How Portuguese migrants in Angola navigate corruption successfully

How Portuguese migrants in Angola navigate corruption successfully


Migrants seeking economic and personal security generally move from poorer to richer countries. Often this also means that they move from countries where corruption is perceived to be endemic to countries where corruption is seen to be less widespread.

How Portuguese migrants in Angola navigate corruption successfully

But migration from Portugal to Angola triggered by the European financial crisis that started in 2008 turns these expectations of “corrupt-country to non-corrupt country” migration on their head, and challenges stereotypical understandings of both migration and corruption. The crisis in Portugal in combination with the strong post-war economic growth in Angola led to a drastic change in migration flows between Portugal and Angola.

By 2014, estimates indicated that between 100,000 and 150,000 Portuguese had moved to oil-rich Angola. This is by far the highest number of migrants moving from a former European colonial power to a former African colony. Some of the Portuguese migrants lived in Angola as children, but returned to Portugal with their parents in 1975, when Angola became independent and the civil war started.

To understand among other things the relationship between migration and corruption in this inverted colonial situation we did 55 in-depth interviews with Portuguese migrants and their Angolan work colleagues. The interviews provided insights into how the social and economic positions of Portuguese migrants affected their engagement with corruption.

Corruption and migrants

During the course of the interviews it became clear that the way the Portuguese migrants engaged with corruption in Angola depended largely on their socioeconomic position. Some of the migrants were labourers, while others were business people closely allied with the Angolan elite.

It is important to note that researchers are just beginning to note the ambivalent connections between migration and corruption. Indeed, the migration-corruption nexus has important implications for migrants, policymakers, practitioners, and local communities.

Take for example the securing of necessary immigration documents. Illegal immigrants are vulnerable no matter where they are in the world. In Luanda, the illicit fee for a work permit at the Angolan migration authority can be as high as USD$13,000. Unscrupulous middlemen offer their services to Portuguese migrants who are very often in desperate need of permits.

The police are also well aware that a good number of European migrants do not have work permits. As such, white people in Luanda are often targeted by the authorities based on their skin colour alone. An Angolan NGO worker told us about such an event at his workplace.

“The police came and picked out the two white people that happened to be here. Some people from Kenya were visiting at the same time, and they found it very funny that the police were only questioning the whites.”

Other Angolans we spoke to confirmed the occurrence of these kind of raids and claimed that the police also targeted white people because they paid higher bribes

But there are also Portuguese in Angola who systematically engage in corruption to boost business profits or even amass personal wealth. This was especially evident when we spoke to representatives from some of the many Portuguese construction companies in Angola.

Managers in the construction sector spoke openly in the interviews about corruption as an intrinsic part of business. They confirmed that business owners pay bribes to win contracts with the Angolan government.

One engineer working for a large construction company told us:

There are always envelopes. And you have to know the people who are responsible for the procurement. Then when you win the contract you share the profit with them. The Angolans only accept companies that give bribes. Other companies will not enter.

The Portuguese we spoke to felt that it was morally acceptable to engage in corrupt practices to protect their business interests. Most were not overtly critical of the corruption taking place in Angola. Some even boasted about how well they could navigate “the schemes” in the country.

Many were quick to point out that corruption is a global problem. They stressed the similarities between Portugal and Angola, and described both as highly corrupt countries.

Sometimes comparisons between the two countries even favoured Angola. Portuguese migrants maintained that corruption was more “open” in Angola, and therefore more honest. A common argument put forward was that Angola inherited corruption from Portugal.

Yet when comparing Angolan and Portuguese corruption, many of the Portuguese we spoke to underlined that corruption in Angola was more “generalised”. They described corruption in Portugal as mainly involving the political and economic elite, whereas in Angola a bribe would often have to get paid in everyday situations.

Needs versus greed

In our interviews we came across many examples of corruptiondriven by “needs” as well as corruption motivated by “greed”. It is evident that the two can be found among migrants, as well as among local people. The economic elite – both Portuguese and Angolan – engaged in corruption to make economic gains. But non-privileged immigrants, as well as ordinary nationals, remain vulnerable in relation to the corrupt state.


SOURCE: The Conversation

Somali Police marks 74 years of existence with new raft of reforms

Somali Police marks 74 years of existence with new raft of reforms

The Somali Police force marked its 74th anniversary with its leadership announcing a raft of reforms, aimed at strengthening its capacity to restore the country’s security.

Somali Police marks 74 years of existence with new raft of reforms

The ceremony held at the Police Training Academy in Mogadishu was attended by President Farmajo and attended by several government officials as well as AMISOM commanders.

President Farmajo, who is also the Commander in Chief of the Somali Police Forces, pledged to prioritize their’ welfare, an aspect, he said, was key to their motivation.

The President also commended the contribution by AMISOM in the development and growth of the Somali National Army, taking note of the tremendous sacrifices made.


SOURCE: Shabelle Media Network

Shortages force slashing of food rations in Kasai

Shortages force slashing of food rations in Kasai

Food shortages have forced the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to slash food rations in the conflict-ridden DR Congo province of Kasai, where more than three-quarters of a million people have been displaced from their homes.

Shortages force slashing of food rations in Kasai

An emergency situation report from the WFP says the rations have been halved in November and December, and will likely need to be cut in January also. The programme reports that it needs another U.S. $80 million to meet the needs in Kasai for the next six months.

In all 13.1 million people in the DR Congo are in need of assistance, and there are 1.9 million severely malnourished children in the country. In North and South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces, there are another 2.2 million displaced people.

Where conflict in Kasai has eased, the WFP adds, “inter-ethnic tensions persist and localised clashes between [government forces] and militia groups continue”.

In addition, the rainy season hinders the distribution of food: “Access and logistical constraints have intensified during the rainy season, causing significant road transport delays.”

Coup leader Chiwenga’s retirement as general sparks wide protest

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has retired Zimbabwe’s coup leader, General Constantino Chiwenga pending ‘redeployment,’ sparking speculation that he will be one of the vice-presidents.

Mnangagwa also retired the head of police, Augustine Chihuri, seen as an ally of former leader, Robert Mugabe.

Chiwenga is the military chief who pulled the trigger on the coup, leading to the downfall of Zimbabwe’s leader of 37 years, Robert Mugabe who was forced to resign when soldiers took over the country, leaving him confined to his private residence.

The coup brought Mnangagwa, who Mugabe had fired on November 6 to spark the coup, back from the cold and was installed as president on November 24, with Chiwenga now expected to be named as one of the two vice-presidents.

ZANU-PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo last week said the appointment of vice-presidents was Mnangagwa’s prerogative. Mnangagwa has promised to fill the positions in the next few days.

Chiwenga, 61, has served in the armed forces since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980. He was among senior government officials placed under sanctions by the United States and European Union although the latter removed him from its list of restricted individuals in 2014.

SOURCE: The Source, Harare

ICC awards $10 Million compensation to DR Congo child soldiers

The International Criminal Court has awarded compensation to child soldiers recruited by a convicted Congolese warlord. Rights groups hope the decision sends a message to those who recruit child soldiers.

International war crimes judges on Friday awarded $10 million (€8.5 million) in compensation to former child soldiers forcibly conscripted by Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands said Lubanga was liable to pay compensation of $3.4 million to 427 victims recognized by the court, and another $6.6 million to “hundreds or even thousands of additional victims” who have yet to come forward.

Lubanga was convicted by the ICC in 2012 for recruiting child soldiers into his Union of Congolese Patriots during a 2002-03 conflict in the Ituri region in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICC recognized that Lubanga, who is serving a 14 year sentence at a Congolese prison, did not have the money to pay the compensation.

A court Trust Fund for Victims, which is funded by ICC member donations, will pay part of the compensation.

However, the fund said it would be “challenging” to come up with the full amount. The judges instructed fund to reach out to the Congolese government to contribute to the compensation.

The award is collective and will help provide psychological support, job training and education to the victims.

The nongovernmental organisation Child Soldiers International said it hoped the ruling would “act as a catalyst in showing that those who recruit and exploit children in conflict will be held accountable for their crimes.”

Lubanga can appeal the decision.


SOURCE: Deutsche Welle (Bonn)/ cw/rt (AFP, Reuters)

Sierra Leone constitutional review goes up in smoke – and the masses lost again 

After three years of arduous work collecting, deliberating and collating views across the country for a new constitution, it looks like Sierra Leone may end up not having one – yet again.

In its official response to the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), the government issued a white paper in November which made short work of the 680-page, recommendation-laden report of the 80-person committee.

According to the white paper, the committee was mandated to ascertain “from the people of Sierra Leone, their views on the operation of the 1991 Constitution…, in particular the strengths and weaknesses… and articulate the concerns of the people …. on amendments that may be required for a comprehensive review of the 1991 constitution.”

The committee claimed to have done exactly that when it submitted a final report to the President in 2016. It reportedly received several thousand suggestions from the public through submission forms, as well as dozens of position papers from institutions and individuals within and outside the country.

However, the content of the white paper suggested that either the government did not really think that the committee truly represented the views of the people or it simply did not like the views expressed by the people.

Of 134 recommendations set out in the white paper, the government rejected a whopping 102. The main justification was that the provisions in the current constitution are adequate or that existing statutes already addressed the issue.

As far back as 1999, when the warring factions in the country’s civil conflict were negotiating for peace, there were calls for a review of the constitution. Article 10 of the resulting Lome Peace Accord called for a review to ensure it “represents the needs and aspirations” of the people.

The country’s post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission, noting that the current constitution was not “the product of a wide, participatory process”, felt it was desirable to reformulate the document, particularly its bill of rights, to take into account the full range of the country’s international human rights obligations.

The first attempt at constitutional review started in 2007 but fell short of completion. The review commission produced a report in 2008 recommending certain amendments to the 1991 constitution. Unfortunately, it simply gathered dust on a government shelf.

After much fanfare, the new 80-person constitutional review committee was launched by the President in July 2013. The President reportedly called on all to “fully participate and take ownership of the entire review process.”

Against this backdrop, it is fair to say that the government’s response to the recommendations of the review committee and the subsequent legislative action betray the principles on which the process was built. It also devalues the struggle of the people to build a better post-war society based on rules that reflect their circumstances.

It is important to point out that many of the recommendations from the committee that met the approval of government were either cosmetic in nature or limiting of recognised basic rights. For example the government accepted a recommendation to include the words “human dignity” and “equality” in the chapter of the constitution known as the “fundamental principles of state policy” but rejected the recommendation to make these principles “justiciable.”

Similarly, the government also accepted a recommendation to amend the description of the bill of rights section to include in the constitution an obligation to promote human rights, but did not accept recommendations to abolish the death penalty, to ensure the equality of women and men in political, economic, cultural and social spheres, or to include a right to the environment, the rights of the aged, the rights of persons with disability or the rights of children.

As though they were not satisfied with simply refusing improved constitutional protection of rights, they approved a recommendation to include a new “clawback clause” to the existing ones in the bill of rights – by highlighting “national security interests”. This is a limitation which will afford opportunities to the government to constrain rights even further.

Being the opportunists that governments are known to be, the white paper also includes some “suggestions” from the government that were not covered in the review committee’s recommendations.

For example, the government has proposed a reduction in the threshold for election to the office of president from 55 percent of valid votes cast to “more than fifty percent.” It argues that the economic cost of run-off elections and national security concerns necessitate this alteration. But others see it as an attempt to change the rules of the game, with a little over three months left to general and presidential elections.

The Attorney-General’s office is now rushing a constitutional amendment bill through parliament to give effect to the government’s “suggestions” and make some cosmetic “choice of words” changes to the constitution. The governing party has a clear majority in parliament and the bill is expected to pass without any significant challenge.

In its haste however, the government has not been able to mask the deception inherent in the bill, the object of which is ostensibly “to make better provision for the recognition and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual….”. Sadly, none of the provisions in the amendment bill touch on any of these rights and freedoms, let alone make better provision to recognise and protect them.

The government seems to have an agenda with this bill and it is not about crafting a good constitution or giving effect to the views of the people.

” Good constitutions are not imposed” the President reportedly said at the launch of the review process in 2013, “…they are genuine pacts amongst citizens to constitute themselves into a polity that they would love and honour and whose interests they would put above all else….”

These words ring hollow in the face of government’s determination to silence the voice of the people and hijack what is supposed to be a citizen-based decision-making process. Sooner or later, the people will become tired of losing.

Sonkita Conteh is the director of Namati Sierra Leone, part of a global network for legal empowerment which is dedicated to grassroots justice.

SOURCE: All Africa

Nigeria’s role in Cameroon crisis

The leadership of western sub-Sahara Africa, African continent and indeed the whole black nations, lies on the shoulders of Nigeria. With a population of over 180 million people, endowed with immense natural and human resources. It is no longer obligatory for Nigeria to assume the leadership role, but a destiny, notwithstanding their internal crisis, Political Instability, Financial and Corruption challenges.


Her Economy strength, vast market drive, very high level of human resources available, have made them the Chief Principal of Africa. This is evident in their role in the continent especially in AU, where they have defended and protected the interest of Africa. She has demonstrated in many occasions her unparalleled leadership role, very instrumental as a front line state in obliterating colonial rules, apathy regime in South Africa.

Nigeria has consistently engaged in peace keeping mission, committing largest human and financial resources to ECOMOG, peace keeping operation in the Chad, Liberia , sierra Leone, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Cote D’ Ivory, Somalia Sudan, etc. She has devoted so much to ensure conflict and crisis resolution in the continent.

However, in Cameroon a proximate country that shares borders with Nigeria, has a lot of internal and fast developing crisis at the moment. Going back to the history of Nigeria and Cameroon diplomatic relationship since independence have been a fluidity state. The friendly relationship of the two countries was experienced in 1960, which later shifted to a cat and dog situation that even resulted to military confrontation.

The conflict deepened to constant clashes which consequently took a very dangerous dimension. This brought the action of International court of justice judgement, in which Cameroon won in reclaiming of Bakassi Peninsula and Nigerian villages around Lake Chad. Today Cameroon needs Nigeria more than ever before, and it is binding for her to play the big brother role once again.

Cameroon has a very distinctive political configuration where the country is divided into two, francophone mostly from the north and Anglophone mostly from the south. This major incongruence has brought so much internal conflict that have necessitated the southern part to violently seeking to secede from the country.

For over a year there have been so much violent, hate and seditious expressions from the both side of the country, in what is progressively turning to a civil war if not urgently attended to. The southern Cameroonians who refer to themselves as Ambazonians have alleged that the current francophone establishment led by the autocratic President Paul Biya who has been in power for over 30 years of total bad rule, marginalization, deprivation, and every possible inhumane treatment you can imagine.

Speaking to Bloomgist, a native of Mamfe, one of the areas on facing the heat and total occupation of the Cameroonian soldiers share his experience surving everyday in the current crisis developing in the country;

I graduated with a very good grade as a lawyer, but we don’t practice. President Biya is scared of raising the brains that would challenge him. The government operate with authority that is consolidated by intimidation, oppression, suppression and disempowering of the citizens. I was in Yaoundé before going back to Mamfe, it is time for revolution and the restoration of our land. We do not plan to back down at any threat, we are ready for them. I tell you, we do not sleep well at night. The military occupation of the southern Cameroon is intense at the moment. They abduct our youths, beat, kill the boys and rape the women. They are doing everything to stop us, we are resilient and will not allow that with the last drop of our blood. We are calling on the international communities to intervene. We have every right to self-determination.

David who spoke confidently to Bloomgist after we promised his anonymity revealed that they (the Southern Cameroonians) are ready to fight back and defend their land and their people being suppressed, killed, raped and taken for slavery by the Cameroonian soldiers;

“We have our governing council which is doing enormous job and over 200k fearless army on the go, David said. We are doing all these on the basis of the UN classification on international crisis. There must be a war and casualty rate of over 1000 deaths before they will intervene. We are hoping of our eventual freedom from the francophone controlled government. There has been more than 1 year of civil disobedience. Schools are under lock and key. Everything is in comatose and has reduced the revenue flow into the government pocket’’. Said David who lives in Mamfe.

The crisis has taken another dimension late November, due to the militarization of the Southern Cameroon, leading so many displaced, dead, or injured. Apparently the people have resolved to fight and defend themselves against the government. Paul Biya has completely ignored the sincere and inclusive dialogue which UN asked the government to organize. There are over 1000 military men in Mamfe and Kumba, killing and maiming the youths. In retaliation, the people have taken up arms against the army as there are reports on number of soldiers reportedly injured or killed in the region.

Interestingly many of them, the southern Cameroonians have high hope on Nigerian Federal government to intervene. Their excitement were evident among the supporters when the news of Ayade, The Governor of Nigerian state of Cross River condemning the lackluster and lip services by the United Nations on what he called ‘debasing of humanity’. In his words, ‘’you cannot watch the dislocation of family structures, kids being separated from their parents, husbands separated from their wives and all you do is rush with food to their corridors, create squatters and camps for them and you think that is aid? You have failed. If we are indeed united, the issue of Cameroon should be at forefront of UN today.’’

He also frowned at the alleged closure of the Cameroon international border against the Anglophones, which he described the act as ‘’criminal’’,

Governor Ayade enjoined Buhari as a leader of Africa not to be involved in politics of Cameroon but to interfere in the lives of every Black man on earth. He also recounted the problems bedeviling the southern Cameroon where everything is completely shut down. This action alone has given them so much optimism that Nigeria is coming to intervene. The hope is very high that they have gone as far as showing solidarity to Nigerian Senior National Team, Super Eagle against Cameroon to spite the francophone led government. (Show some of their comments)

This has not been taken lightly by the francophone Cameroonians who do not want to imagine that their country is divided. They are throwing their weight behind the regime to stop the secessionists at all cost. This group of ‘’pro’ Biya people have so much bad and criticism on Nigeria. To them, they believe that Nigeria is the reason why they are having all the problems. One was quoted as saying on one of their popular social media that ‘’Nigeria has always been a hide out for terrorist, from Boko Haram to Ambazonians terrorists. We will get rid of our enemies at all front, defeat them by the grace of God”.

What this means in a clear term is that Cameroonian government, backed by francophone citizens have so much contempt for the Nigerian state, while the Anglophone who have shown so much love  to Nigeria, and would support Nigeria to spite the Cameroon.

Currently the United Nations High Commission for Refugees recently hinted that over 40,000 southern Cameroonians are expected in the Ikom, and Calabar local government Areas in Nigeria. We also gathered that other southern Cameroonian groups are expected to give their voices to the campaign initiated by the interim Head of State Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, a Computer Engineer, who hails from a village called Ewelle in Mamfe, currently in asylum in an unknown country.

Cross River state Governor on his part, has declared his readiness to welcome the refugees from the neighbouring Cameroon. In the same vein the Nigerian Comptroller General Mr Mohammed Babande said, the Cameroonian refugees should be well protected just as they did for us during the crisis period of Boko Haram in the north Eastern part of Nigeria. The state government is currently hosting some of their leaders who are now fugitive, and over 40,000 of the refuges are being camped by the Cross River state government.

Nigeria has a huge responsibility of policing the African continent. Unfortunately they have so much to contend within, the Biafran agitators, Fulani Herdsmen, Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants, etc. The people of Southern Cameroon are seriously in dire need of a voice, protection, and leadership from Nigeria to establish their influence and capacity.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist. Extra reporting by Eyewitnesses in Cameroon and Cross River state government

Sudan court to try 24 women for wearing trousers

Khartoum — Twenty-four women will be tried in a district court in Khartoum on Sunday for ‘wearing inappropriate clothing’. Public order police stormed a party on Wednesday evening, where the girls and women were wearing trousers.

The party took place in El Mamoura, south of Khartoum, when the public order police appeared. The session is scheduled to be held in El Shargi District Court.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, one of the leaders of the No Suppression for Women Initiative, Amira Osman said that the community security prosecution has charged the women under Article 152 of the Criminal Code.

She expressed her indignation at the raid. “The party took place in a closed hall in a building in El Mamoura. The girls were arrested for wearing trousers, despite obtaining a permit from the authorities.”

Osman appealed to activists and human rights defenders to attend the trial on Sunday. The Public Order Act should be repealed, she added. “It violates women’s rights.”

‘Inappropriate dress’

Many women have been tried under Article 152. It is applied to “Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals, or wears an obscene outfit, or contrary to public morals, or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging, which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.”

Last August, Sudan’s Public Order Court has dismissed charges against two girls, accused of wearing disgraceful dress, citing a lack of evidence by the police and because the judge concluded that “trousers are not disgraceful”.

Most times when women are tried, however, a conviction follows. The crime is punishable by up to 40 lashes and a fine.

Last month in Northern State, 83 youths and students were convicted to be shaved in public for their “odd shaving and wearing inappropriate uniforms”, as the city court ruled.

SOURCE: Radio Dabanga 

A docket has been opened against investigative reporter Jacques Pauw - NPA

A docket has been opened against investigative reporter Jacques Pauw – NPA

While the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed to News24 on Friday that it has a docket in the case against investigative reporter Jacques Pauw – there is apparent confusion between the NPA and the Hawks over who currently has it in their possession.

A docket has been opened against investigative reporter Jacques Pauw - NPA
Cover of The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw. Photo: Supplied

Gauteng NPA spokesperson Phindi Louw-Mjonondwane told News24 that they were in possession of a docket against Pauw.

“Yes, it [the docket] is in the process of being referred to the Hawks with a list of investigations,” she told News24.

“The decision [to prosecute] will be taken after the investigations have been completed. They will bring back the docket for a decision,” she said.

Louw-Mjonondwane did not divulge what was contained in the docket, but instead referred News24 to the Hawks.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “We are not aware of the docket that they want to refer back to us. We still have the docket, which we are not done with. We are still investigating. We don’t know what she is talking about.”

In November, the Hawks confirmed that they were investigating the leak of classified information that ended up being published in Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers.

‘There is no case against Jacques Pauw’

Pauw has written on alleged corrupt relationships and dealings involving President Jacob Zuma.

The President’s Keepers – launched in October – was not well received by the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) and the State Security Agency (SSA), which wanted Pauw and the publishers to withdraw the book.

Mulaudzi told News24 at the time that they were investigating the “possible leakage of classified information as depicted by the National Strategic Intelligence Act”.

He said the case was opened by the SSA and that the Hawks were tasked with investigating the source of the leak.

“There is no case against Jacques Pauw,” Mulaudzi said

SSA spokesperson Brian Dube also told News24 at the time that the charges were not specifically against Pauw, but rather to investigate the whistleblowers who leaked sensitive and confidential information contained in the book.

On Thursday, Pauw and investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh, who have both written about alleged corrupt relationships involving Zuma, were summoned to a meeting at a police station, News24 reported.

‘Your clients have failed to cooperate’

News24 has seen a letter to their lawyers in which the cluster detective coordinator of Ethekwini Outer North – a Colonel “R Govender” – stated that the pair had been uncooperative.

“The tone of your letter is indicative that you have no intention to cooperate with the police. In your previous emails to our office, you promised [to] tender your full cooperation to the police.”

The letter to their lawyer was headlined “criminal investigations” and had the names of both journalists on it.

“Despite your undertakings to do so [cooperate with the investigation], your clients have failed to cooperate and I will have to resort to the necessary legal avenues, unless they present themselves to me at my offices at Durban North Police Station or a police station close to the airport in Johannesburg,” the letter said.

On Tuesday, national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo told News24 that no case had been opened against the two, but on Wednesday he said he wouldn’t be able to discuss the matter “in the public domain” because of its “sensitive nature”.


SOURCE: News24 Wire

UN blames high rate of unwanted pregnancies among teenagers on Boda Bodas and touts

Some 378,397 girls aged 10 to 19 became pregnant between July 2016 and June 2017, a UN report has shown, at the same time pointing an accusing finger at touts and boda bodas.

Counties with the highest number of teenage pregnancies and motherhood include Narok (40 per cent), Homa Bay (33 per cent), West Pokot (29 per cent), Tana River (28 per cent), Nyamira (28 per cent), Samburu (26 per cent), Migori (24 per cent) and Kwale at 24 per cent.

Regions with the lowest teen pregnancies are Murang’a, Nyeri and Embu at six, seven, and eight percent respectively.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 28,932 girls aged 10 to 14 became pregnant in the said period while the number for 15 to 19-year-olds stood at 349,465.

UNFPA officer Kigen Korir said the pregnancies were a burden on the country.

COAST

At the Coast, Tana River, Kwale and Kilifi counties top the list of high teen pregnancies.

“Touts, boda bodas, discos at funerals and child marriages are the main causes of the pregnancies. Law enforcers and religious leaders should help end child marriages in marginalised coastal counties,” said the UNFPA programme officer who is in charge of adolescent and reproductive health.

“Most of the girls dropped out of school. It compromises education attainment and ability to secure decent economic opportunities.

“Morbidity and mortality pregnancy-related complications and abortion, early and child marriages should end,” Mr Korir said Thursday.

He was speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Health during the annual Kenya Primary School Headteachers Association conference in Mombasa.

He added that the latest report on teenage pregnancies needs a collaborative approach to deal with it.

“It leads to an economic and social burden on families. Some counties are disproportionately more affected than others,” he said.

Mr Korir urged the government to enhance health education in the new curriculum.


SOURCE The Nation, Kenya

Socialite Bryan White donates to Mityana hospital patients

Socialite Bryan White donates to Mityana hospital patients

Kampala based socialite Bryan White has donated items worth millions of shillings to patients of Mityana hospital.

The donated items included mosquito nets, sugar, toilet paper, milk, salt, soda and cooking oil among others.

Socialite Bryan White donates to Mityana hospital patients
Some of the items donated to the patients. Photo: The Observer

The donation was done under his Bryan White Foundation that he says is all about supporting those that are not position to help themselves.

While his focus has been on unemployed youths, last week he and his team did a charity drive to Mityana hospital and donated items who’s amount the team did not reveal, saying it was all about helping people and not bragging about numbers.

Bryan White who has been living in Italy came into the limelight for his philanthropy and will to dish out money.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Observer

I paid N5 million for the journey from benin to slavery - Ewere Joseph | Tales of Libyan returnees

I paid N5 million for the journey from benin to slavery – Ewere Joseph | Tales of Libyan returnees

Over 650 Libyan deportees returned to Edo State over the past three months and the tales of their sojourn in the North African country, where they had planned to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, was heart-breaking. 168 of them returned to Benin-City on Wednesday while 108 arrived Friday; they were received by officials of Edo State Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Sunday Vanguard observed that some of the women were pregnant and emaciated just like the men who said they were used as slaves. Governor Godwin Obaseki had promised to train the returnees in skills as part of the efforts to reintegrate them into the society. Most of the deportees lamented that their sponsors promised to take them to Europe only to abandon them in Libya.

I paid N5 million for the journey from benin to slavery - Ewere Joseph | Tales of Libyan returnees

One of the returnees, 27-year-old Ewere Joseph, who claimed to have been shot in his shoulder, narrated his ordeal. He said: “Before I left Nigeria, I was working in a tile making company but the money was too small. One day somebody ask me if I was interested in going to Europe, the man is still here in Benin, I said yes. His name is Christopher, he said I should go and bring N500, 000. I rallied round for the money and we set out. He promised that once I got to Libya, he will arrange for me to be taken to Italy. It sounded so convincing when he said it but, when we set out for the journey, I did not know it was going to be hell. I don’t need to go to hell any more, I have tasted hell already. I spent one year and six months in Libya.

Many things happened there; they killed a lot of Nigerians. Many of our women are pregnant for those they cannot identify. My friend died in prison because they always beat us. They used the butt of a gun to hit break my leg. My aim was to go to Italy.

When I got to Libya, my sponsor sold me to another Nigerian who was using me for manual labour and I had no choice. I made attempt twice to pass the sea but I ended up spending two days on top of water in the first attempt. The rescue team that came did not locate us, but God sent a fisherman to save my life.

The second attempt I made to cross the sea was when I was now arrested and sent to prison. There is one prison there that the government of Nigeria should go and free Nigerians from, we have about 10, 000 Nigerians there. The prison is called Giyuan. Eight people died in my presence in that prison. Some of the inmates had to break the prison and that was how we escaped and we were taken to deportation camp.

And when we got to the deportation camp, they started beating us; we received the same treatment like when we were in prison. They will give you bread in the morning and that is all you will eat till the next morning.

“I do not regret the journey because it is part of my experience in life. But my advice to my brothers and sisters is that they should not embark on such trip. Even from Benin to Kano is very bad, from there we moved to Alghadez, Shaba to Libya. Libya is a very bad country; it is not a place to go. The first thing they did was to ask me to convert to Islam. I told them I will not, that I am a Christian. The beat me with guns and dump me in prison. I wish our government can block the road leading to Libya so that our people will not go there. I weep each time I see our girls suffering, being used as sex slaves and all sorts of abuse”

‘How I was shot’

“What happened was that they brought food to us and said we should eat. I refused to eat because they gave people from other countries full bread and gave we Nigerians half bread called Oza.

About 400 Nigerians, we said we will not eat. They started shooting into the crowd and that was how I was shot. After they shot me, they started beating me, saying I was proving stubborn. One of my friends they beat up had internal bleeding and died in prison.

In the desert, seven Hilux vans left for Libya, only one person survived. You will see dead bodies like rats. One of us complained of thirst, but instead of giving him water, he was given Tramadol and he collapsed.

He was not yet dead but he was buried alive in the desert. If you refuse to proceed on the trip, they will shoot you dead. Many of our people are still there now suffering and dying. Some have gone mad due to stress of the suffering they went through. It is better you suffer in Nigeria than to die in Libya. Our government should go to Libya and return our people, they hate Nigerians a lot over there and it is sad”.

Alex Otoide, another returnee, said he witnessed the sale of 20 Nigerian girls in the prison where he was kept. “They (captors) sold like 20 girls in the night”, Otoide said.

“It was God that saved me. More than seven people died from hunger and thirst inside the prison where I was kept. The man that took me to Libya left me. I was into road construction in Lagos State but I am from Edo. I left Nigeria with N500, 000 but I spent six months in Libya jail after the man that took my money ran away. We were 55 that left for Libya, 25 died in the desert.”

One of the girls, Osas Blessing, urged the state government to arrest one Charles who she described as the one deceiving people to go Libya to make money from them.

She said, “I gave Charles N450, 000 but when I got to Libya he increased my fee to N600, 000. He is very wicked. He pushed many of us there. He did not care for human lives. He is a Benin man. He will say ‘if you die you die’.

He pushed us into the sea at the wrong time. I heard he just left Nigeria with new passengers for Libya and I think he must be stopped before he ruins more souls. When we were arrested, they took us to the people in charge of the UN but others were taken to prison. If you look at those that went to prison, they look like ghosts. The Libyans beat Nigerians a lot”.

Henry Uwadiae also narrated: “I was just passing through Libya, my destination was Europe. The Arabs came and attacked our boat as we were crossing the sea. They took us to prison since August. They maltreated us like animals.

After they kidnap you, they start torturing you till you die. They dumped us in prison and beat us every day. We ate bread once in two days. I was into business before I left Nigeria. I left Nigeria with N500, 000. I didn’t get to Europe. The desert was horrible experience. Many people died in the desert but the traffickers will not tell their parents that they have died. They keep giving people false hope. The videos circulating online that Africans are sold as slaves in Libya are true. I advise our boys and girls hoping to travel to Europe through the desert that Libya is highway to hell”.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Vanguard

Life after Al-Shabaab - a returnee writes an interesting experience

Life after Al-Shabaab – a returnee writes an interesting experience


At first glance, there’s little about her that hints at her experiences. She is young, 22 years old, with wide-open eyes and a smile that, after some initial hesitation, comes easily. She exudes a gentle confidence as she speaks, her voice rising and falling liltingly as she narrates her story. Were it not for the story’s content, it’s unlikely that Fatuma (not her real name) would be mistaken for a woman who had spent time in an al-Shabaab camp in Somalia.

Born in Likoni, in the southwest of Mombasa Island, Fatuma’s family’s financial situation was so dire that, at times, food was hard to come by. There was also no money for school fees, and she was forced to drop out in early high school. At 18, Fatuma married.

‘I was married to my first husband for six months before he left for Somalia,’ she says. Soon after his unexpected and unexplained departure, Fatuma was harassed and intimidated by friends of his to get into a car to go and find him. The promise of a reunion with him prompted her compliance more than the promise of employment, which was also assured.

She never found her husband – ‘I still do not know if he is alive or dead’ – and was instead taken to a forested al-Shabaab camp in Somalia.

It was the disappearance of Fatuma’s husband that made her vulnerable to al-Shabaab

Fatuma is one of three female returnees whose experiences informed the Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) monograph, Violent extremism in Kenya: why women are a priority. The report discusses how efforts to counter violent extremism often neglect women and the role they play in families and communities. As a result, opportunities to engage them in preventing extremism are missed.

‘Treated like slaves’

Life at the camp was unbearable, says Fatuma. Bugizi, a drug made up of heroin, marijuana and Rohypnol, was repeatedly and liberally forced upon her and the other women, and they sustained violent and persistent verbal, physical and sexual attacks.

‘I was sexually abused by the fighters and my life was threatened if I resisted,’ she says. ‘I did not get married to any of the group’s fighters but they would use us [the women] for sex. We were given contraceptives so that we did not conceive, but they did not use protection. We were treated like slaves at the camp. We ate only one meal a day and had no sanitary wear.’

While Fatuma completed domestic tasks, such as cooking and washing clothes, she also received weapons training. ‘We were dressed in al-Shabaab clothes, “ninja-style”,’ she explains, ‘and taught how to use weapons like knives and guns. Although I was trained, I did not leave the camp to fight.’ Some women took their training further and served as commanders. These women, Fatuma says, were sometimes ‘harsher and more brutal than the men.’

Why relationships matter

It was one of the female leaders in the group, a woman Fatuma befriended, who helped her to escape. ‘She gave me 1 000 shillings [US$9.5] and some clothes and I ran through the forest until I came to a road and found my way back home to my parents. My parents were surprised to see me but they were welcoming, even after I told them where I had been.’

‘My parents were surprised to see me but they were welcoming, even after I told them where I had been’

Fatuma’s comment suggests that a non-welcoming response from her parents might have been expected. And indeed, women who have joined extremist organisations, whether voluntarily or forcibly, can face merciless stigmatisation and ostracism from their families, communities and Kenya’s security forces. In this way, violent extremism splinters families and communities.

The fragmentation of relationships can be seen as both a cause and effect of women’s involvement in violent extremism. Globally, ties between family members and spouses is one of three main drivers behind their participation. (The other two are economic and sociopolitical grievances and either a commitment to, or the oppression of, religions or ideological beliefs.)

Indeed, in Fatuma’s case, it was the disappearance of her former husband that made her vulnerable to al-Shabaab in the first place.

In the absence of strong family structures and social support systems, access to adequate education and healthcare are affected, which opens the doors to violent extremism. As a result, focusing efforts on strengthening familial ties is crucial in both preventing and countering violent extremism.

In this way, Fatuma’s tale is one of promise. Since her return from Somalia three years ago, she has remarried and given birth to a boy, who is now one and a half years old. The new life and new family she has created have helped her to reintegrate into her community. They have also helped her emotionally, psychologically and economically – Fatuma currently works for her husband’s charcoal business.

‘I don’t feel like I am part of al-Shabaab and am not afraid they will come looking for me,’ she says. ‘I am also not afraid that my first husband will come back. When I first came home, I was stressed and crying all the time, but after getting married again I feel much better. I feel hopeful.’

Fatuma has expressed an interest in working with community programmes that deal with the causes and consequences of violent extremism. ‘I would consider joining community groups that try to persuade young people not to join organisations like al-Shabaab because al-Shabaab has impacted our communities by taking away young women.’

Efforts to counter extremism often neglect women and their role in families and communities

Given her experiences with al-Shabaab, as well as her relative social and economic stability in the aftermath, she would likely be well suited to this work.

Tapping into the roles women can play to prevent violent extremism within their families and communities is crucial in building sustainable peace at the local level. With the necessary support from government, the community and donors, Fatuma could be part of a burgeoning community of women working to prevent recruitment into extremist organisations – and establishing themselves as ambassadors for peace in the process.

Fatuma was one of three returnees interviewed in late 2016 by ISS researchers for the monograph Violent extremism in Kenya: why women are a priority. ISS Today has also published the stories of Khadija and Amina. The study was commissioned by UN Women Kenya.


Cassidy Parker, ISS Consultant

In South Africa, Daily Maverick has exclusive rights to re-publish ISS Today articles. For media based outside South Africa and queries about our re-publishing policy,


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at info@bloomgist.com.

We’re ready to trade your news for our money: submit news and photo reports from your area using our Report app. We are also available on WhatsApp +2349065647671.

William Masvinu again wins Zimbabwe's Mr Ugly

William Masvinu again wins Zimbabwe’s Mr Ugly

William Masvinu won the Mr Ugly contest on Sunday night. Mr Ugly is an annual contest that seeks to celebrate beauty in ugliness, according to organisers.

William Masvinu again wins Zimbabwe's Mr Ugly
William Masvinu. Photo: The Herald

Scores of people attended Zimbabwe’s Mr Ugly 2017 to see William Masvinu clinch the title for the third time in five competitions.

Masvinu, who comes from Epworth, edged off competition from four other contestants including close rivals Fanuel Musekiwa and Maison Sere at the braai fest held at Mutangaz Hideout in Goromonzi on Sunday night.

Masvinu walked away with $500 and a cow, with Musekiwa earning $200 and Sere $100 for second and third position respectively.

Masvinu expressed his happiness in winning the title.

“No one can dispute that I am the ugliest person in Zimbabwe. I now want to take my ugliness outside the country. If there is Mr Ugly World, I am confident I will bring the crown to Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mr Ugly World will be held in South Africa in 2018.

In 2015, Masvinu lost the title to Sere amid complaints that Sere’s ugliness was only based on his missing teeth.

“Last time, complacency cosy me a lot but this time I came well prepared for the contest and I am happy I have reclaimed my trophy,” he added.

Read: South Africa crowns Simon Mpuyazi Mr Ugly 2016

However, the crowd was not pleased with his win because they saw it as a monopoly. According to News Day, besides suggesting a protest over Masvinu’s monopoly of the title, the crowd also suggested that Masvinu should not be a contestant in the forthcoming pageants so that other contestants get a chance to win.

According to the pageant founder David Machowa, the 2017 event was successful.

“This year’s event was bigger and better. It coincided with the braai festival where 14 000kg of meat were eaten,” he said.

Among the top entertainers at the event, include Jah Prayzah, Killer T and Suluman Chimbetu.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/This is Africa

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war

People fleeing villages in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon accuse government troops of killings, rape and harassment. Thousands are on the run after President Paul Biya declared war on secessionists.

English-speaking Cameroonians flee government troops as President Biya declares war
The insignia of the rebel Southern Cameroon Defence Force. Photo: Irin

The new Kumba-Mamfe road in the English-speaking South West Region of Cameroon, built to improve traffic and commerce, is almost deserted. It is the road that allows trade to flourish between Nigeria and Cameroon. But 32-year-old merchant Ethel Takem told DW that she and her peers had to suspend their trading when Cameroon President Paul Biya declared war on local separatist groups last weekend: “The number of check points is just unbearable,” Takem said. She likened the president’s soldiers to hungry lions let loose on a defenseless population. “Those who want to be killed can travel. I still have my life ahead, so I will not move,” she said.

The situation is also tense in the towns of Mamfe and Eyumojock, where at least six soldiers and a policeman were killed last week. Mamfe is also the home town of Julius Ayuk Tabe, the man who calls himself the first president of Ambazonia. Ambazonia is the name separatists gave to the English-speaking regions which they hope to turn into an independent country.

The Yaounde government maintains that separatist fighters are being trained in the region and across the border in neighboring Nigeria. According to Mamfe resident Peter Ayuk, most young people have fled into the bush to escape the military. “The village of the present president is now is on fire. The military men are burning houses. All the young men are in the forests,” he said.

Human rights abuses

Ayuk told DW that many people have lost trace of their relatives, including him: “I have not seen my father and my mother. I have not seen them since yesterday when they started chasing us. Everywhere there are military men. Please, people should help me. Young boys are being killed. They abduct some, now everybody is in the bush,” he said.

Nyeke George Likiye, a member of the civil society in southwestern Cameroon, said he wrote to the government to complain about the troops’ excesses.” There are some unreasonable arrests being done. People are being tortured, people are being beaten. This is not correct,” he told DW.

But General Melingui Noma, one of Cameroon’s highest military officers, denied that the southwest had been militarized and rejected all accusations of human rights abuses leveled at the soldiers. He said the military was there to protect the population: “We know that if we want to overcome this crisis we have to make sure the population is with us. How can you go and embarrass and harass people whom you want to take information from? If they cannot give us the correct information, if they cannot tell us the truth about what is happening in the field, you will see that the population will then turn and follow those secessionists.”

Negotiations not an option

Schools have been closed in most of the English-speaking northwest and southwest since November last year, when lawyers and teachers called for a strike to stop what they believe is the overuse of the French language. Violence erupted when separatists joined in and started calling for total independence.

On October 1, they declared what they called the independence of the Republic of Ambazonia and asked the military to surrender and join them or leave their territory. So far, they have killed at least 11 soldiers and policemen.

President Paul Biya has not softened his intransigency towards aspirations for more autonomy and has refused to negotiate. Separatist groups have said on social media that they will only enter into a dialogue with the government on the terms for secession.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/DW. Extra reporting by All Africa News and Bloomgist journalists

Nigerian man jailed seven years without trial freed

Nigerian man jailed seven years without trial freed

The Chief Judge of Anambra, Peter Umeadi, on Tuesday discharged a 31-year-old prison inmate, Chukwujekwu Ifejika, who had been in Onitsha Prison for seven years without trial.

Nigerian man jailed seven years without trial freed

In his ruling during his yearly visit to prisons in the state, Mr. Umeadi said that Mr. Ifejika was discharged for lack of criminal record or case file in an alleged case of armed robbery.

According to him, the suspect has been in prison custody for seven years without any hearing in court.

“If the accused was convicted for the crime he was accused of, he would have served seven years in prison and he has spent seven years here,” Mr. Umeadi said.

The chief judge also granted bail to one Chiotu Eluemuno, 32, in the sum of N50,000 with his mother as surety.

Mr. Umeadi, who expressed displeasure over the loss of case file of the accused at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), ordered that that the accused be granted bail.

In an interview with journalists, Mr. Ifejika expressed mixed feelings over his release, saying he lost his parents while in incarceration.

“I thank God above all things for my freedom today. I did not have anybody to speak for me and I lost my father and mother while in the prison.

“I am going back home to meet relations to tell them my story.

“My incarceration has opened doors for me to learn a lot of handicraft like painting, carpentry and tailoring.

“I am happy, if not for anything; I am going home with this knowledge. I was among the prisoners that painted some parts of the prison,” he said. (NAN).


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/All Africa/Premium Times

Three critical African elections

Three critical African elections

Delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the stalled transition risks provoking a major crisis, are one of three critical African polls: the DRC crisis, the recent vote in Kenya and Zimbabwe’s election next year all have important implications for democracy and stability on the continent.

Three critical African elections

Crisis Group’s recent publications on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including our 4 December 2017 report, examine the crisis provoked by President Joseph Kabila’s determination to hold onto power and repeatedly delayed elections. The DRC is only one of three African countries we cover whose future course could depend in part on the holding of credible elections: one vote past, in Kenya; one future, Zimbabwe’s 2018 polls; and one deferred, in the DRC.

These polls have had – or will have – important implications for democracy and stability not only in the three countries themselves but for the region as a whole. Notwithstanding many positive trends on the continent, the serious flaws in Kenya’s vote, delays and risks of manipulation in the DRC and worrying signs in Zimbabwe could prove indicative of a troubling trend of backsliding in Africa.

The contexts for the Kenyan, Congolese and Zimbabwean polls vary: from Kenya’s competitive but flawed democracy, to DRC’s long transition out of civil war to Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe elections. Yet they face challenges common to democratic consolidation across the continent. Public office comes with vast power and access to resources; those who lose elections are left with little.

This raises the stakes for both government and opposition, meaning too many elections are fierce, all-or-nothing affairs or incumbents skew the playing field, manipulate polls to ensure they win, or both.

Institutions, particularly electoral authorities and courts, become battle grounds and face enormous political pressure, complicating their administration and adjudication of elections. The opposition rarely has good options: compete in unfair conditions and legitimise the vote; or boycott, a strategy that rarely serves its interests over time. Facing uphill battles, some struggle to remain united. Others adopt rejectionist tactics.

Kenya: Frayed Democracy

Kenya’s recent crisis was all the more troubling because of the progress the country has made since the 2007-2008 post-election violence. Its 2010 constitution diluted presidential power, created new checks and balances, introduced more inclusive procedures for the appointment of election officials, devolved resources to newly-created counties and set up institutions to monitor and call out hate speech. These reforms should have served to lower the temperature of high stakes elections. Yet Kenyan leaders largely reverted to the old playbook. Ethnic politics dominated. The campaign was driven mostly by identity and money.

Both sides played hardball ahead of the vote. President Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party drew from the public purse to campaign and the police responded with brutal force to opposition protests. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, in what looked likely to be his last shot at the presidency, repeatedly asserted before the polls that he would win if procedures were fair and would reject a vote he lost. Delays in the procurement of election equipment and the murder of the official responsible for overseeing the IT results systems did little to instil confidence.

To Odinga’s credit, after official results showed him losing, he called for restraint and took his grievances to the courts. The Supreme Court ruling revealed serious failures in complying with electoral laws and regulations, in particular during the crucial phase of transmitting results, further eroding trust in electoral officials.

Crisis Group argued that the ruling should have given both sides reason to compromise: for Kenyatta, the scale of the problems it identified might have led him to seek a clearer mandate through a fresh vote with improved procedures; for Odinga, it vindicated his complaints about electoral integrity but did not find evidence that irregularities changed the outcome.

Instead, both doubled down and threatened the election commission, which itself was beset by infighting. Kenyatta, feeling betrayed by the judges, adopted increasingly harsh rhetoric, including against the judiciary. Jubilee sowed distrust by pushing through electoral legislation without due consultation with their opponents, complicating efforts to reach consensus on reforms. For his part, Odinga’s demands were mostly reasonable but not all implementable before the rerun. His subsequent boycott meant that the vote proceeded without the participation of a candidate who had won some 45 per cent of the votes in the annulled election and still commanded the support of almost half of Kenyans, casting a shadow over Kenyatta’s mandate.

Kenya’s election once again laid bare the ethnic cleavages in society that elites are all too quick to manipulate.

Kenya’s election once again laid bare the ethnic cleavages in society that elites are all too quick to manipulate. It would be hard to portray it as anything but a disaster for Kenyan democracy. Six weeks after the rerun, leaders need to start bridging those divides. President Kenyatta should reach out to Odinga; restoring the official security detail he is due as a former prime minister, but which was withdrawn in mid-August, could be an initial gesture. A public display of talks between the two men would help dial down tensions.

Western diplomats in Nairobi, who played a useful role during the election, should push both sides to rein in hardliners. The creation of a position of official opposition leader with a budget and perks, which has been proposed by religious leaders and could be implemented through legislation, would be one way to recognise the support Odinga commands. The opposition also should focus on supporting its members who did win office and building support within communities that voted for Kenyatta’s party.

Left to fester, the wounds of the 2017 vote are likely to bode ill both for Kenyan democracy and the country’s stability over time. In a sign of deepening frustration after the flawed elections, leaders in regions of the country where Odinga draws most support – Western areas and the Coast – are calling for secession.

DRC: A Dangerous Delay

The consequences of the DRC’s stalled transition could be graver still. In December 2016, President Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition signed the Saint Sylvester agreement – stipulating that elections should take place at the end of 2017 after which Kabila should leave power – which appeared to offer a way forward. Since then, however, President Kabila, profiting from a divided opposition and a lack of international engagement, backtracked, asserting control over government, the oversight mechanism and electoral authorities in direct contravention of Saint Sylvester. In November 2017, the election commission announced an electoral calendar leading to a vote at the end of 2018.

The Congolese opposition is considerably weaker than its Kenyan counterpart. The death in February of its veteran leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, arguably the only figure able to inspire large public support and who should have led the Saint Sylvester agreement oversight committee, has not helped. Other leaders, including former Governor Moïse Katumbi (who could yet emerge as a serious challenger to Kabila), face prosecution and stay outside the country rather than return and risk jail; their absence is understandable but leaves the opposition rudderless.

Others have broken ranks and joined Kabila’s government. Those remaining refuse to engage in talks, call for a transitional government without Kabila to be set up after the agreement’s election deadline passes this year – a demand with no hope of success – but do not develop or publicise their own policies on social and economic issues critical to a restive citizenry.

As the political impasse deepens, violence is escalating in several provinces. The political settlement that ended the 2002 civil war, which explicitly included a presidential term limit to guarantee the rotation of power, is fraying. Local insurgencies, ethnic clashes, massive jail breaks and crackdowns by security forces are all on the rise.

The DRC’s humanitarian crisis, already one of the world’s most severe, looks set to deepen.

The DRC’s humanitarian crisis, already one of the world’s most severe, looks set to deepen. Gradually worsening instability appears the likeliest course – in fact in some cases the regime appears to stoke instability as a pretext for election delays. But a sudden implosion cannot be ruled out and would destabilise the region. Already Angola and the Republic of Congo fret about possible refugee surges across their borders.

While a more engaged opposition is essential to a transition, only concerted international and regional pressure can push President Kabila toward a credible election. But both African and Western positions have been mostly reactive. They have also diverged: Western powers are increasingly critical and have sanctioned some of Kabila’s entourage; while many African leaders recognise the dangers behind closed doors, they have been reluctant to criticise him openly and question the value of sanctions. Support from African powers for Kabila buys him breathing space.

As Crisis Group’s report today argues, both Western and African powers need to redouble efforts to build consensus. Even united, nudging Kabila toward elections would be hard; divided, prospects are close to zero. The Saint Sylvester principles – the organisation of credible elections, no constitutional amendment to allow a third term for Kabila and an opening of political space and respect for human rights – still offer the best route out of the crisis.

The new elections calendar, which is feasible and gives the opposition time to organise, offers an entry point for engagement. But this engagement must be based on a shared Western and African understanding that President Kabila’s delays and attempts to hold onto power by indefinitely postponing the vote and eventually challenge the constitution pose the gravest threat to DRC’s and regional stability. International actors involved in electoral preparations, including the UN, regional groups and the EU, should monitor adherence to the calendar, warn against unjustified slippage and guard as best possible the credibility of the electoral process, including voter registration.

Zimbabwe: Democracy’s New Dawn?

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s ouster presents a historic opportunity to turn the page on four decades of divisive and enormously destructive one-party rule. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the new president, struck a conciliatory tone in public statements, pledging to reach across political and ethnic lines. He also reportedly floated forming an inclusive transitional government until general elections, scheduled for mid-2018.

Over the past few days, however, he appears to have backtracked. His new cabinet reflects a consolidation of the old guard, including senior military officers and war veterans. The stalwarts of the ruling party, ZANU-PF, that now hold power are implicated in many of Mugabe’s worst excesses, including the rigging of the 2008 presidential vote and crackdowns before the run-off that robbed the Zimbabwean opposition of victory.

The security elites that orchestrated the “military assisted transition” did so largely to protect their own interests; prospects for reforms that threaten those interests appear slim, although Mnangagwa promised to improve governance and clean up corruption. But he has not said much about changes to the election system, security sector or devolution of power. To the ZANU-PF faithful his tone was also uncompromising: “ZANU-PF will continue ruling no matter what, while those who oppose it will continue barking [insert link reference]”. The leader has gone, in other words, but, at least for now, the regime remains.

[Zimbabwe’s opposition’s] plight over the past decade illustrates challenges familiar across the continent.

Moreover, the opposition is weak and fragmented. Its plight over the past decade illustrates challenges familiar across the continent. It has repeatedly contested elections, but Mugabe’s crackdown in 2008 made clear that the regime had no intention of ceding control. Worried that security forces’ violence could spiral out of control, Western and regional powers pushed both sides to agree to a government of national unity, but sharing power arguably tainted the opposition’s leaders and weakened it further.

Boycotting by-elections since 2013 does not appear to have paid dividends, as ZANU-PF’s parliamentary majority grew. Years of repression complicate efforts to keep opposition ranks united. The latest attempt, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, launched in August 2017 and which unites different MDC factions under Zimbabwe’s long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, has struggled to attract smaller factions and lacks funds. Whether Tsvangirai himself, who is in poor health, can campaign next year is unclear; but there is no obvious alternative. Indeed, a more serious threat might come from within the ranks of the ruling party, though whether factions sidelined by Mnangagwa’s takeover will have space to regroup remains unclear.

That said, Mugabe’s departure, the more moderate tone struck by Mnangagwa, at least in public, and the fact he needs to put on a good show does raise prospects, however slim, for a cleaner vote next year. Broad consensus exists among opposition politicians and civil society on necessary reforms. These include a credible voter registration process; an independent and capable election commission, with parliamentary oversight; a playing field free of intimidation and hate speech; and access for observers, all of which should be laid out in new legislation.

Despite the tight timeline, none of this would be difficult to roll out were the new government to choose to do so. The elections guidelines of the regional body, SADC (Southern African Development Community), provides a framework for assessing, both before and after elections, conditions for a credible vote. An indicator of Mnangagwa’s commitment will be his government’s willingness to allow space for such evaluations. Others leaders of SADC countries, whose track record in Harare is mixed but who still enjoy more influence there than other foreign powers, should push against any resistance; the African Union should also monitor closely long-term preparations for the vote. Ideally the opposition would focus on grassroots campaigning and attempt to build momentum behind a single candidate with a clear platform that sets it apart from ZANU-PF.

Reversing Worrying Continental Trends

Many African states have seen enormous advances over the past few decades. In West Africa in particular, democratic norms are more entrenched and a strong consensus exists against incumbents circumventing term limits, even when they try to do so. Overall, however, the continent still struggles with succession. While all countries hold regular, multiparty elections, peaceful transitions of power between one party or leader to another are still too rare. Over recent years, a spate of leaders extending their tenure past constitutional limits, political space narrowing in many countries and a series of election-related crises suggest the trend, at least in parts of Africa, is headed the wrong way.

This matters for stability on the continent. Not every disputed election or move toward authoritarian drift will provoke conflict; not all credible elections will avoid it; and a vote is not the answer to every problem. But a fair vote is invariably better than a rigged one. Even where flawed polls do not provoke bloodshed, superficial calm can obscure problems that will erupt later.

Fewer Kenyans were killed this year than during the 2007/2008 crisis, but still the gulf in society left by the vote and the deep sense of grievance harboured by opposition supporters could have profound implications over time. Already, violence across the DRC is escalating; Kabila’s repeated election delays risk driving the country off a cliff. In Zimbabwe, while a ZANU-PF romp to victory on a skewed playing field might provoke less violence than the upset MDC win in 2008, a prolongation of the stagnant Mugabe governance – particularly the dire prospects for many young people – would herald problems over time.

Taken together, Kenya’s election crisis, the DRC’s stalled transition and dashed hopes in Zimbabwe – should political space there remain closed – would not only conform to worrying authoritarian trends. They would do much to deepen it. Leaders learn from the experience of their neighbours, and the more they see fellow presidents manipulate and pervert democracy for their own ends, the more likely they are to pursue similar methods.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/ International Crisis Group/All Africa

German tourist shot dead, guide wounded in Ethiopia

German tourist shot dead, guide wounded in Ethiopia

A German tourist has been killed and a guide wounded in an attack in north-eastern Ethiopia, near the border with Eritrea.

Reports say the German national was in a group of tourists who were visiting the Erta Ale volcano – a popular destination for holidaymakers – when he was shot and killed.

German tourist shot dead, guide wounded in Ethiopia
Many tourists visit the site of the Erta Ale volcano. Photo: AFP

It is not clear who carried out the attack.

The Ethiopian government says it is investigating the killing.

Local authorities say security forces have now been deployed to the area, where an armed separatist group operates.

In 2012, five tourists were killed and four others abducted after gunmen ambushed them in the area. The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Front claimed responsibility for that attack.

How dwarf African Mongooses respond to new immigrants

How dwarf African Mongooses respond to new immigrants

Dwarf mongooses, the African social mammals that are cousins to the ever popular meerkats, are not actually people. And new research about migration from one mongoose group to another has nothing to do with the current world political situation.

merlin_130770698_83a9ddba-e61a-4436-8055-2405e5c952d1-superjumbo
When a dwarf mongoose takes up with a new group, it struggles to fit in, not contributing much at first. But after a few months of adjustment, they do just as well as the others. Photo: Shannon Benson/VW Pics UIG, via Getty Images

It’s necessary to make this point because the temptation to anthropomorphize these creatures is extreme.

For instance, the basic conclusion of a recent study is that immigrants to a new mongoose group don’t contribute a lot at first, and are not given much credit when they try. But after about five months, they do just as well as any other mongoose.

Stop right there. Repeat after me: Dwarf mongooses are not people. They do not live in large nations torn by political differences over how to treat their borders.

They are small predators that live in groups of a dozen or less, foraging for food like scorpions and insects. They are killed and eaten by snakes and birds and bigger mammals. In any group only one dominant pair gets to reproduce. And immigration in the terms of the study consists of the movement of one mongoose from one group to another.

Julie M. Kern and Andrew N. Radford at the University of Bristol study social communication and they wanted to know how new mongooses functioned as sentinels and how the information they conveyed while on sentinel duty was received by the rest of the group.

So they monitored their behavior, how often they stood guard emitting a surveillance call that means, “I’m on duty here. ”

How dwarf African Mongooses respond to new immigrants

New arrivals generally did less sentinel duty than long-term group members, perhaps because of the physical drain of immigration. It may take several months for a mongoose that leaves its group to find another group that will accept it.

The researchers, or, actually the 24 research assistants that the researchers make a point of thanking in their paper in Current Biology, observed the South African mongooses and gathered data over several years. They also recorded and played back surveillance calls from different mongooses to judge how the other mongooses responded.

The reaction of group members was different and changed over time. And at first foragers did not show a lot of confidence in immigrants. They would stay vigilant when foraging, looking up frequently to check their surroundings. If a known group member was sending out surveillance calls, however, foragers were more relaxed, keeping their head down.

Even among well-known sentinels there were differences, Dr. Kern said. The members of the dominant pair were much more trusted than other mongooses.

However, by the time five months had passed the immigrants were trusted just as much as any other group member.

The reason that mongooses bother to switch groups, said Dr. Kern, is to get a better chance at reproduction. “If you’re quite far down the hierarchy in one group,” she said, “you may try to join a group that has fewer individuals of your sex.” Then you have a better chance of one day becoming one of the dominant pair.

The biggest threat to reaching a position of dominance is predation. That is to say, being eaten before you get a chance to reproduce.

The findings show that mongooses don’t just take a sentinel’s call at face value. They know who is making the surveillance signal and they consider the source. A dominant group member on duty makes them more relaxed. A new immigrant on duty is not as reassuring.

The comparisons, of course, are tempting. How long before we trust the new arrivals? But, really, these are mongooses, and they are reacting to one new arrival at a time. About the only conclusion that applies to both mongooses and people is that all social animals must cope with new members joining the group. What’s at stake and how the groups deal with it depends n all sorts of factors, not least of which is the nature of the social animal.

Anyone want a bite of this scorpion?


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/This piece was first Published on New York Times and photos credit to Bababaras

Egypt Sisi gives military three months to secure Sinai after mosque attack

Egypt’s Sisi gives military three months to secure Sinai after mosque attack

Egypt’s president has told the military to restore “security and stability” to the Sinai peninsula within three months, after an attack on a mosque there on Friday left 305 people dead.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi authorised troops to use “all brute force” necessary.

No group has yet said it carried out the attack on the al-Rawda mosque near Bir al-Abed, which saw gunmen fire on worshippers after setting off a bomb.

But there is evidence pointing to an affiliate of so-called Islamic State.

Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed by IS militants in the Sinai peninsula since 2013, when Mr Sisi led the military’s overthrew of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.

98900495_sinai_mosque_attack_map640_v2-nc-2

IS has also killed dozens of people in attacks targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority elsewhere in the country, and claimed it planted the bomb that brought down a plane carrying tourists in Sinai in 2015, killing 224 people on board.

But until last week it had not targeted Muslim places of worship in Egypt.

At a televised ceremony on Wednesday marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Mr Sisi told military Chief of Staff Gen Mohammed Farid Hegazy that he wanted to make a commitment to the Egyptian people on his behalf.

“You are responsible for restoring security and stability in Sinai, along with the ministry of the interior, within three months,” he said.

“Within three months Egypt, with the help of God Almighty and with your efforts and sacrifices along with the civil police, will restore stability and security in Sinai,” he added. “All brute force will be used. All brute force.”

Egypt Sisi gives military three months to secure Sinai after mosque attack
Militants set off a bomb at the al-Rawda mosque, then shot at worshippers as they fled. Photo: AFP/GETTY Images

The Egyptian authorities have vowed to end the unrest in Sinai before, but failed.

Earlier on Wednesday, the interior ministry said security forces had killed 11 suspected militants in a raid in Ismailia province, which includes part of the Sinai peninsula. Another six suspects were arrested.

The ministry did not link the operation to Friday’s attack in the village of al-Rawda, which was the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history.

Egypt Sisi gives military three months to secure Sinai after mosque attack
Friday’s attack was the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history. Photo: AFP

Citing witnesses and survivors, Egypt’s chief public prosecutor said that about 25 to 30 men armed with automatic rifles and carrying a black IS banner arrived in several 4x4s and took up positions outside the mosque during midday prayers.

They detonated a bomb inside the crowded building and then opened fire on worshippers as they attempted to flee. The gunmen also shot at ambulances and set fires to cars to block roads.

When the shooting finally stopped, 305 people, including 27 children, were dead.

It is believed the mosque was targeted because Sufis worshipped there. Jihadists consider the mystical form of Islam to be heretical.

Sufi elders in al-Rawda are also reported to have been warned by the local IS affiliate, Sinai Province, to suspend their rituals in the weeks before the attack.

President Buhari recently held a closed-door meeting with Governor Nyesome of Rivers state as regards the recent activities of the Niger Delta Avengers

Nigerian government to fly home stranded migrants

Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya and elsewhere will be bought home, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

Buhari4

The decision comes after the emergence of footage showing migrants being sold at slave auctions in Libya.

Mr Buhari said they were being treated like goats, and vowed to do everything possible to prevent more Nigerians making the perilous journey to Europe.

The announcement was made hours after Libya’s UN-backed authorities said they were increasing repatriation flights.

About 240 Nigerians were voluntarily flown home in a joint operation by Libya and the UN migrant agency on Tuesday night.

_94878777_migrant-routes-624

The plight of those trapped in Libya – a major hub for migrants attempting to reach Europe – was highlighted by the footage, published by US news network CNN, which shows young men being auctioned for farm work.

The issue of people attempting to enter Europe illegally was already expected to be high on the agenda of this week’s African Union-European Union Summit, being held in the Ivorian city of Abidjan.

Mr Buhari, who was speaking on the sidelines of the summit, said he was appalled by what he had seen.

“Some Nigerians [in the footage] were being sold like goats for few dollars in Libya,” Mr Buhari said during the address to the Nigerian diaspora on Tuesday, before lashing out at Libya.

”After 43 years of [Col Muammar] Gaddafi, why are they recruiting so many people from the Sahel including Nigerians?” he demanded. “All they learned was how to shoot and kill. They didn’t learn to be electricians, plumbers or any other trade.”

Mr Buhari promised those who returned would be “rehabilitated”, and vowed to tackle corruption, defeat groups like Islamist militants Boko Haram and improve things like education to stop Nigerians leaving in the first place.

“For people to cross the Sahara desert and Mediterranean through shanty boats… we will try and keep them at home,” he said.

Exactly how the Nigerian government plans to enact the repatriation of its citizens is not clear.

Africa’s week in photo: 17-23 November 2017

98882454_model

In a dress made from seed pods, Miss Tanzania Lilian Ericaah Maraule prepares backstage to represent the best of her nation’s culture at The National Costume Show in Las Vegas on Saturday.


98882220_mediaitem98882219

On the same day in Kenya, women from the Maasai ethnic group wear their costumes for a performance to promote peace and community cohesion in the Rift Valley region.


98881082_ivorygirls

The focus of these young girls is on education, as they attend school with their chalkboards in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan on Friday…


98881088_weaver

Elsewhere in the city, a weaver works on a loom…


98881084_cotton

While visitors look at a display of cotton at an agriculture and animal resources exhibition. Ivory Coast is a leading cotton producer…


98881086_ramd

Rams from neighbouring Mali were also on show at the annual exhibition, which aims to improve farming methods and promote trade.


98881350_bake

On Wednesday, a bicycle rider carries a wood rack full of bread on his head as he does deliveries in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.


98881356_ethiopia

Workers sew clothes at a textile factory in south Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park on Friday. The clothes are for some of the world’s leading fashion companies.


98882222_mediaitem98882221

In Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Monday, a man holds a placard of President Uhuru Kenyatta after a court upheld his victory in last month’s highly divisive presidential election re-run, paving the way for him to be sworn in next week for a second term.


98882808_mediaitem98882807

In Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on Saturday, women take selfies with soldiers to celebrate the military’s decision to put President Robert Mugabe, 93, under house arrest, and to demand his resignation…


98882804_mediaitem98882463

On Tuesday, crowds gathered outside parliament to show support for MPs who had initiated impeachments proceedings against the 93-year-old ruler…


98882457_mediaitem98882456

When he resigned a short while later, celebrations broke out among Zimbabweans around the world, including in neighbouring South Africa where they burnt banners bearing his image…


98882462_mediaitem98882460

The next day in Harare, this man carried a cuddly crocodile to welcome the next President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is nicknamed “the crocodile” because of his reputation for being politically cunning.


98881354_tunisiamour

In Tunisia, the mood is very different on Tuesday, as mourners attend the funeral of fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, who died aged 77…


98882810_a35df1ec-b289-4a6f-b5d2-8c57cb54e63b

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi was among the high-profile mourners who prayed for her as she was buried at cemetery in the capital Tunis.

Images courtesy of AFP, EPA, PA and Reuters


More Africa stories on our Africa page

Speedy emergency services app is saving lives in Africa

Speedy emergency services app is saving lives in Africa

Many of us assume that if you call an emergency number like 911, 999 or 112, someone will answer quickly and help will arrive soon wherever we are in the world.

But across Africa, this isn’t always the case.

In Kenya’s capital Nairobi, for example, there are more than 50 different numbers for emergency services. Ringing round trying to find an available crew can be a lengthy – and potentially life-jeopardising – process.

You can wait two or three hours for an ambulance to arrive.

“You just take for granted that 911 [the US emergency services number] exists, and we did as well,” says Caitlin Dolkart.

She and her business partner Maria Rabinovich had both been working in the health industry in Nairobi for years before starting their company Flare.

“We thought – what would we do in an emergency? So we started asking people to spot ambulances and realised there were so many around and no one has any idea where they are,” says Ms Dolkart.

Speedy emergency services app is saving lives in Africa
Flare co-founder Maria Rabinovich wants to improve emergency service response times. Photo: BBC

The pair created an Uber-style online platform that aims to connect people to the closest emergency responders.

Private ambulance crews log in to the system at the start of a shift. Their locations can then be tracked and monitored by any hospital registered to Flare.

“Within the system we have different ambulance companies, so depending on the resources we work together,” says Patrick Kinyenje, who works as emergency co-ordinator or dispatcher at Care Hospital in Nairobi.

Flare aggregates all the available ambulances on a map so dispatchers like Patrick can choose the most appropriate vehicle based on where it is, the expertise of the crew, and the equipment on board.

It also incorporates Google maps traffic data to help emergency workers navigate the city’s notorious traffic jams.

“The response time that we have seen has gone down from 162 minutes, which is the average, to about 15 to 20 minutes,” says Ms Dolkart.

Speedy emergency services app is saving lives in Africa
Firefighters in Nairobi often have to tackle major traffic jams before tackling major fires. Photo: BBC

Hospitals pay a subscription fee to access the service whilst individuals in the capital can sign up for membership, with levels of cover starting from around $15 a year.

The website promises access to a 24/7 hotline of emergency professionals.

“The membership product is like your emergency and healthcare concierge,” says Ms Rabinovich.

The service is similar to ones run by Red Cross Kenya, Amber Health in India and Murgency in Dubai.

But will this business model really work in a country where $15 is three months salary for many people?

Dr Stellah Bosire-Otieno of the Kenya Medical Association has her doubts.

“By principle it’s an excellent idea. But the target population that can afford it are the middle income earners who most likely have health insurance.

“Those in the low social economic regions wouldn’t be able to afford this,” she says.

In 2013, the government re-introduced a 999 emergency hotline number for the capital but it was inundated with prank calls and is now rarely answered.

During the recent election violence, the BBC rang the number a few times but didn’t get through. On one occasion, someone did pick up the phone, though hung up immediately.

“To be honest it rarely works,” explains Bethuel Aliwa, who runs ICT Fire and Rescue, a training school and Fire service.

“Also, the technology of 999 has not changed, people have moved to mobile phone, but I believe 999 is still on analogue, so it is quite a problem,” says Mr Aliwa.

A 999 call goes direct to the police who then start looking for the nearest ambulance or fire engine. But there are dozens of numbers for the various emergency services, and often phone numbers belong to individuals rather than agencies.

Speedy emergency services app is saving lives in Africa
There are many different ambulance services competing for business. Photo: BBC

“By the time a fire service arrives, it’s often too late,” says Mr Aliwa.

Flare is now working on aggregating private fire agencies onto the system.

Due to the nature of Nairobi’s roads and the constant traffic jams, the crew at ICT have found that sending smaller fire trucks works better. The downside is they can carry less water.

In addition, being a private agency, the places they can get water from are limited.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC

Africa’s week in photo: 17-23 November 2017

98882454_model

In a dress made from seed pods, Miss Tanzania Lilian Ericaah Maraule prepares backstage to represent the best of her nation’s culture at The National Costume Show in Las Vegas on Saturday.


98882220_mediaitem98882219

On the same day in Kenya, women from the Maasai ethnic group wear their costumes for a performance to promote peace and community cohesion in the Rift Valley region.


98881082_ivorygirls

The focus of these young girls is on education, as they attend school with their chalkboards in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan on Friday…


98881088_weaver

Elsewhere in the city, a weaver works on a loom…


98881084_cotton

While visitors look at a display of cotton at an agriculture and animal resources exhibition. Ivory Coast is a leading cotton producer…


98881086_ramd

Rams from neighbouring Mali were also on show at the annual exhibition, which aims to improve farming methods and promote trade.


98881350_bake

On Wednesday, a bicycle rider carries a wood rack full of bread on his head as he does deliveries in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.


98881356_ethiopia

Workers sew clothes at a textile factory in south Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park on Friday. The clothes are for some of the world’s leading fashion companies.


98882222_mediaitem98882221

In Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Monday, a man holds a placard of President Uhuru Kenyatta after a court upheld his victory in last month’s highly divisive presidential election re-run, paving the way for him to be sworn in next week for a second term.


98882808_mediaitem98882807

In Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on Saturday, women take selfies with soldiers to celebrate the military’s decision to put President Robert Mugabe, 93, under house arrest, and to demand his resignation…


98882804_mediaitem98882463

On Tuesday, crowds gathered outside parliament to show support for MPs who had initiated impeachments proceedings against the 93-year-old ruler…


98882457_mediaitem98882456

When he resigned a short while later, celebrations broke out among Zimbabweans around the world, including in neighbouring South Africa where they burnt banners bearing his image…


98882462_mediaitem98882460

The next day in Harare, this man carried a cuddly crocodile to welcome the next President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is nicknamed “the crocodile” because of his reputation for being politically cunning.


98881354_tunisiamour

In Tunisia, the mood is very different on Tuesday, as mourners attend the funeral of fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, who died aged 77…


98882810_a35df1ec-b289-4a6f-b5d2-8c57cb54e63b

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi was among the high-profile mourners who prayed for her as she was buried at cemetery in the capital Tunis.

Images courtesy of AFP, EPA, PA and Reuters


More Africa stories on our Africa page

Facebook to set up Nigerian hub next year in African tech drive

Facebook to set up Nigerian hub next year in African tech drive

Facebook will open a “community hub space” in Nigeria next year to encourage software developers and technology entrepreneurs and become the latest technology giant to pursue a training program in fast-growing Africa.

The U.S. social media company said the center would host an “incubator program” to help develop technology start-ups, while it will also train 50,000 Nigerians in digital skills.

Africa’s rapid population growth, falling data costs and heavy adoption of mobile phones rather than PCs is attracting technology companies looking to attract more users.

Facebook did not provide details of the period over which its planned training would take place in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country with 180 million inhabitants.

“We understand the important role Facebook plays here in Nigeria with developers and start-ups and are invested in helping these communities,” Emeka Afigbo, its regional head of platform partnership, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Facebook said the training – aimed at software developers, entrepreneurs and students – would be offered in cities including the capital, Abuja, Port Harcourt in the south, Calabar in the southeast and Kaduna in the north.

Last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited technology companies in Lagos and his charitable foundation provided $24 million to Andela, which trains developers.

Google’s chief executive in a July visit to Lagos said the company aimed to train 10 million people across the continent in online skills over the next five years. He also said it hoped to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Although Africa may not offer as much opportunity to add consumers as China or India, because large wealth gaps mean that many people in places like Nigeria have little disposable income, Facebook said more than 22 million people already use its social media website every month in Nigeria.

Widespread poverty means mobile adoption tends to favor basic phone models. That, combined with poor telecommunications infrastructure, can mean slow internet speeds and less internet surfing, which tech firms rely on to make money.

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what’s actually going on in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is under house arrest after almost four decades in power – following a military takeover. Here are 10 numbers that will help you understand how the country got to where it is now.

1 = the tally of leaders in the last 37 years

President Mugabe, who led the country’s liberation movement, has been in power since independence in 1980. He served first as prime minister until the switch to a presidential system in 1987.

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe

But the 93-year-old leader’s years in office have been marked by economic crisis and the crushing of dissent. He and his supporters have managed to stay in power for so long by using violence and murder as an electoral strategy.


231 million per cent = inflation in July 2008

Zimbabwe’s economy has struggled since land reforms were introduced in 2000.

The programme that saw white-owned farms redistributed to landless black Zimbabweans – and those with good political connections – led to sharp falls in production.

As the country’s central bank printed money to try to get out of the crisis, rampant inflation took hold.

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe

Although the World Bank does not have figures for 2008 and 2009, numbers from Zimbabwe’s central bank showed annual inflation reached 231 million % in July 2008. Officials gave up reporting monthly statistics when it peaked at just under 80 billion % in mid-November 2008.

The country was forced to abandon its own currency a year later at a rate of Z$35 quadrillion to US$1.


$16.3bn = GDP in 2016

The political and economic crises between 2000 and 2008 nearly halved Zimbabwe’s GDP – the biggest contraction in a peacetime economy, according to the World Bank.

A brief period of recovery between 2009 and 2012 has now faltered and the economy faces serious challenges, says the World Bank. Growth has slowed sharply from an average 8% from 2009 to 2012, caused by shifts in trade and a series of major droughts.

President Mugabe has always blamed Zimbabwe’s economic problems on a plot by Western countries, led by the UK, to oust him because of his seizure of white-owned farms.

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe


74% = the population living on less than $5.50 a day

The country’s political and economic crises have resulted in high poverty rates.

The hard years between 2000 and 2008 saw poverty rates increase to more than 72%, according to the World Bank. It also left a fifth of the population in extreme poverty.

Extreme poverty, estimated to have fallen from 2009 to 2014, is now projected to have risen again substantially.

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe

About 27% of children under the age of five suffer stunted growth, with 9% severely stunted because of poor nutrition, the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey report revealed.

But poverty in Zimbabwe is still lower than in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, where about 41% of the population were living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, World Bank data suggests.


90% = one estimate of the unemployment rate

98798162_farmers_epa_976

Estimates of the country’s unemployment levels vary wildly.

The World Bank’s modelled estimates based on the International Labour Organisation data puts the figure as low as 5% in 2016, while Zimbabwe’s biggest trade union claims the jobless rate was as high as 90% this year.

However, the World Bank’s definition only covers those actively “seeking” work. Many of those not counted may not seek a job despite wanting one because they “view job opportunities as limited, or because they have restricted labour mobility, or face discrimination, or structural, social or cultural barriers”.

The CIA world factbook estimates the rate was 95% in 2009, but says current figures are not known.


 

89% = adult literacy rate

Due to large investments in education since independence, Zimbabwe has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa, with 89% of the adult population literate, according to World Bank data from 2014.

Globally, the literacy rate stood at 86% in 2016, while in sub-Saharan Africa it was 64% (2015 figs).

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe

Almost all women and men aged 15-49 have had at least some primary education, according to the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey. More than 70% of people aged 15-49 have also attended secondary school.


13.5% = the adult prevalence rate of HIV/Aids

Zimbabwe has the sixth highest HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1.3 million people living with HIV in 2016, according to UNAIDS.

However, after a peak in 1997, rates are declining.

98783412_chart-zim_hiv-nc

According to the UN, this is a result of successful campaigns encouraging condom use as well as programmes preventing the transmission of infection from mother to child. Treatment and support services have also improved.

Presentational grey line

60 = the life expectancy at birth

Life expectancy fell in the 1990s, with the HIV/Aids epidemic a major killer. It dropped from a high of 61.6 years in 1986 to 43.1 years in 2003.

98785175_chart-zim_lifeexpectancy-83hds-nc

It is now steadily improving again, but with unemployment and poverty endemic and HIV/Aids rates still high, it remained at just 60 in 2015, according to World Bank data.

Presentational grey line

81 = the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people

Mobile devices are the leading communication tool for Zimbabweans.

But while most have a mobile phone, only 43% of households have a radio, 37% have a television and 10% have a computer, according to the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey.

Chart showing the rise of mobile phone use in Zimbabwe
Presentational grey line

16.7 million = the current population

After a growth spurt after independence in 1980, a decline in birth rates and a rise in death rates saw population growth slide downwards.

With high outward migration rates also high, the population has not recovered its post-independence growth.

Details: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on in Zimbabwe


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Written and produced by Lucy Rodgers.

UPDATE: Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe president

Bloomgist can confirm that embattled Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe has tendered his resignation letter to the parliement amid impeachment session.

The resignation was received by the speaker of Zimbabwe’s parliament who in turn has suspended the impeachment debate, Reuters news agency reports.

Wild celebrations have broken out in parliament, it adds.

Mugabe said that his resignation was “voluntary” and not as a result of preasure from the masses on the parliament.

A live feed received by Bloomgist has shown MPs in celebrations as the news begins to spread across the country.

Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe president
Zimbabwe MPs celebrate Mugabe’s resignation after the news broke out late Tuesday. Photo: Martin Geissler

Song, dance and honks

A journalist has shared a video from downtown Harare, Zimbawe’s capital, where the atmosphere is electric.

People are singing and dancing while passing cars are blaring their horns.

A military tank is nearby, and some are thanking the army for the pivotal role it played in forcing their commander-in-chief, President Robert Mugabe, out of office.

‘We only knew Mugabe as president’

Young Zimbabweans grew up knowing only Robert Gabriel Mugabe as their president. Now, they are looking forward to a new leader, following the stunning announcement that the nonagenarian has finally relinquished power:

For the first time in my life, Robert Gabriel Mugabe is not my president. I have a former president. A former leader. I’m 34 years old

Most people in Zimbabwe have only known Mugabe as their leader.This is a new dawn.The deal made includes concessions…Awaiting more

More details coming…

OPINION: Will Rebellion march against Zuma be enough to sack him?

Not only Zimbabwe, South Africa also needs leadership change

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) should get President Jacob Zuma to stand down as head of state after a party conference next month because like Zimbabwe the country urgently needs a change of leader, a senior ANC official said.

Jacob Zuma
Outrage as South African plans to kill politicians, businessmen

The ANC has been dogged by infighting for much of this year as a series of corruption scandals have tarnished its image ahead of the December conference at which it will elect Zuma’s successor.

The party is split between factions backing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and ex-wife of Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC’s top job.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu told Reuters that whoever the party chooses next month, the incoming leadership should tell Zuma to go to allow the ANC to clean up its act.

“You can’t keep him there,” he said.

Mthembu said the ANC could learn from what was happening in Zimbabwe, where the ruling ZANU-PF party is pushing for President Robert Mugabe to leave his post.

“In Zimbabwe they call that bloodless corrections … We need to make the corrections immediately after the conference. How do you effect those corrections in government when the same person who might have contributed to a better degree still sits?” Mthembu asked.

Mthembu is in the camp that backs Ramaphosa for ANC president and said it was important for the ANC to regain the trust of South African people after news reports that the Gupta brothers, business friends close to Zuma, had influenced government appointments and secured contracts from state firms. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

Zuma’s second term as president expires in 2019, but he could be forced out as head of state by the ANC’s new leadership before his term ends, as was the case with former president Thabo Mbeki.

In May the ANC said its executive committee backed Zuma after calls for him to resign, and in August Zuma survived a no-confidence motion in parliament.

Zuma still has strong support in the party, including from the influential women’s and youth leagues as well as in rural areas, where several tribal chiefs back the traditionalist leader.

The ANC has seen its electoral majority shrink over recent years, and some analysts predict it could lose the 2019 election. Until recently that was unthinkable for a party that has led comfortably since sweeping to power under Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994.

Mthembu said if the ANC failed to emerge from its December conference with a new image it was “doomed”.

“It’s us who got South Africa into this mess by electing Zuma to be president. We should have looked closely into the man. With hindsight we made a terrible error of judgment,” he said.


SOURCE: Story originally published on NYT. Photo Credit: Bloomgist and Agencies

Uganda doctors' strike: What it means for Ugandans in desperate need of medical attention

Uganda doctors’ strike: What it means for Ugandans in desperate need of medical attention

Uganda’s doctors have gone on strike, fed up with what they say are the lowest wages in Africa and a lack of resources. They are demanding that their salaries, currently starting at just $260 a month for junior doctors, increased 10-fold, as well as benefits like cars and domestic workers.

But as the fight between the Uganda Medical Association and the government rumbles on, what does it mean for those Ugandans in desperate need of medical attention? The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga meets the families caught in the middle.

The crumbling buildings housing Kamuli General Hospital’s wards and clinics are almost entirely deserted.

With most of medical personnel not coming to work, patients who would usually attend this hospital in rural eastern Uganda have taken their cue, and nearly all the beds are empty.

But it doesn’t mean people don’t need care.

Desperation

There is a sudden rush of activity as men carry 60-year-old Sulayi Kasadha into one of the rooms, lifting him by his clothes. He is barely conscious and convulsing. His chest thumps up and down, while his family looks on nervously.

His brother James Tibiryala tells me: “We are almost losing hope, it is really very bad.”

Mr Kasadha fell ill two days previously.

Diagnosed with high blood pressure, he was first taken to the local Catholic mission hospital. But they didn’t have the drugs or the necessary CT scanner, so instead his family brought him to the public hospital in critical condition.

Even here Dr Charles Waako – the only doctor on call – is struggling to do better.

98781306_082eb06f-eb28-4d67-8818-015d81c8bfe9
Dr Charles Waako finds himself unable to help those who do come to hospital. Photo: HORACI GARCIA/BBC

The family has to buy the doctor gloves, as the hospital has run out. He inserts the plastic end of a syringe into Mr Kasadha’s mouth to clear his airways. The machine needed to help him breathe is broken.

“It’s so depressing,” the doctor tells me. “You have such a patient, in a very critical condition, but everything you want to use… We’re just improvising. The medicines we want, we’re just improvising.

“They’re not the appropriate medicines but we think they might work for him.”

In the end, it won’t be enough. Dr Waako refers Mr Kasadha to a private hospital in the nearest big town which might, hopefully, be better equipped.

For him, the desperation of the situation highlights the need for the industrial action.

“What we want is improved welfare for the medical workers, improved working environment and also the provision of the necessities in the hospitals and health facilities,” he said. “This in the end is going to benefit the clients.”

Many Ugandans will tell you that, with or without the strike, the country’s health system simply does not work. Medical stock-outs – when drugs are simply not available – are common, including for anti-retroviral dugs needed for HIV patients.

98781310_c605b601-8093-4d46-9868-01ec23f4a731
One reason the doctors have gone on strike is the poor equipment they have to treat patients with. Photo: HORACI GARCIA/BBC

Then there is a chronic shortage of doctors. More than 40% of positions are unfilled, according to the Health Ministry, not to mention the absenteeism by health workers who moonlight at private facilities.

Patients with enough money have turned to private hospitals during the strike.

Milly Namusobya cannot afford the cost. Eight months pregnant with her first child, she is experiencing pain in her abdomen.

But Kamuli General Hospital could not help.

“I was shocked to find that there were no doctors or medicine at the government hospital,” Ms Namusobya says.

“While we were there, we were advised that there are some elderly ladies who can help us understand our pregnancy, our complications or how our babies are growing in the womb. That is how I ended up coming to this traditional birth attendant.”

Uganda doctors' strike: What it means for Ugandans in desperate need of medical attention
Milly Namusobya cannot afford the costs of private treatment. Photo: HORACI GARCIA/BBC

In a small clinic by the roadside, Deborah Magada helps Ms Namusobya onto a wooden table before pressing her hands against Ms Namusobya’s lower abdomen, and then uses a traditional Pinard horn to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.

She is confident of her diagnosis.

“When pregnant women are due to give birth and the head is facing downwards, they feel pain because the head is bigger and doesn’t fit in the pelvic area, that’s why the pain is there. And while the baby is turning in the womb, it leans on the walls of the womb and moves.”

But traditional birth attendants lack the right training and equipment so are discouraged by authorities.

With the strike affecting many across the country, the government’s hardline response – threatening to sack those taking part – has been replaced with a special committee aiming to reach a negotiated settlement.

Unfortunately, the official position is that there is not enough money to boost doctors’ wages.

Uganda doctors' strike: What it means for Ugandans in desperate need of medical attention
The authorities usually tell patients not to use traditional midwives like Deborah Magada. Photo: HORACI GARCIA/BBC

Don Wanyama, the president’s spokesman, explained: “We have a very small resource-envelope as a country and with very many competing needs. Because of that, public servants perhaps have not been given the money they really want to get.

“But the president has indicated that [when] the pressure on other investments reduces, there should be some little more money to spend on workers of government.”

Some doctors dismiss this argument – particularly after more than 400 MPs were given $8,000 each to look into removing presidential age limits, allowing President Yoweri Museveni to run for a sixth term in 2021.

As for Mr Kasadha, by the time he reached the next big hospital he was in a coma. The only working CT scanner is in an expensive hospital in the capital – two hours away. His struggling family is trying all they can to save him.

Ms Namusobya, meanwhile, is hoping the strike ends before she gives birth.

Otherwise the traditional birth attendant’s office without any proper facilities is her only option.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC Africa

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. 

Bloomgist unveils The Youths to Watch 2017

After a month-long nominations for the 2017 edition of Youth to Watch, the maiden edition, Bloomgist is proud to present to our readers the the world, African Youths doing extraordinary things in their respective firelds, touching lives, building chains, connecting people, ruling their tribe, making marks, with extraordinary skills, commited to helping society and helping other young Africans grow.

  • Divine Nwoye – Writer, Entrepreneur
  • Gideon Okeke – Author, Entrepreneur
  • Jennifer Awirigwe – Women advocate, Entrepreneur 
  • Ned Godleads – Author
  • Ohaju Obed – Motivational speaker, Blogger 
  • Oluebube Okafor – Photographer
  • Osita Collins – Trumpeter 
  • Chiamaka Nwokenna – Career Coach, Writer

With their level of commitment, conviction, skills, with their determination to reach their goals and grow beyond boundaries, Africa can be proud to say it has the team to bring positive change that will drive the economy to another level, reduce poverty in the society, fight corruption, educate its people and build a better world for the future generations. 

Bloomgist will bring you the complete information about each and every one of the youths, their work, what keeps them going, their big dreams and strategies. Always visit bloomgist.com to keep up with our latest analysis.

For enquiries and more information, contact Bloomgist on Whatsapp on +2349086050708 or send mail to infobloomgist@gmail.com

This is time to show how much you appreciate the work of our smart youths.

A coup is not the Answer to Zimbabwe's political crisis

A coup is not the Answer to Zimbabwe’s political crisis

There is no doubt that the events of the last 48 hours in Zimbabwe mark the beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe’s reign. The dictator’s 37-year-rule was distinguished by untold suffering, high inflation, shortages of water, electricity and money. Millions of Zimbabweans left the country in search of better opportunities. The majority of those who remained were left to live in poverty and illness.

A coup is not the Answer to Zimbabwe's political crisis

In a confusing sequence of events on Tuesday and Wednesday, the military seized the state television broadcaster ZBC, and in an effort to downplay what was happening said there was no coup, but that it was targeting criminals around the president.

No matter what the military says, this is a coup.

Some citizens, rightfully desperate for change, say this is the best step toward some kind of reform, but it’s not. There is evidence this intervention is driven by the self-interest of military generals rather than national interest, which makes prospects for economic and democratic reforms bleak.

It’s no secret that Mr. Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, are unpopular. But the army will, without a doubt, continue the party’s rule. In successive elections since 2000, the army played a very retrogressive role in rigging elections and leading violence in the name of “national interest.” That same army mismanaged revenue from mining diamonds in the town of Chiadzwa just four years ago, bungling what could have been a prosperous economic moment for the entire country.

The army was silent when the former vice president Joice Mujuru, a widely admired veteran, was pushed out of the government in 2014 for wanting to run for president. The army only took a stand when Emmerson Mnangagwa, regarded as the longest serving ally to Mr. Mugabe from the liberation struggle, was pushed out of office by Mr. Mugabe this month. Mr. Mnangagwa occupied a key security ministerial position from 1980 to 1988 and was in the defense ministry from 2009 to 2013 before being elevated to the vice presidential post.

The coup is merely a response to fighting within the ZANU-PF. For months, tension has been building inside the party with the emerging possibility that Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace, could succeed him instead of Mr. Mnangagwa. The special relationship between Mr. Mnangagwa and the army best explains its intervention. It is naïve to believe that any leader who takes power under such conditions will strive for democratic reform.

If the army successfully assumes control, in the coming weeks and months, we mustn’t be fooled into believing there will be any departure from Mr. Mugabe’s politics. With a fractured civil society and splintering opposition parties, the prospects of such a complete military takeover are high. A divided and vulnerable civil society is an easy target for manipulation. In the absence of constitutional legitimacy — a vacuum created by Mr. Mugabe — the military will seek favor in the court of public opinion, with a restive citizenry desperate for any leader offering a remotely better life. Zimbabweans have been yearning for a messianic moment, and this is an opportunity for a shift from Mugabe politics.

Wednesday’s coup appears to be the start of the military’s center-stage role in Zimbabwe’s politics, and there is no guarantee what will happen if its interests are threatened.

The past 48 hours have revealed that Mr. Mugabe — the man we all thought would rule until his death — can be toppled; the next 48 hours will show how the army manages Mr. Mugabe’s potential resignation or removal. Amid reports of him refusing to resign, and the army dismissing a delegation sent by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to intervene, the battle lines are drawn. Mr. Mnangagwa, who has since returned to the country, will likely explore legitimate options to step in as president, with his loyal soldiers beside him.

To many, this is the best option — a well-known figure at the helm who fought in the wars of independence — but only time will tell if this will work. In the best-case scenario, Mr. Mnangagwa will shepherd the country safely to next year’s elections.

But if the situation remains in the hands of the army, I don’t expect such an election. The army will need more time to create a predictable outcome for itself. This also applies if Mr. Mugabe hands power to a transitional government, which would need time to stabilize and prepare for the elections. The army will determine and shape the pace of developments as it protects “national interests.”

Handing power to the military will leave Zimbabweans at the mercy of a very unpredictable group that has rarely worked on behalf of the people. And military leadership will most certainly leave the people with an unpredictable future. While the military might want to use this opportunity to reorganize the ZANU-PF and then call for an election, the party’s problems are not the people’s problems.

The best option for Zimbabwe right now is a transitional arrangement with multiparty representation to stabilize the country, with the Southern African Development Community pledging support to guarantee an election. This could involve a coalition between Ms. Mujuru, Mr. Mngangagwa, the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa.

As Zimbabweans around the world celebrate a moment of relief, we must remember that the future looks bleak. Coups are a regressive path to achieving democratic ends. Once the army has settled in, its interests — not ours — will be the priority. Any prospects for reforming the country lie in returning power to citizens — and for the army to respect civilian authority.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/NYT

Glen Mpani is a democracy and governance practitioner who has worked for the last 15 years in Africa. He is Mason fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Follow The Bloomgist on Facebook and Twitter (@Bloomgist), and sign up for our newsletters.

Zimbabwe army takes over state TV and other government arms | Army chiefs say it’s no coup 

Zimbabwe’s military has seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices in the capital Harare.

In a televised address early on Wednesday morning, military spokesperson, Major General SB Moyo, said the army was seeking to “pacify a degenerating, social, and economic situation” in the country. 

Moyo denied that the army was carrying out a coup against President Robert Mugabe‘s government and said the leader and his family were “safe and sound and their safety is guaranteed”. 

“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice” he said, as tanks surrounded parliamentary and presidential buildings. 

The army spokesperson said that once the military’s objectives have been achieved, the situation in the country would return to normal, before urging Zimbabweans to continue with their lives as usual.

Moyo also called on political parties to “discourage” their members from turning to violence.

“To the youth, we call upon you to realise that the future of the country is yours, do not be enticed by the dirty coins of silver, be disciplined and remain committed to the ethos and values of this great nation.”

Overnight, the Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald, which leans towards Mugabe, ran with the headline: “Zanu-PF unfazed by Chiwenga”, referring to the army general leading the takeover.

On November 14 Zanu-PF accused the army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he challenged Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president.

While Mugabe has long ruled the southern African state, there was precedent for his removal from within the party’s history.

“This maybe history repeating itself, back in the Liberation war (1964-1979), Zanu PF was led by a Mr (Ndabaningi) Sithole,” she said, referring to the founder of Zimbabwe’s ruling party.

“The military wing of the party back then got to a stage where they thought that he was treating the party as his own personal property and they removed him and it seems that’s what they’ve done to Mugabe today.”

‘Very tense’

Enock Muchinjo, a journalist in Harare, said the situation in the city was “very tense” with troops on patrol in civilian areas.

“The streets are empty and people haven’t reported to work in fear of what is happening,” he said.

Muchinjo said by around 8:30AM (6:30 GMT) people had started “trickling in” to the streets, almost an hour and a half after business normally starts. 

For many the first priority was to head to the banks, reflecting fears many Zimbabweans have over the impact this burgeoning crisis may have on the economy.

“I fear for my small business, my extended family depends on it for a livelihood.”

MARTIN MURADZIKWA, SHOP OWNER IN HARARE

Martin Muradzikwa, a mobile phone shop owner in Harare, told Al Jazeera he feared clashes between soldiers and Mugabe loyalists would break out.

“I’m worried there may be running battles in town today between soldiers and President Mugabe’s supporters,” he said.

“My wares won’t be safe but I just had to open shop, I cannot afford not to.

“I fear for my small business, my extended family depends on it for a livelihood.” 

Distrust of army

Critics of Mugabe said they had reservations about the military’s intervention in politics.

“I’ve never trusted the military,” said one supporter of the opposition Movement for Democracy and Change (MDC).

“They’ve stood by the (Mugabe) regime for many years. I’m on their side on this one though, I know they have their own interests in wanting change (but) at least we share a common enemy,” said the MDC supporter, who did not wish to be named.

Nii Akuetteh, an African policy analyst based in Washington, told Al Jazeera that the military would be keen not to portray their actions as a coup in order to avoid attracting opposition.  there is no way to call it another thing. If it is not a coup, the military should be back in their barracks,” he said, adding: “The military is supposed to be defending the country from external enemies.

“We don’t have any news at all suggesting that Zimbabwe has been attacked by external enemies. If there is a criminal operation, it is supposed to be (handled) by the police.

“Now, we should watch if there are divisions in the military, and if and when, Mugabe will make a statement and what he will say.”

At 93-years-old, Mugabe is Africa’s oldest leader, and has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. 

Tanks, military men seen near Zimbabwe Capital as political tensions rise

Tanks, military men seen near Zimbabwe Capital as political tensions rise

Armoured vehicles were seen heading towards Harare but the streets of the Zimbabwe capital remained calm, a day after the armed forces chief said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of a vice president sacked last week.

A Reuters witness saw two tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km (14 miles) from the city. One, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks.

Tanks, military men seen near Zimbabwe Capital as political tensions rise

Business continued normally inside the capital and there was no sign of a major military presence on the streets. Hours after the tanks were spotted, state media carried no extraordinary reports. Government officials could not be reached for comment.

Witnesses said they saw four armoured vehicles turn before reaching Harare, heading towards the Presidential Guard compound in a suburb called Dzivarasekwa on the outskirts of Harare.

“There were about four tanks and they turned right here, you can see markings on the road,” one witness on the Chinhoyi highway said pointing to a road that links up to the Presidential Guard compound that houses the battalion that protects President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence, chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital.

In an unprecedented step, the head of the armed forces, Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics on Monday, a week after Mugabe fired Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, long seen as 93-year-old Mugabe’s likely successor.

Mnangagwa, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, was popular with the military, which viewed his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace, 52.

“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that, when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” Chiwenga said in a statement read to reporters at a news conference packed with top brass on Monday.

Grace Mugabe has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling party. Her rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mugabe, but who have increasingly been banished from senior government and party roles in recent years.

Neither the president nor his wife responded immediately to the general’s remarks, but on Tuesday the head of ZANU-PF’s youth wing accused the army chief of subverting the constitution.

“Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Kudzai Chipanga, who leads the ZANU-PF Youth League, said at the party’s headquarters in Harare.

RISING TENSION

The rising political tension in the southern African country comes at a time when it is struggling to pay for imports due to a dollar crunch, which has also caused acute cash shortages.

Zimbabwe’s state media refrained from publishing Chiwenga’s statement. The Herald newspaper, which had initially posted some of Chiwenga’s comments on its official Twitter page on Monday, deleted the posts without explanation.

A senior South African diplomat said Pretoria had scrambled its officials in Harare to try to find out what was going on, but at the moment they had little conclusive information.

Martin Rupiya, an expert on Zimbabwe military affairs at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, said the army appeared to be putting the squeeze on Mugabe.

“There’s a rupture between the executive and the armed forces,” Rupiya said.

Alex Magaisa, a British-based Zimbabwean academic said it was premature to talk about a coup.

“A military coup is the nuclear option. A coup would be a very hard sell at home and in the international community. They will want to avoid that,” Magaisa said.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/NYT/AFP/REUTERS

Tanzania female domestic workers 'abused' in Oman and UAE

Tanzania female domestic workers ‘abused’ in Oman and UAE

Female domestic workers in Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are subjected to physical and sexual abuse, long working hours and unpaid salaries, campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

cd91a90b-bff7-49d2-bcb8-4c93c4a76d2d
Tanzania female domestic workers ‘abused’ in Oman and UAE

In a report released today, HRW said there were thousands of Tanzanian domestic workers in Oman and the UAE. Its researchers interviewed 50 of them and found that almost all had their passports confiscated on arrival and were forced to work up to 21 hours a day with no time off.

It added:

Workers who fled abusive employers or agents told us that the police or their own embassy officials forced them to go back, or they had to relinquish their salaries and spend months raising money for tickets home.”

[Workers] said they were paid less than promised or not at all, were forced to eat spoiled or leftover food, shouted at and insulted daily, and physically and sexually abused. Some of these cases amount to forced labour or trafficking into forced labour.”


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC Africa/Human Rights Watch

Nigerian Polytechnics hit by protest as ASUP embark on indefinite strike

The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, has commenced a “total and comprehensive indefinite” strike on Monday due to the federal government’s failure to fulfill the outstanding agreement made with the union.

The National President of the union, Usman Dutse, confirmed this.

According to the union president, there was a meeting between the union and ministry of labour on October 16 with an agreement to develop a memorandum of understanding to resolve the issues.

Federal Polytechnic, Oko students protesting ASUP strike
Federal Polytechnic, Oko students protesting ASUP strike. Photo: Ned Godleeds, The Bloomgist

“We were told by the federal ministry of labour that a memorandum of understanding will be given, but we’ve not gotten one till date and that is why our members say there is no seriousness on the side of the government.”

Mr. Dutse said another meeting with the federal government has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 15.

“All academic activities will be suspended during the strike,” he said.

“Our union is constrained to lament that our sector is on the verge of collapse and needs all the emergency attention it urgently deserves.”

Efforts to get a reaction from the Ministry of Labour on the strike were unsuccessful. Its spokesperson, Samuel Olowookere, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him.

Meanwhile, Bloomgist is getting reports of students protesting the strike.

IMG-20171113-WA0006
Federal Polytechnic, Oko students protesting ASUP strike. Photo: Ned Godleads, The Bloomgist

According to a student reaching Bloomgist from the scene of the protests, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, the students demand the strike be suspended until the students finish taking their final exams and those that have finished be allowed collect their results, but the officials of ASUP, according to an eye witness, have maintained that there would be no activities in the school.

Earlier before the protest began, a student of the Polytechnic told The Bloomgist that there was a “heated argument” between the school management and the officials of ASUP enforcing the strike. Bloomgist learnt that the argument began when the school exam official asked the students to come inside the classes to take their exams, but the ASUP official who was there to make sure that the strike was enforced insisted that the students should go home, saying the school management doesn’t have the right to conduct any exam while the strike is still in place.

The protest which was participated by a large number of the students started early Monday morning; with the students initially being denied access into the school facilities.

IMG-20171113-WA0005
Federal Polytechnic, Oko students protesting ASUP strike. Photo: Ned Godleads, The Bloomgist

There was no sign of violence so far at the school and the atmosphere has returned to normal after the ASUP official gave a go ahead of the conduct of all the exams scheduled for today.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist and Agencies, with Additional Reports by Premium Times

 

Smart phone users in Egypt are under serious wariness and frequent hostility

Smart phone users in Egypt are under serious wariness and frequent hostility

How do journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Declan Walsh, The New York Times’s Cairo bureau chief, discussed the tech he’s using.

What tech is most important for you to do your job as our correspondent in Egypt?

A dented, screen-cracked iPhone is the center of my work. When I started out as a foreign correspondent 18 years ago, in Kenya, I carried a small satchel that held a tape recorder, a camera, an address book, a map and perhaps a shortwave radio. Today all of that has been squeezed into the thin black slab in my pocket.

09TECHUSING-5-master675
Recording part of a news conference on his smartphone. Credit Sima Diab for The New York Times

It taped an interview with the leader of Hamas. It shot video and pictures as I drove across Syria. It has helped me navigate the back streets of Cairo, and then hails a cab ride home. It hasn’t, however, replaced pen and paper, although the stack of notebooks on my desk is gradually shrinking. I type faster into my Times-issue 13-inch MacBook Air than I can write. But I’ve come to realize that’s not always a plus: Slow and messy as it is, taking interview notes by hand makes you listen harder, and edit your notes as you go along.

A small digital alarm clock designed by Philippe Tabet is Mr. Walsh’s favorite gadget — it lets him put his smartphone away at night, he says.

The other key thing is secure communications. With so many Egyptians in jail, and many others at risk of arrest, encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal have become indispensable tools. The Egyptian police detained dozens of gay people recently, so when I called an activist to set up an interview, it was through an encrypted app. If I’d called on a regular line, he would have hung up. Apart from that, digital lines are simply better quality.

The Slack messaging app is replacing email as the way journalists communicate with their editors, especially as our operation has spread out across the world. Journalists can now work with editors from across the world, depending on the story and the time of day.

Equally important, you need to know when to put all that technology away. In the more paranoid corners of the Middle East, pulling out a glowing laptop in public is not a great idea.

How is connectivity in Cairo and in the region when you travel on assignment?

The internet can be teeth-grindingly slow in Egypt, to the point of me yelling, ridiculously, at the screen on deadline.

In 2016, Egypt ranked 146th out of 150 countries for fixed broadband download speeds, according to Speedtest. The only worse country in North Africa was war-torn Libya. It’s surprising given that a major data cable, linking hundreds of millions of users, passes through one sleepy Egyptian village. The problem stems from a lack of investment in telecommunications infrastructure locally since the Arab Spring in 2011 and stifling state monopolies.

We get around this with dongles connected to the 4G cellphone network, which is better, if not perfect. In conflict zones like Libya, where I covered an offensive against the Islamic State last year, I turn to my BGAN satellite data terminal and a Thuraya satellite phone.

But increasingly there is at least patchy cellphone coverage in even the more dangerous places, such as during the battle for Aleppo, Syria, last year. That brings an immediacy that I once found jarring: the power to FaceTime with your mom, for instance, from a battlefront. But now that feels normal, and choices are dictated less by technology than by what simply feels right.

Are Egyptians joined at the hip with their smartphones?

Egyptians adore their smartphones. People have crazy-looking cases and a range of dramatic ringtones — Quranic verses for conservatives, melodramatic pop tunes for everyone else. Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and anything by Celine Dion are very popular.

09TECHUSING-3-master675
Working while stuck in traffic: Mr. Walsh prepares an article in the car while a fellow reporter, Nour Youssef, reads notes to him from her phone. Credit Sima Diab for The New York Times

The flip side to the smartphone mania is that it also inspires deep paranoia among the police and some ordinary citizens, known popularly here as “honorable citizens.” I know people who’ve been threatened with arrest for taking a photo of the Suez Canal (after the pyramids, one of Egypt’s most famous features). A photographer friend was admonished by an “honorable citizen” for trying to take a photo of the Nile with her phone. He accused her of being a spy.

What are the favorite apps or gadgets in Egypt? Are people on Facebook and using Google and Uber?

Egypt has the largest community of Facebook users in the Arab world. It’s a huge part of many people’s lives, at a time when the public square is dramatically shrinking. Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2013, protest has been outlawed and the news media is largely in thrall to the government. So people turn to social media to talk politics, mock their leaders and hunt for independent news. If Mr. Sisi makes a slip-up on television, there will unfailingly be a flurry of mocking memes flying about on Facebook within hours. It can be funny, dark or both — jokes about the country’s pitiful human rights record, for instance.

It’s not just Western apps. Anghami is the Arab version of Spotify, Souq.com is the big online retailer (and was bought by Amazon this year), and there’s a host of apps that tell pious Muslims when to pray or that help them to read the Quran.

On the streets of Cairo, Uber and Careem, a ride-sharing app that concentrates on the Middle East, are slugging it out for market share. As a result, cab rides can be ridiculously cheap — just a few dollars to cross town.

How does the Egyptian government treat tech like social media and Western apps?

With wariness and frequent hostility.

Egyptian officials closely monitor Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, and posting an irreverent comment can land a user in court or in jail. A young army conscript is serving a three-year sentence for posting a photo of Mr. Sisi with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Since May, the government has banned over 400 websites, including Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian news site Mada Masr and, bizarrely, Medium. Earlier this year, I discovered the security services were seeking access to real-time information about ride-sharing customers — once known inside Uber as “God View” — through the Uber and Careem apps.

1
A small digital alarm clock designed by Philippe Tabet is Mr. Walsh’s favorite gadget — it lets him put his smartphone away at night, he says. Credit Sima Diab for The New York Times

All told, it’s a pretty grim picture.

Beyond your job, what tech product do you love using in your daily life right now and why?

I love my Bose noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones, but the most satisfying tech product I’ve started using is one that cancels out the rest. A smart little alarm clock by the French designer Philippe Tabet sits on my bedside table, and means that I no longer need my smartphone to wake me up.

With the phone banished to another room, I can’t mindlessly scroll Twitter or Instagram at 8 o’clock in the morning, and I enjoy a tiny window of mental peace. If Times editors need me urgently, they can still call my land line. Sometimes, the old-fashioned tech is best.


SOURCE: This story and some of the images as indicated were originally published on New York Times, read the original story.

 

Are you the last person...? | Better watch your word in a religiously biased Africa

Are you the last person…? | Better watch your word in a religiously biased Africa

By: Bukola Jimoh


This question just brings to mind a scene at Unilag last year, I was at a bank about to pay my school fees to begin my post graduate studies. Like any Nigerian bank on a weekday, the queue was like we wanted to enter the land of the gods but patiently awaiting judgment.

Are you the last person...? | Better watch your word in a religiously biased Africa

A woman walked up to me and asked “are you the last on the queue?” to this question I innocently replied “yes”. Then the woman at my front got pissed “holy anger”. “Watch what you say” she said “You shall not be the tail but the head” she said, “Why will you say you are the last, don’t you know your angel is listening and authorizing all you say, when you get home, ask for forgiveness.”

All of this was happening in the bank, to say I was shocked was putting it mildly, I mean all this innocent woman at my back asked was “are you the last person on the queue?” and now she is the bearer of evil that I have given the authority to destroy my destiny.

At that point I really wanted the woman at my front to understand, she merely asked a simple question. I wanted to sit her down and wash are religious indoctrinated brain of all its stupid thoughts, I wanted to let her know that holy anger will not make her feel better about how poor the country has become, I wanted to let her know that my “being last on the queue” will by no means stop me from being the honor student that I already am.

But you know what, I kept mum.

Why? It was of no use saying anything and whatever I said was going to be use against me in the public bank where I stood. It is not her fault that all of those religious indoctrination has taken away her common sense. But it is her fault that she never understood a simple question

Are you the last person on the queue?


Written by Bukola Jimoh via Quora, M. A Philosophy Philosophy, University of Lagos (2017)

International Criminal Court authorizes investigation into Burundi violence

International Criminal Court judges have authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes in Burundi including murder, rape and torture, announcing the decision Thursday shortly after the East African nation became the first to formally quit the court.

Judges who studied evidence provided by prosecutors said it offers “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” into crimes committed since April 26, 2015, allegedly by “State agents and other groups implementing State policies.”

There was no immediate response from Burundi’s government. The country descended into violence that left hundreds dead in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term that he ultimately won.

“According to estimates, at least 1,200 persons were allegedly killed, thousands illegally detained, thousands reportedly tortured and hundreds disappeared,” the court said in a statement. “The alleged acts of violence have reportedly resulted in the displacement of 413,490 persons between April 2015 and May 2017.”

The crimes allegedly were committed by Burundi’s national police force, intelligence service, units of the country’s army and members of the youth wing of the ruling party known as the Imbonerakure.

Judges issued the authorization under seal on Oct. 25, two days before Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC. It is the 11th full-scale investigation by the court that prosecutes some of the world’s worst atrocities. All but one of the investigations are in Africa.

Last month, Burundi’s Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana called the ICC withdrawal “a great achievement” in reinforcing the country’s independence, and called on police and prosecutors to respect human rights so that “white people” won’t have “false proofs to rely on in accusing Burundi.”

A U.N. commission of inquiry report earlier this year said crimes against humanity, including killings and sexual violence, are still being committed in Burundi, and it asked the ICC to open an investigation as soon as possible. The report was based on interviews with more than 500 witnesses.

​Africa’s mobile internet connections are set to hit 1 billion in 5 years

Africa’s mobile internet connections are set to double in the next five years, a study showed on Monday, thanks to affordable smartphones and the roll-out of high-speed networks.

A report by research and consulting firm Ovum in London estimates that mobile broadband connections will rise from 419 million at the end of this year to 1.07 billion by the end of 2022.

“Data connectivity is growing strongly in Africa, and there are also good prospects on the continent in areas such as digital media, mobile financial services, and the Internet of Things,” said Matthew Reed, Practice Leader Middle East and Africa at Ovum.

“But as Africa’s TMT market becomes more convergent and complex, service providers are under increasing pressure to make the transition from being providers of communications services, and to become providers of digital services.”

Mobile phone operators such as MTN Group, Orange and Bharti Airtel are investing heavily in high-speed networks to meet demand from users who are increasingly using phones for everything from paying their bills to streaming videos and surfing the internet.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

For this playwright, Africa filled with happiness, not tears

For this playwright, Africa filled with happiness, not tears

A year ago, the actress and playwright Jocelyn Bioh decided to write a play about African characters — a searing play, a brutal play, a play that theaters would finally produce. “I was going to write the ‘poverty porn,’ ” she said. “The play about African suffering.”

For this playwright, Africa filled with happiness, not tears
Jocelyn Bioh, whose “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play” is being produced by MCC, says she always wanted to write about her “funny and wild and silly” Ghanaian relatives. Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times

She ended up with “Happiness and Joe.” It’s a rom-com.

Ms. Bioh, a native New Yorker whose parents emigrated from Ghana in 1968, has made it her mission, theatrically and personally, to tell stories about African and African-American characters that buck expectation and defy stereotype.

In her acting roles, she gravitates toward edgier, genre-defying work, like Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s “An Octoroon” or Suzan-Lori Parks’s “In the Blood.” But the scripts she writes are affectionate comedies, humanizing stories of friendship and love. Her first fully produced play, “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play,” begins performances Nov. 1 at MCC Theater.

Ms. Bioh, 34, grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, the youngest of three siblings in a tight-knit, tough-love family that often lived hand-to-mouth. Her older brother is a doctor, her older sister a social worker. So even though Ms. Bioh has a master’s degree from Columbia University and spent a year on Broadway in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “I’m totally the black sheep,” she said during a pre-rehearsal breakfast on a recent weekday.

She discovered theater at the Milton Hershey School, a boarding school in Pennsylvania for bright kids from low-income families, and then studied English and theater at Ohio State University. (She told her parents she was majoring in business.) There she encountered a drama department that “cast to type,” which she said meant few roles for nonwhite actors.

It was when she was cast as a cockroach — and not even the play’s sole cockroach — that Ms. Bioh realized that if she wanted better roles, she would have to start writing them. (Her contemporaries Katori Hall and Dominique Morisseau followed a similar trajectory.)

Later, at Columbia’s School of the Arts, where she earned an MFA in playwriting and amassed a small mountain of student debt, she found herself encouraged to write anguished kitchen-sink dramas. They weren’t a success. Her thesis play: “Salt on a Slug.”

“I thought I was being so deep and it was so stupid,” she said.

3
Jocelyn Bioh, second from right, in a 2017 production of the Suzan-Lori Parks play “In The Blood.” Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Taking a break from playwriting, she knocked on doors and sent résumés and showed up for local casting calls until in 2010 she snagged a part in Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins’s “Neighbors,” playing a character named Topsy, derived from the African-American minstrel tradition.

The play’s director, Niegel Smith, watched her work with the sound designer to encapsulate 450 years of black female representation in one dance. “Jocelyn is go for broke, no stone unturned,” Mr. Smith wrote in an email. “She’s not an artist to be messed with.”

Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins went on to write the part of the slave Minnie in “An Octoroon” specifically for her. Ms. Bioh’s clever, jaunty performance landed every provocative line. (“I know we slaves and evurthang, but you are not your job,” Minnie says as she sweeps.)

“So much of comedy is based on patter, on breath, on lifting the joke out of the text,” Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins said in a recent phone interview. “She’s just a heat-seeking missile in that way. I don’t ever want to let her go.”

In 2014, Ms. Bioh appeared on Broadway in the ensemble of “Curious Incident,” playing a punk girl and an unhelpful transit employee. It was the first time in her life she’d made a decent salary. But she missed playwriting. So she left the show after a year to concentrate on her scripts.

By then Ms. Bioh had realized that her voice was a comic one. “I’ve always moved through the world comedically,” she said. “I don’t know if I’d say I’m happy, you know, Disney Channel kind of happy, every time. But I always find humor in everything.”

This emphasis on comedy set her apart from her peers, but it didn’t always sit well with producers. Ms. Bioh recalls a conversation around her play “Nollywood Dreams,” about a woman cheerfully seduced by Nigeria’s burgeoning film industry. A literary manager liked the play, Ms. Bioh said, but couldn’t understand why all the characters were so happy. Hadn’t she read about Boko Haram?

Ms. Bioh had. But those weren’t the stories she wanted to tell. She wanted to write about people like her Ghanaian relatives. “They’re funny and wild and silly,” she said. “They’re everyday people who are just trying to pursue extraordinary lives.”

“School Girls” was inspired in part by Ms. Bioh’s mother, who grew up in Ghana and was, as the script notes, “a (proud) mean girl when she was in boarding school.” MCC, an Off Broadway theater with a penchant for vivid, emotionally resonant comedy, like Robert Askins’s “Hand to God” and Penelope Skinner’s “The Village Bike,” learned of the play when Jessica Chase, the artistic producer, attended a reading at the New Black Fest and asked to see more of Ms. Bioh’s work.

The theater decided to produce “School Girls,” Ms. Chase said, because it explored “the impact that beauty standards have on young women in a way that is incredibly funny and urgent.” Once MCC had signed on, Ms. Bioh spent the fall furiously rewriting the play even while appearing in “In the Blood.” (On her Facebook feed, there are pictures of her in costume, typing away.)

For this playwright, Africa filled with happiness, not tears
From left, Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Nike Kadri, Myra Lucretia Taylor, MaameYaa Boafo, Paige Gilbert, center kneeling, and Mirirai Sithole in a rehearsal of “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play.” Credit Da Ping Luo

Set in 1986 at a Ghanaian boarding school, “School Girls” centers on a group of girls hoping to represent Ghana in the Miss Universe Pageant. The play explores uncomfortable issues — colorism, poverty — and seethes with teenage emotionalism. But the tone is often light, as when a girl who struggles with reading boasts about having just finished her first chapter book, “The Baby-Sitters Club.” “Really powerful stuff,” she says.

As Rebecca Taichman, the play’s director (and a Tony Award winner earlier this year for “Indecent”), noted, the play “smashes up this real comic point of view with profound sadness and anger. But it’s lifted through this comic impulse. Always.”

Ms. Bioh does not appear in “School Girls,” but even offstage, her love for her characters — even the dumb ones, even the mean ones — is palpable. During a recent rehearsal she suddenly made a change in the script, putting an unpopular girl on the soccer team. She seemed to think it might cheer the character up. (In “Happiness and Joe,” her newest play, a character is trying to keep up with the Kardashians, even in the middle of a what might be a genocide.)

As a first-generation American, Ms. Bioh said that she feels “an incredible responsibility in getting people to understand and empathize and sympathize with all of the characters.”

Will her mean-girl mother sympathize? Well, she retired to Ghana, so Ms. Bioh isn’t sure she’ll be in town for the play. But if the play is a success, will it at least help to banish Ms. Bioh’s bad kid reputation? “No,” said Ms. Bioh. “I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me for not being a doctor.”


This article was first written and Published on New York Times with a version which appeared in print on November 5, 2017, on Page AR7 of the New York edition with the headline: An Africa Of Laughter, Not Tears

Somali baby born at 32,000ft mid-air

Somali baby born at 32,000ft mid-air

An unexpected passenger joined a flight in Somalia after a baby boy was born mid-air, Jubba Airways has confirmed.

Somali baby born at 32,000ft mid-air

The flight was travelling from Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday, the Dubai-based airline said.

The woman, who was seven-months pregnant, started to feel contractions shortly after take-off, according to fellow passenger Kamil Abdiaziz – who also happens to be a Jubba Airways employee.

Mr Abdiaziz noticed the woman’s distress and immediately alerted the cabin crew, according to the Somali news website Hiiran.com.

Thanks to the quick actions of the cabin crew and trained paramedics on board, the baby was delivered at 32,000ft.

Hiiran.com has pictures of the new-born baby, who has been named Kamil, after the man who helped his mother.

An ambulance took the mother and the baby to hospital after the plane landed safely in Mogadishu.

As cancer spreads through Africa, drug makers draw up plans to fight back

As cancer spreads through Africa, drug makers draw up plans to fight back

Kenya — In a remarkable initiative modeled on the campaign against AIDS in Africa, two major pharmaceutical companies, working with the American Cancer Society, will steeply discount the prices of cancer medicines in Africa.

Under the new agreement, the companies — Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai — have promised to charge rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs. The deal, initially offered to a half-dozen countries, is expected to bring lifesaving treatment to tens of thousands who would otherwise die.

Pfizer said its prices would be just above its own manufacturing costs. Cipla said it would sell some pills for 50 cents and some infusions for $10, a fraction of what they cost in wealthy countries.

The price-cut agreement comes with a bonus: Top American oncologists will simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for underequipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will build those guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection.

“Reading this gave me goose bumps,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said after seeing an outline of the deal. “I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I think it has a good chance of working,”

It reminded him, he said, of his work in 2002 helping design the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Pepfar, as it is known, has been a success: over 14 million Africans are now on H.I.V. drugs, many of them thanks to American aid.

“It’s exactly what we went through then,” Dr. Fauci said. “Finding the countries with the highest burden, figuring out how to approach treatment differently in each one, and getting the prices down.”

Cancer now kills about 450,000 Africans a year. By 2030, it will kill almost 1 million annually, the World Health Organization predicts. The most common African cancers are the most treatable, including breast, cervical and prostate tumors.

But here they are often lethal. In the United States, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years. In Uganda, only 46 percent do; in Gambia, a mere 12 percent do.

Cancer wards at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. Cancers in most of Africa are more lethal than in the West. In the United States, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years; here, only 46 percent do. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times
Patients receiving chemotherapy at Mulago Hospital. In a breakthrough, two major pharmaceutical companies will work with the American Cancer Society to drastically reduce the price of cancer medicines in six African countries, including Uganda. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

The complicated deal was struck by the cancer society, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, founded in 2002 by former President Bill Clinton; IBM; the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of top American cancer hospitals; and the African Cancer Coalition, a network of 32 oncologists in 11 African countries.

“I have a friend back home whose daughter has cancer, and I can’t believe the outpouring of support she got, like special lacrosse games and T-shirts,” said Megan O’Brien, the cancer society’s director of global cancer treatment and the chief organizer of the deal.

“There’s nothing like that in Africa — but I can save a child with leukemia for $300. That’s a disease that has a 90 percent cure rate in America, and a 90 percent death rate in Africa.”

An Ill-Prepared Continent

As more Africans survive into middle or old age, cancer rates are climbing rapidly. But most countries here are ill-equipped for the fight.

There are few oncologists, radiotherapy machines or advanced surgical suites. Tumors are often misdiagnosed or even blamed on witchcraft, and 80 percent go undetected until they have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

Doctors often see cases far worse than Western doctors ever do: babies with growths half as big as their heads, women with breast tumors the size of softballs that have broken the skin, putrid and weeping blood.

On a recent day in July, Brenda Nakisuyi, 17, sat silent and despondent in a darkened room at Kawempe Home Care, a cancer hostel for children in Kampala, Uganda.

Burkitt lymphoma had torn open her left cheek, leaving a crater that looked as if a cherry bomb had exploded in her mouth.

“In our village, they know malaria, they know HIV, they know typhoid — but they don’t know cancer,” said her mother, Florence Namwase, 48. “People said Brenda was bewitched, and they began to shun her.”

Brenda Nakisuyi, who has Burkitt lymphoma, at Kawempe Home Care in Kampala. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

Many Africans who get cancer assume they are doomed.

“I came here to see if I was condemned to death,” said a wry George Odongo Ogola, 73, a retired high school principal being treated for prostate cancer at the M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi.

“But the doctor says they got it in a nascent stage and gave me a 99.9 percent chance that it will be contained,” he added. “I brought all my children and their wives so they could hear this. Here, once you are diagnosed with cancer, they treat you like a dead person.”

Even doctors — especially rural ones — may be slow to recognize the disease.

Paul Mugumya, a lively 7-year-old in the Kawempe hostel, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized that something else was swelling his abdomen, which now has a football-shaped tumor with tangerine-sized blisters on it.

And Flavia Anyesi, 4, who stood in her crib at the Uganda Cancer Institute in pink and white hair beads matching her pink nightgown, was first sent to a dentist to have a tooth pulled, said her mother, Teopista Nafuna.

Only when Flavia’s jaw kept swelling did doctors realize something else was amiss. She, too, has Burkitt lymphoma.

Even when in agony, victims may be too poor to travel for treatment. Patients who find the money to reach urban hospitals often sleep on mats on the verandas or in parks between their daily infusions, or while waiting for biopsy results, which can take weeks.

Flavia Anyesi, 4, at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, has Burkitt lymphoma. She was first sent to a dentist to have a tooth pulled, but continued swelling in her jaw indicated to doctors that something else was wrong. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

“When you are not well and you are sleeping under trees, can you really rest in peace?” asked Proscovia Mutesi, 50, a former school secretary who has lost an eye and part of her jaw to cancer.

Sitting on the bed she recently found at the Cancer Charity Foundation, a Kampala adult hostel, she recounted a seven-year battle to slow down the tumor gnawing away her face.

“I have struggled,” she said. In some years, she was able to raise $110 for a course of chemo or $85 for radiation.

“But in some, I did not have a coin. And then the radiation machine collapsed.”

If there is little treatment, it is partly because there are so few cancer specialists.

Ethiopia, one of the six countries covered by the new agreement, has only four oncologists for its 100 million citizens. Nigeria has about 40 for its population of 186 million.

Uganda’s national hospital campus boasts a cancer institute that was founded in 1967, and it has a spotless new clinical trial building erected by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

But the country has only 16 oncologists, and its only radiotherapy machine — the one that Ms. Mutesi relied on — has been broken for over a year.

Before its 21-year-old gears gave out, the machine’s cobalt source had become so weak that irradiation sessions meant to last minutes took an hour.

At the Cancer Charity Foundation in Kampala, Flavia Nabwire tended to her mother, Proscovia Mutesi, who lost an eye and part of her jaw to a growing tumor she has battled for seven years. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Time


Counterfeit Drugs

Almost everywhere in Africa, cancer drugs are in scarce supply, and prices remain a huge obstacle.

Small orders mean hospitals pay more per vial and often must settle for whatever brands are available, sometimes even those smuggled in by what is bitterly called “donkey import.”

Currently, the W.H.O. does not certify which brands of cancer drugs are safe and effective, as it does those for AIDS and malaria.

“In terms of quality, you cannot tell for sure, you just trust,” said David E. Wata, an oncology pharmacist at Kenyatta, the country’s top public hospital.

Africans with the means usually seek treatment in India or South Africa. Those with political connections sometimes go at government expense, draining national treasuries.

The poor must fend for themselves. If the shelves of public hospital pharmacies are bare, patients and their families seek out private ones, which may carry low-quality drugs or counterfeits.

“There’s nothing more tragic than seeing a family spend everything they have and get nothing,” Dr. O’Brien said. “Sometimes the first sign that it’s not working is that they don’t lose their hair.”

The 16 drugs that Pfizer and Cipla will sell have unfamiliar names like vinblastine, bleomycin and fluorouracil. They are old standbys of chemotherapy and now available as generics.

“These 16 won’t be enough — they’re about half the range we need,” said Moses Kamabare, general manager of Uganda’s National Medical Stores, the health ministry’s purchasing arm.

“But in terms of value, they are about 75 percent of our current oncology budget. So we are really, really grateful for a chance to get better quality at a better price.”

Medical staff in the solid tumor ward of the Uganda Cancer Institute at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

Medical records archived at the Uganda Cancer Institute. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

Drugmakers’ attitudes toward helping Africa have changed since the late 1990s, when Western companies were pilloried for refusing to lower prices on their AIDS drugs as millions here died.

Now nearly all companies offer a combination of donations and “tiered pricing,” under which they charge poor countries a small fraction of what they charge rich ones — but impose safeguards to prevent smuggling of their products into wealthy markets.

Companies compete to rise higher on the Access to Medicines Index, which ranks them on how well they do at getting their products to the world’s poor.

John Young, president of Pfizer’s essential health group, said the price-cut deal differs from Pfizer’s charitable donations, like the 500 million antibiotics doses it provided to help eliminate the eye disease trachoma.

“The challenge of pure philanthropy is that it’s not infinitely sustainable,” Mr. Young said. “We expect to make no money on this — but we also don’t want to lose money.”

The company will charge enough to cover just its manufacturing and packaging costs, not those related to research, marketing or advertising, he said.

Cipla’s prices, said Dr. Denis Broun, the company’s head of governmental affairs, will be as low as one-eighth of what it charges for generics in the United States. The company hopes to start making cancer drugs soon at its factories in Uganda and South Africa, he added.

A Strategy for Poor Nations

Cipla has a long tradition of serving poor countries. In 2001, its chairman, Yusuf K. Hamied, shocked the global pharmaceutical industry by offering a triple-therapy AIDS cocktail for $350 a year to Doctors Without Borders at a time Western companies were charging $12,000.

That offer set off a price cascade that in turn led to the creation of donor agencies like Pepfar and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The current deal started taking shape two years ago, when Dr. O’Brien, an epidemiologist and palliative care expert, convinced the leadership of the American Cancer Society to give the Clinton Health Access Initiative a grant to study the market and approach pharmaceutical companies.

The initiative, known as CHAI (pronounced “chy”), is largely independent of the better-known Clinton Foundation, though Mr. Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, are on its board.

Foreign donations to the foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state raised questions of conflict of interest during her presidential campaign. Had Mrs. Clinton won, the family and former White House staffers would have resigned from CHAI’s board, and it would have dropped the Clinton name.. mathematical modeling at CHAI.

Patients in the solid tumor ward of the Uganda Cancer Institute. Oncologists are so scarce in most of Africa that they cannot specialize and must learn to treat every type of cancer. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

CHAI has not previously worked in cancer, but the organization has long experience negotiating low prices for drugs and vaccines for poor countries, finding donors to pay for them, and overcoming obstacles like red tape, corruption and shortages of refrigerated trucks to ensure delivery.

Other drug makers will eventually be asked to consider selling other chemotherapy drugs, the initiative’s chief executive, Ira C. Magaziner, said in an interview. The first 16 to be made available now are those most urgently needed.

Mr. Magaziner feared that having too many suppliers at first could mean that all would lose money if the initial orders were small.

“It’s very early days, so I don’t want to say we’ve accomplished much yet,” he said. “But we will accomplish things that are significant. It’s going to be at least a 15-year battle to get treatment close to Western standards.”

Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, whose AIDS clinic in Uganda was a model for Pepfar, called the deal “revolutionary.”

In 2001, Dr. Mugyenyi risked arrest under Uganda’s patent laws by importing cheap AIDS drugs from Cipla. Two years later, he stood at Laura Bush’s side during the 2003 State of the Union address as Mr. Bush described his Pepfar plan to Congress.

“I can only compare this to that breakthrough,” Dr. Mugyenyi added.

Overwhelmed Oncologists

A novel aspect of the deal is its attempt to overcome the severe shortage of oncologists.

Oncologists in Africa cannot specialize; each must treat bone cancer, cervical cancer, leukemia, and so on. But every treatment protocol is many pages long — together they are far more than any doctor can memorize.

After she broke her right arm playing at a school for the blind, doctors realized that Charity Natukunda, 10, had bone cancer and amputated the limb. Staffers at Kawempe Home Care said her father had declined to send money for chemotherapy, saying he needed it for her burial costs. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

Like tax-preparation software, it asks questions based on entries like symptoms, lab results, biopsy results and so on, and then generates the best treatment regimen possible with the hospital’s resources. The program also scans medical journals to update itself without human help.

So Dr. O’Brien also recruited the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which brings together specialists from 27 top American cancer hospitals to write guidelines and post them on the web for use by oncologists everywhere.

Members are now splitting those guidelines into four tiers for hospitals with different capabilities, said Dr. Robert W. Carlson, the network’s chief executive.

In breast cancer, for example, “if you can’t do a mastectomy or use tamoxifen, you probably shouldn’t even try to treat,” he said.

The next level would include tissue-sparing surgery, radiation and basic chemotherapy; a third would include reconstruction with implants and chemotherapy with monoclonal antibodies like Herceptin.

Members welcomed the chance to help, he said, because many African doctors do their oncology residencies in the United States or Europe and then stay, depriving their home countries of their skills.

“One big reason for the brain drain is that doctors get burned out and frustrated, because they can’t provide the care they know they should,” he said. “This should improve morale.”

IBM is helping by taking those guidelines and folding them into its Watson supercomputing program.

Ratibu Asiligwa, 10, with his mother Jackline Kabeye, 33, at the Kawempe facility, receives chemotherapy and takes morphine to alleviate the pain from his rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of skeletal muscle cells. Even as drug treatments get cheaper and more accessible, experts warn that progress against cancer in Africa will be slow. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

Slow Progress

Even with cheaper drugs, progress against cancer in Africa will be slower than it was against AIDS, all parties to the deal warned.

AIDS is caused by a single pathogen that can be suppressed, albeit not cured, with a daily three-drug pill.

Cancer — out-of-control multiplication of the body’s own cells — comprises an entire family of diseases. Treatment often entails surgery, radiation and chemotherapy involving complex mixes of drugs.

Kenya offers a glimpse at the possibilities.

Its national health insurance plan, which charges annual premiums of $18 to $200 depending on income, began covering cancer only two years ago. Now, about 8 percent of its payouts are for the disease.

Three years ago, patients could wait 18 months for radiotherapy at Kenyatta National Hospital, the only one poor people could afford; many died waiting. Now, with insurance covering radiation in private hospitals, the wait is gone.

In Nairobi Hospital, a private institution that was once the European Hospital, Christine Kimburi, a 42-year-old property manager with 11-year-old twins, rested comfortably in a bed getting an infusion for her choriocarcinoma, a cancer of the uterine lining that erupted after a failed pregnancy.

A sign outside Nairobi, Kenya, advertising local cancer care from the Aga Khan University Hospital. Credit Joe Van Eeckhout for The New York Times
 

She had surgery and is on her fifth chemo round. Her national insurance covers four rounds a year, and her husband’s covers four more.

With luck, that is all she will need. Choriocarcinoma is often curable.

“The mass they removed was not cancerous — we thank God for that,” she said. “And I’ve had nil side effects from the chemo.”

But Kenya remains exceptional.

When she first looked at treatment in Africa, Dr. O’Brien said, “I was just blown away because so little attention was being paid.”

“In America, since the 1960s, we’ve turned cancer from this frightening, inevitably deadly disease into something very fightable,” she added. “That human triumph has not crossed the border into Africa yet.”


This article was first written and Published on New York Times with a version which appeared in print on October 10, 2017, on Page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Fighting a Death Sentence.

Understanding the reasons behind the African water crisis

If you’re looking for information to help you better understand the water crisis in Africa, there’s plenty here to get you started. In this article, you’ll find out about just how bad the water problem in Africa really is and how few major sources of clean water there are across the continent.

1280px-Local_Girls_in_Babile_Ethiopia_2012

Highlights:

  • You’ll learn about the reasons why clean drinking water is so hard to come by in every African country, and you’ll find out what’s being done to try to solve this major problem.
  • In the end of the article, you’ll even be introduced to a few options you can try if you’re looking for ways to get involved.
  • It’s human nature to care about the suffering of others, and it’s a good idea to educate yourself on such serious problems, too. Read on to learn more about the African water crisis.

10 Reasons People Cannot Access Clean Water in Africa

It’s time to find out just what leads to this terrible situation. In this section, you’ll learn the top ten reasons why people in Africa are unable to regularly access clean drinking water. Some of this information might surprise you, and some of it might seem all too familiar. However, remember that these issues have been going on for a very long time, and as of yet, they don’t seem to be improving too significantly.

1024px-Oxfam_East_Africa_-_SomalilandDrought001

1. Africa is an arid continent. First and foremost, the weather and atmospheric conditions of this part of the world don’t lend themselves too well to regular supplies of fresh water.

If this was the only problem, it wouldn’t be completely impossible to figure out a way to provide the people of Africa with clean water. However, it’s really only the framework for many more significant issues.

2. Many of the bodies of fresh water on the continent are controlled by more than one government.

When this happens, the country or government upstream has much more of a say in what happens to the water than those downstream. This is most common with rivers, but sometimes large lakes see similar problems when their area bypasses legal boundaries.

3. All of the freshwater bodies in Africa are polluted or contaminated at least to some extent.

While you can certainly argue that some contamination is present in almost every natural body of water, the problem is that there are also no treatment facilities available to help improve the quality of this water. It is polluted or contaminated and it remains that way until it’s ingested or otherwise used by humans.

4. The largest populations don’t live anywhere near the Congo River basin, where most of the available fresh water is located.

30% of the continent’s fresh water can be found in this part of Africa, but only 10% of the population live there. This water is most often used for agricultural purposes and never reaches the people in other parts of the continent who need it for drinking.

5. It’s very expensive and next to impossible to construct an infrastructure to bring fresh water from different regions to the people who need it the most.

In developed countries, this wouldn’t be such a daunting task, but there just isn’t enough money in most African governments to even start such a costly endeavor. Therefore, the water remains in places where it isn’t as needed, and people elsewhere continue to go without.

6. Most of the population rely on surface water instead of groundwater for everything they do.

This isn’t very safe because surface water is much easier to pollute than groundwater. Naturally, groundwater isn’t terribly contaminated, and it’s often easier to remove contaminants from it than from surface water. Also, when surface water is used up, there’s no real way to restore it. These freshwater sources dry up often, and as they start to recede, the risk of pollution becomes even greater.

7. There is a lack of education about the reality of water quality throughout the continent. 

africa-1050006_960_720

Many people believe that any water that comes out of the ground, such as through a well, is safe to drink. It’s crucial that more education is provided so people across Africa understand how to tell when water is safe and when it should be avoided.

8. Women are often expected to bring water back for their whole families every day.

A full jerry can of water usually weighs around 40 pounds, and some women make this trip more than once a day. Because of this, most women are uneducated and never hold down a job. This, in turn, leads to a worse economy because fewer people are working regularly. Young girls often drop out of school when they reach puberty because of a lack of sanitation and toilets, and they soon are trained as the new water carriers for the family.

9. The water table across the continent is receding every year. 

As more strain is put on surface water sources, the water table continues to dwindle. Pretty soon, even more of Africa’s countries will be desperately in need of fresh water that just isn’t there anymore. This is also a problem that’s facing the whole world.

10. The agricultural sector makes use of most of the freshwater sources in Africa.

While this is true of most places around the world, it still hinders drinking water access in most African countries.

Remember that there are many other reasons that contribute to the lack of clean water in Africa, but these are some of the most common. Each individual community faces its own struggles, and it’s hard to say for sure what problems one might be dealing with as opposed to the next. If you’re curious about any specific country or city, you can often find breakdowns of water quality information provided by the World Health Organization and other similar groups.

​How Bad is Africa’s Water Problem?

It’s one thing to say there’s no water in Africa, but it’s another thing entirely to see the numbers and statistics that prove it. Before you dive into learning about the reasons behind the crisis going on with Africa’s water supply, take a moment to familiarize yourself with just how serious this problem really is. You might be shocked at some of the information you discover and some of the facts you read as you study more about just what’s going on in this critical situation.

Water_Project_1_2501

  • Around the world, 783 million people live every day without regular, dedicated access to improved water sources. Improved water in this situation means safe, clean drinking water that has been at least minimally treated to remove contaminants and pollutants. It doesn’t necessarily mean purified water.
  • Of these people, 319 million of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is the area of greatest concern on the continent. This part of Africa hosts the most critical rural communities that desperately need access to clean drinking water.
  • 102 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa rely solely on surface water to supply all the water they use for drinking, cooking, washing, and living. They have no way to access groundwater.
  • 80% of the illnesses in developing countries around the world can be traced back to waterborne illnesses or a lack of improved sanitation conditions as a result of the inability to access regular clean water. Cholera is one of the most common of these illnesses in Africa, with typhoid, Dengue fever, and hepatitis on the list as well.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, 695 million people live every day without access to improved sanitation. This means there’s no way for them to remove human and animal waste from their communities or from their water sources, and there’s nowhere for them to throw garbage and solid wastes. Many people don’t even have access to soap with which to wash their hands.
  • There are very few toilets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Only around one in three people have regular access to toilets, with the rest having to urinate and defecate in out of the way places on the ground.
  • Around the world, agriculture is the primary means of survival for 84% of people living without access to improved water conditions. This is equally true across Africa, where agriculture puts a huge strain on the water supply while simultaneously causing it to be even more polluted than it ordinarily would be.
  • In infants and children under the age of five, one in five deaths worldwide can be traced back to diarrhea or dehydration as a result of a waterborne illness. The elderly are also more seriously affected by these types of illnesses.

As you can see, there are many troubling facts and figures to think about when it comes to the water situation in Africa. If you’re interested in learning more about what causes this problem, what might be done to change it on a worldwide scale, and what you can do to help improve the situation, read on.

Major Sources of Clean Water in Africa

You might be under the assumption that there’s no clean water in Africa, but that’s not exactly true. Clean water exists in places across the continent, but those places are just a few and far between. It’s unlikely to come across a clean natural body of water, and if you do, chances are good it’s on the verge of being depleted completely. However, if you’re wondering how clean water can exist at all in such harsh conditions, this section can tell you more.

10679187463_2e0df49fe9_b

  • Piped water Although this is not too common across Africa, it’s still one of the only ways in which clean water can be made available to individual homes, yards, or buildings. There aren’t a lot of places in Africa where this type of water is present, however. This is an expensive method of supplying drinking water to the public, and unfortunately, most of the African governments simply can’t afford the type of piped water we all take for granted every day.
  • Public tap – It’s a little bit more common to find a protected public tap in an area with a large population. These taps are available for anyone to use at any time, and they are treated at least minimally to protect from contamination, especially of the bacterial nature. When organizations work to provide sustainable clean drinking water to African communities, this is often the type they build.
  • Protected springs – It’s not too common to come across a protected spring, but every now and then, a community where a spring is located works to clean it up and keep it clean. This is still a surface water source, so it’s not as ideal as using other types of water to supply the population. Even so, it’s much better than a seriously contaminated or even polluted source of surface water, which is often the only alternative.
  • Protected groundwater wells – This is another type of clean water that is often provided by nonprofit organizations working to bring better water conditions to the people of Africa. It doesn’t cost much to build a protected groundwater well, but it’s often much more than communities and even whole countries in Africa can afford. When one is built, it’s protected and kept as clean as possible, even in places where regular filtration isn’t always an option.
  • Collected rainwater – There are many reasons why collected rainwater isn’t the best alternative, but in some parts of Africa, it’s the only choice available to anyone looking for a cleaner source of drinking water. When it rains, water is collected in cans or even in cisterns. As long as it’s used pretty quickly, it’s usually safe enough. However, if it’s left for too long, it can attract mosquitos that lay their eggs in it, and this, in turn, can spread Dengue fever.
  • Some bottled water – Not all bottled water available to the people of Africa is safe for human consumption. Some of it is safe enough for regular daily chores, and the quality of bottled water should only be judged on a case by case basis.

It’s pretty clear that the sources of clean drinking water throughout Africa are few and far between. There are no large bodies of water that are clean enough to provide drinking water without any means of treatment. Unfortunately, the treatment options available are often too expensive to do any good.

Areas Most Affected by a Lack of Clean Water

Clean water is hard to come by anywhere in Africa, although there are some nonprofit groups working to rectify this problem. For the time being, however, there are several areas where the lack of clean water in Africa is felt even more strongly than in others. Each part of the continent seems to face its own challenges associated with the drinking water crisis, and the situation is far from ideal for anyone.

  • Rural communities – The rural parts of Africa are probably the most seriously affected by a lack of clean drinking water. In these parts of the continent, people must walk miles every day to find any water at all, and the water they do find is usually packed with contaminants and pollution. These communities are often hotbeds of disease because there’s no sanitary way to help cure people who fall ill. They often don’t have access to toilets or any way to dispose of waste, so as one person becomes sick with diarrhea, it quickly spreads to the others in the community, all as a result of bad water.
  • Urban areas – In many developing countries, urban areas are a little bit more likely to have water treatment facilities. Although this is still somewhat true in African countries, many still don’t have any dedicated method of cleaning up the water before it is used by the population. Unfortunately, water strain is a big issue in these places, as massive populations place high demands on surface water sources that are slowly dwindling. Once again, a lack of plumbing or any waste removal options causes bacteria, parasites, and other contaminants to build up quickly in these water sources.
  • Agriculture – The agricultural sector uses the vast majority of Africa’s freshwater sources every year. However, because of the problems with the continent’s infrastructure and the other issues that regularly plague the people of every African country, the water used for agricultural purposes is still largely unavailable and not used in a safe or healthy manner. Like other water uses, Africa’s agriculture industry uses surface water much more often than groundwater, which in turn contributes to the drying up of the large bodies of water and rivers across the continent and the receding of the water table.
  • Disappearing wetlands – The mountainous regions of Africa were once home to wetlands that provided a home for hundreds of unique species of fish, birds, mammals, and insects. Unfortunately, the poor water habits of the humans who live in Africa have slowly caused the wetlands to dry up and die, which in turn has led to the loss of several endangered species of animals. These wetlands suffer significantly from the water crisis, and even organizations like the World Wildlife Federation are unsure if they can ever be restored completely.

1024px-A_child_waits_outside_a_medical_clinic_as_part_of_Western_Accord_2012_in_Thies_Senegal_June_10_2012_120610-Z-KE462-197

There are other areas that feel the strain of the water crisis in Africa, and it’s safe to assume that everyone and everywhere is affected by it in some way. For example, the medical field has seen very few technological advancements largely due to a lack of clean water, indoor plumbing, and even hand soap in the vicinity of most hospitals.

How is the Problem Being Addressed?

There are several different groups and government bodies working to solve the shortage of water in Africa. Although there’s no perfect answer, and a long-term solution seems like it could be miles away still, this isn’t a problem that’s just flying under the radar. People around the world care about Africa’s water crisis, and there are a few different ways in which this problem is slowly but surely being addressed. Below are some of the most effective.

  • World Water Week – This is a week designed with the African water crisis in mind. Although the event doesn’t only focus on Africa, it takes center stage more often than not as an area of increased risk and greatest concern. During this week, which is held one or two times a year depending on need, world leaders from countries across the globe come together to try to solve water-related issues that affect a number of different locations. They brainstorm plans and enact new procedures that are intended to improve the quality of water around the world.
  • United Nations water recognition – In 2010, the United Nations officially recognized water as a basic human right. Although to some people it seems impossible to fathom that it would take that long for the UN to come to this conclusion, there were a lot of complicated politics involved in the statement. Basically, this recognition means that individual members of the UN must prioritize the available of fresh, clean drinking water above anything else other than the other basic human rights. This provision also included the right to simple improved sanitation conditions. Since this change, countries have been working harder than ever to try to improve the drinking water situation in Africa.
  • Charities – Nonprofit organizations and charities spend a lot of time, money, and energy focusing on Africa’s water crisis. These groups take it upon themselves to provide clean, fresh drinking water to the people who need it most. Many times, they travel to Africa to dig groundwater wells. They might also help the residents of rural communities install biofilters that can be used to clean up the surface water they’re already using. Each individual location is examined on a case-by-case basis to determine its specific needs. There are plenty of great charities out there, but unfortunately, there are some shady ones too.
  • Government donations – Some countries are more well-off than others, and they can afford to send some monetary donations on a large scale to African countries to help improve the water infrastructure and clean up surface water sources. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to see just how the money sent as part of these donations is really being used, and most of the time it just isn’t enough to get the continent on its feet in terms of water supply.

800px-Niger_River_Center_Island

With many different plans in the works, it’s obvious that governments and organizations from most developed countries understand the need for clean water in Africa. However, there is always more that can be done, and it’s important to pay close attention to what your country is doing and the ways in which they could improve their involvement on a large scale.

How Can We Help?

It’s all well and good that large groups and people in positions of power are doing something to help—in fact, it’s great—but what happens when you want to do something yourself about the lack of drinking water in Africa? No matter what part of the world you hail from, you can find a way to get involved and try to make a difference in this problem. Even if you’ve never been to Africa and never plan to go, this is an issue that can and should affect you, at least on an emotional level. Don’t be afraid to find your niche and start helping as best as you can.

  • Donate money – This is perhaps the most obvious method of helping charities and nonprofits work to provide clean drinking water to the people of Africa. Many individuals and companies donate to water charities on a regular basis, with the majority of those donations coming in around the holiday season. If you have the funds to spare, consider sending a one-time donation or setting up a recurring payment to a legitimate, well-trusted organization. Be sure to do your research ahead of time, however, since some of these groups might not be the type you want to give your money to for a variety of different reasons.
  • Donate skills – If you can’t afford to donate money, you might be able to help out environmental groups with your skills. For example, if there’s a charity based in your city that focuses on the African water crisis, get in touch with them and ask if they need help with anything at their base of operations. They might need someone to answer telephones, keep up with website maintenance, or even tidy up their offices. You never know what skill you might have that one of these groups could really use.
  • Donate time Are you the kind of person who likes to volunteer and get your hands dirty? If you are, and if you don’t have a lot of commitments that keep you from traveling for a lengthy period of time, you might want to consider volunteering with a legitimate water charity or nonprofit group and going overseas to actually help build the wells yourself. This can be a potentially dangerous endeavor, but it can also be a life-changing experience that you’ll never forget. It’s not for everyone, however.
  • Contact your government – If you feel like your local or national government could be doing something more to assist the people of Africa, there’s no harm in contacting them to let them know. A letter or phone call on its own might not make much difference, but the more you reach out, the more your voice will be heard. You might even put together a petition to get some real attention.
  • Spread the word – If all else fails, spread the word. Print out some flyers for a good organization you’ve uncovered in your research and hand them out to your friends and family. Leave them on bulletin boards around town while you’re at it. The more you reach out to spread the word about the water situation in Africa, the more likely it is you’ll find someone who can potentially donate a lot of much-needed money or manpower.

Water_Project_1_2501

Finding a way to pitch in can make you feel good about yourself and help others have access to cleaner, safer drinking water too. This is a win-win situation, and it pays to reach out and try to make a difference for your fellow human beings. Remember that money isn’t the only way you can help, and even if you’re strapped for cash, you can find other ways to help make a difference half a world away.

Conclusion

When you live in a developed country, it’s hard to imagine what life might be like in a place where something as simple as water is largely unavailable to you. It might seem like something you’d only read about in fiction novels, but the reality is that all of the countries in Africa face this problem to some extent on a daily basis. While there are plenty of plans and programs in the works to try to improve this situation, things aren’t changing very quickly. There’s no way to tell how long it will take before the people of Africa are able to live their lives without having to wonder where their next drink of water might come from or if it might make them deathly sick.

If this strikes a chord with you, you’re not the only one. Many people in developed countries find ways to help every year. Whether or not you have money to spare to donate to charities, there is something you can do to help make a difference. Don’t be afraid to get a little outside your comfort zone and find the right option for you. Every time you do even the smallest of actions to help the people of Africa, the water situation improves by that much. Think how much better it could be if more people decided to try to make a difference!


SOURCES: This article was originally published on All About Water Filters and curated for republication on the Bloomgist for BT e-magazine under open-source licensing with all credits to the original developer – All About Water Filters.

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.

_98448293_c7d5f937-4825-4295-be75-19e3925b5fd1

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

Nigerian University employing snake charmers to stop snake bites on Campus 

university in north-west Nigeria is hiring snake charmers to eradicate the danger of fatal snake bites on campus.

Zainab Umar, a final-year economics student at Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University in Katsina state, died last week after a snake bite.

The dean of student affairs, Suleiman Kankara, said charmers had been hired before after snake reports.

Snake charming is commonly practiced in south Asian countries but also in parts of Africa.

Against medical advice, Ms Umar was taken away by her friends and her brother from the university clinic where she had been receiving treatment, Mr Kankara added.

Snake charmers typically play a flute which the snake appears to respond to, often at close striking range.

Astonishingly, the snake seems reluctant to strike despite a flared hood in the case of cobras.

In Nigeria, snake charmers physically handle cobras with their bare hands in street performances and sometimes involve members of their audience.

It is common in the northern part of Nigeria as a form of street entertainment but also as a means of advertising the possession of “special powers, charms or medicines” which are sold to onlookers.

Muslim women wearing Hijabs or burqa will no longer be employed in Quebec 

Quebec’s lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that would require public workers and citizens seeking government services to have their faces uncovered.

Bill 62 would affect whether Muslim women could wear religious face covering such as a niqab or burqa on government jobs or when they receive government services.

The Liberal government’s bill on religious neutrality was passed in Quebec’s National Assembly. The bill needs the lieutenant-governor’s assent to become law in the province.

“We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face,” said Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec.

“We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that.”

Bill 62 was sponsored by Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, who said people’s faces should be uncovered for “communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.”

“As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered,” Vallée told the CBC on Monday.

The bill has its share of critics, including many Muslim groups that say it targets and stigmatizes Muslim women who wear face-concealing veils.

A niqab covers the woman’s face except for the area around the eyes. A burqa covers the entire face and has a mesh over the eyes.

Vallée said Bill 62 doesn’t specifically target religious symbols, as the law would also apply to masked protesters.

“We’re talking about having the face uncovered. It’s not what is covering the face,” she told the CBC.

The niqab and burka are not mentioned in the legislation, according to CBC. But the debate over the bill has turned to what would happen to Muslim women wearing a niqab or a burqa who ride on public transit.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims slammed the bill’s passage, saying it “boils down to ugly identity politics” before the provincial election next year.

“By tabling this discriminatory legislation, the Quebec government is advancing a dangerous political agenda on the backs of minorities,” the rights group’s executive director, Ihsaan Gardee, said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while the federal government does not interfere with provincial laws, the rights of all Canadians should be respected, the CBC reported.

France became the first European country to ban the full-face veil officially in 2010. Bans are also in place in Belgium and some parts of Switzerland, while other European countries have debated the issue.

In the United States, a Georgia legislator withdrew a bill last year that would have banned Muslim women from wearing burqas or veils while driving or when their driver’s license photos are taken.

Robert Mugabe dropped as WHO Goodwill Ambassador after outcry-statement

The Bloomgist — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been removed as a WHO goodwill ambassador, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday following an outrage among donors and rights groups at his appointment.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who made the appointment at a high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Uruguay on Wednesday, said in a statement that he had listened to those expressing concerns.

“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment,” Tedros said in a statement posted on his Twitter account @DrTedros.

Nigeria begins issuance of visa on arrival to all Africans

Nigeria has kicked off the issuance of visas upon arrival to all Africans, a decision described as a move towards Africa’s integration agenda.

It could be recalled that Nigerians in the other hands have faced challenges and hardships in other countries leading to killings of Nigerians or a mass deportation back to Nigeria. 

South Africa has been on the lips of Nigerians following the continued recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and their companies in the country. 

Ghana starts free secondary school education for all government Schools

Community fund raises for woman accused of killing daughter’s rapist

A new programme of free secondary school education has started in Ghana.

Ghana starts free secondary school education for all government Schools
President Nana Akufo-Addo, sworn-in in January, promised free secondary school education as part of his campaign

This was a key campaign promise of President Nana Akufo-Addo who was elected last year.

The 400,000 students entering secondary school this year will also receive free textbooks, meals and other benefits.

The aim is to reduce the number of children dropping out of school.

Primary school education is already free in Ghana.

A BBC correspondent in Ghana says there is concern about how the cash-strapped government will fund the programme and whether the increase in students will lead to a deterioration in the quality of education.