and where her extended family lives.

In Nigeria, Adichie is considered a national icon, not only because her books have garnered such acclaim, but because quickly after her success she founded the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop, a program where aspiring Nigerian writers spend a few weeks every year workshopping with Adichie and a coterie of international writers she brings to Lagos. She invited me to teach there in 2009, and I got the chance to meet her family and friends, all of whom were supportive, kind, funny, devoted — it was all sickeningly perfect.

One night, it became the obsession of one of the guest lecturers, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, to bring Adichie to one of Lagos’s seamier nightspots. He asked her where that would be. She had no idea. “I’m a nice middle-class girl,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know about such places.” She was serious, though. She did not know.

So we called Adichie’s childhood friend Chuma. He suggested Obalende, a district of Lagos known for its nightclubs and strip clubs. Chuma picked us up and drove us to a neighborhood where fish and plantains were fried on the street, where the air was swampy with weed. He chose a club with a slanted roof of corrugated steel and Fela bursting from the sound system. We sat outside on a humid night, Adichie game but wide-eyed. We were visited by a street musician who would not leave. Adichie requested Fela’s “Unknown Soldier” and he played it, and we stayed late, and most of us got tipsy — even Adichie; she had one drink — and at the end of the night, I was the only one fit to drive, which I did, which everyone thought very funny, especially when we were pulled over by a traffic cop, who wanted a bribe. I did what I always do in that situation, which was to act like the world’s dumbest tourist, and it worked. He let us go, and Adichie, in the back seat, laughed all the way home.

A FEW MONTHS after her appearance at Cardozo high school, Adichie was on a rooftop in downtown D.C. It was breezy and the sky threatened rain. She had agreed to attend a book release party celebrating a collection of essays called “Having to Tell Your Mother Is the Hardest Part,” written by D.C. public school students, with guidance from tutors from 826DC, a nonprofit youth writing organization with which I’m affiliated.

A tent had been set up, and cocktails were served, and a young African-American man stepped to the podium. He was delicately built for 15, wearing a mustard-colored button-down, a tie and thick-framed glasses.

“When I was 2 years old, my mom and dad passed away,” the boy, whose name was Edwyn, read. “I was in and out of foster homes and was never in really good care. The way I used to grieve was by not eating or by fighting, and I always got in trouble. I would get angry whenever someone said, ‘Yo mama.’ I felt like I wanted to hurt someone. I have gotten past that, and now, I want to take my meds so I can grow emotionally and become a better me. I decided to try group vigils where I can talk about my loss, but it has never helped. I refused to share until, one time, I broke down and shared everything.”

The audience on the rooftop stood spellbound. I looked over to Adichie. Her eyes were wet. Edwyn continued. In a group home, he said, he almost stabbed another boy. He almost flunked out of school. Finally, he was adopted by a loving family who moved him to Washington. “I was starting to mature,” he read. “I started to change. Now I’m in the 10th grade, writing about how I used to grieve, but I am happy with the family I am with.”

His essay ended like that, and he sat down with the unaffected attitude of a student who had just read a paper about meiosis or the Louisiana Purchase. Afterward, we approached Edwyn, who was now surrounded by admirers. He shook Adichie’s hand like a cocktail party veteran, telling her he’d heard a lot about her and was happy she was there.

“I thought you were very brave,” Adichie said evenly.

Word of Adichie’s presence on the roof began making its way through the attendees. Another student, a gregarious young woman named Monae, approached. “I didn’t know you were here!” she said. “You were the one in Beyoncé’s song!” (A few years ago, Beyoncé sampled parts of Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” talk in her 2013 song “Flawless.”)

“You have to read what I wrote!” Monae said, and gave Adichie a copy of “Having to Tell Your Mother Is the Hardest Part,” opened to a spread bearing her smiling face and her essay, titled “Queen.”

We made our way to a quiet part of the rooftop and watched the adults swarm the student-writers, getting their books signed.

“That is lovely,” Adichie said. “Just lovely.”

After the party, we said goodbye on the corner of Pennsylvania and 17th. Adichie’s parents were in town, visiting from Nigeria, and she had to get back to Maryland.

“That boy,” she said, and sighed. She was still thinking about Edwyn. “There was something so clean and pure and true about his writing, don’t you think? Increasingly I find that that’s the kind of thing I want to read.”

This story was first Published on NYT and is one of the seven covers of T Magazine’s Greats issue, on newsstands Oct. 22.

What do you do when you can’t get it right?

By Omoteniola Akinwalere


The weekend is around the corner and yes, it’s already buzzing at my end. So, I came across

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T

his girl’s story on one of my numerous WhatsApp groups and I just kept imagining how one
person could be sooo dumb. I know by now, you’re already wondering what happened. Just
chillax, you’ll probably think so too by the time you finish reading the story.
She said her first boyfriend asked her for sex and even though she’s an usher and believed
premarital sex was wrong, she allowed him and three months later, he dumped her. Details of
what went wrong was unknown.
The second one was an illiterate who sold spare parts according to her and even though she
was a graduate, she still agreed to date him. She bought him things and even tutored him in the
aspects of speaking and writing English only to find out about his fiancée one week to his
wedding. I guess we all know how that ended.
The next one after him impregnated his ex-girlfriend and she found out after she had just slept
with him. The baby mama texted her and asked her to stop sleeping with her husband.
That was when she decided that marriage wasn’t meant for her and she would rather remain
single. She said she was confused and didn’t know what to do.
On my own part, I think she’s just dumb and failed to see the signs and writings on the wall.
She needs your opinions. What do you really think is wrong with her or do you think it’s just the
men she has been dating who are bad? Let me know what you think she should do. I’ll be
reading your comments

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