Sierra Leone Declares Seven-Day Mourning After Mudslide Tragedy

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Sierra Leone’s government has declared seven days of mourning for victims of Monday’s deadly flooding and mudslide tragedy.

The country’s national flag will fly at half-mast from today to Tuesday (Aug 16 – 22), the government said in a statement in which it also called for a minute of silence at midday on Wednesday in honour of the 300 people who died in the capital Freetown.

Read this from Commission Crowd

According to government figures, the death toll stands at 297 and includes 109 children, 83 women and 105 men. Information deputy minister Cornelius Deveaux said the figure is based on a body count at the city’s main morgue at Connaught hospital.

Aid agencies, assisting in search and rescue operations, put the death toll at over 300.

More than 500 people are still missing with thousands others left homeless after their houses were destroyed.

About 150 people were buried on Tuesday evening with government planning a mass burial on Thursday for those who will not have been identified and claimed by their families.

A prayer vigil at the National Stadium in Freetown will precede the burial.

President Ernest Bai Koroma with his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde Tuesday visited Regent, the worst-hit area.

Part of Mount Sugar Loaf, where Regent is located, collapsed Monday following torrential rains, submerging houses and sweeping away others, many of which were makeshift settlements.

The two leaders also visited the morgue at Connaught hospital which has been overwhelmed by bodies.

President Conde was in the country in show of solidarity with the Sierra Leoneans following one of the worst natural disaster to hit the capital.

Source : The East African

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South Sudan: Friendship Over Fear

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A civil war that has plagued South Sudan, the world’s newest country, over the past four years verges on ethnic genocide and has left half the prewar population in need of humanitarian aid. As the international community tries to help end the violence, the U.S. Institute of Peace brought two of the country’s promising young leaders—one from each side of the divide—to Washington to pursue research on ways to heal the rifts. By the end of their stay, they may have learned just as much from each other.Read more……

 

 

West Africa: Yaya Jammeh Has No Chance of Winning Ecowas in War

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With all his bad mouth and loud noise, Yaya Jammeh is least prepared for the war against ECOWAS forces. Should he refuse stepping down when his mandate expires on 19 January 2017 December electoral defeat here are simple facts at hand that suggest Yaya Jammeh does not have what it takes to win war on him:

By provision of Gambian constitution Yaya Jammeh assumes the title “Commander-In-Chief Gambia Armed Forces”. In reality, Yaya Jammeh is not trained to command even active scouts group let alone armed forces.

After 22 July 1994 coup that placed Jammeh in the seat of Gambian presidency by forced rule he has no interest about management of the army. Jammeh’s preoccupation is all about getting rich quick. Gambian army only exists by name with senior personnel being bribed to play in Jammeh’s interest. They enjoy the loot with him and pretend to be captains or generals by name.

2. Gambia does not have warring army

It is an open secret that Gambia does not have a warring army. Captains and generals acquired their colourful titles on the sofa chair and not at war front.

In the event of any serious war, many of those captains and generals will run for their life broad day light. They are not prepared for war and their commander-in chief (Yaya Jammeh) has never commanded even basic military exercise. He spent over 22 years stealing Gambian public money and squandering resources.

3. Untested, rusted weapons in the hands of untrusted soldiers

Over the 22 years of his dictatorial misrule Yaya Jammeh also engaged in drug dealings, arms trade and money laundering. He bought some weapons stored at various locations. Some of these weapons have not been tested and for the longest time collecting dust. There is no doubt lot of Jammeh’s weapons have gone rusted.

Besides, Jammeh was all the scared to arm Gambian soldiers just in case they may decide to dislodge him by coup. So we are thinking about an army with rusted weapons. They are not trained to use those weapons. Jammeh stored weapons as cover up but never seriously prepared for real war. He is unfit and unprepared for war.

4. Jammeh is unable to manage crisis

He seized by dislodging an established government. Jammeh however is so deficient in managing anything good. By occasion of his total incompetence, Jammeh mismanaged entire government. He broke down all structures, deviated standards, and created total lack of orderly dispensation.

If we have to go by experience of Yaya Jammeh regarding management he is total failure. Someone who is unable to manage orderly process is most certainly at risk of failure in managing crisis. When Jammeh invites ECOWAS for war by his refusal to step down, he will be seriously defeated. He cannot manage crisis and has nobody around him prepared for what real war entails.

5. Putting his supporters in trouble, shame and scandal

Supporters of Yaya Jammeh are put to shame and trouble. In the event of war Jammeh is unable to create safety for his already petrified, hopeless supporters. The whole nation will be facing same terrible situation. It is big shame, scandalous, and highly troubling that a man who bragged about his commitment in advancing Gambia is now bent on bringing war as reward for those who believed in his loud mouth rantings.

When Jammeh manages to escape after war starts or even before, he will leave his supporters with tongue biting regrets. None of his past and present generals or retired ranks of Gambia army will stand the heat. They all want good life and will avoid getting killed.

In the end, ECOWAS forces will prevail, giving Gambians lasting confidence that their tormenting dictator Yaya Jammeh is no more. Jammeh lost elections he will never recover. Gambia has population of over 2 million out of which better choice can be made for suitable leadership. Jammeh is seen to be so deluded by his imagination that right thinking Gambians will accept his return as ruthless tyrant and selfishly grabbing economic criminal. He is calling for war most certainly too heavy to keep him in that seat.

GAMBIA DECIDED.

Game over for Yaya Jammeh along his gang of economic criminals and ruthless murderers. There is end of tyranny. Beyond dark days lasting 22 years is now light for better times in Gambia.

Source : Ghana Star

Africa: IFJ Condemns Closure of Three Radio Stations

Press Release

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the closure of three independent radio stations in the Gambia.

According to the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Taranga FM, Hill Top FM, and Afri Radio were closed down on Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd December by the National Intelligence Agency NIA without explanation.

Media reports claim the NIA agents ordered the members of staff of the privately owned Taranga FM to stop transmission.

“Four NIA agents and a uniformed policeman came to the radio this afternoon (Sunday) around 2:30 pm (local and GMT) and told us to stop broadcasting,” Taranga FM staff told AFP on condition of anonymity. Local media sources also reported that Hill Top FM was closed down later the same afternoon.

Taranga FM is said to be critical of the Jammeh administration and is a popular radio station in The Gambia for its daily translation into national languages of the news published by the Gambian newspapers. Since its inception, it has been closed several times and has often been reopened conditionally as in 2011, when it was allowed to resume its activities but prohibited from addressing the subjects raised by the private press. Its journalists were also sometimes summoned to the NIA, arrested or tried.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We condemn these closures and the attack on freedom of information this represents. The rights of all media workers in The Gambia must be fully respected and the stations allowed to broadcast without unlawful interference”.

The move is part of a renewed crackdown on independent media in The Gambia. Prior to December elections, freelance journalist Alagi Manka and journalist Yunus Salieu of the Daily Observer were arrested and detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul. The director of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Mr Momodou Sabally was also sacked on 8 November, was detained and has faced a trial. GRTS journalist Bakary Fatty was also arrested.

Source : International Federation of Journalists

Sierra Leone: President Koroma Turns Sod for the Construction of 3 Ultra-Modern Hospitals

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As part of government’s health sector reform, President Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday November 2, 2016 turned the sod for the construction of three ultra-modern tertiary hospitals in the Western Area, including Waterloo, Lumley and Bambara Town respectively.

The project is funded by the Kuwaiti Government in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, President Koroma told the three communities that development is a gradual process that does not happen overnight. He said it took considerable time for countries today referred to as developed countries to reach that height. Programmes like this, the president emphasized, have not been unusual to his government.

“We had been doing things like this when Ebola struck and brought everything to a standstill,” he told the cheering communities, reminding them that November 7th will mark one year since it was declared Ebola free. The Ebola consequences and effects are still ranging but as a caring government President Koroma said “we shall continue to provide you the services as that was the mandate you gave to us.” He said service delivery is paramount to his government and hence the introduction of the Free Healthcare system which resulted to saving many lives in the country.

To show that his government is people-centred and remains committed, the Head of State highlighted among other things, the achievements of his government which included the provision of electricity supply, road construction, water supply, maintenance of peace and stability as well as the introduction of the Free Healthcare initiative over the past eight years. With conviction, he said, the All People’s Congress (APC) among other political organizations only has the boldness to move this country forward, and come the next ten years the party will continue to do more until Sierra Leone reaches the apex of development.

Briefly talking on the country’s economic situation, the president called on all to remain resilient and be confident that very shortly things would turn around. He said the economic hardship is not just about Sierra Leone, it is affecting the world over and it is not by anybody’s making. Ours, he said, was caused by the twin shocks of the Ebola outbreak and the considerable fall in iron ore prices. But with all this, he remarked, Sierra Leone was considered one of the best in the sub-region and even in the world for its development strides.

After demonstrating the designs of the ultra-modern hospitals in the three communities – Macauley Street, Lumley and Waterloo by IDEAS Limited architects, the Chief Executive called on the community people to provide effective coordination and monitoring mechanisms to avoid stealing of materials meant for the project. He noted that with proper monitoring, the 100 beds hospitals for Waterloo, 60 beds for Macauley Street and 85 beds for Lumley will last to serve generations yet unborn.

Source : Government of Sierra Leone

Cote d’Ivoire: Authorities Must Stop Arbitrary Arrests and ‘Mobile Detention’ Of Opposition Supporters Ahead of Referendum

Press release

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 Authorities in Côte d’Ivoire must stop targeting opposition members by curtailing their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said ahead of Sunday’s referendum on constitutional changes.

On 20 October, at least 50 opposition members were arbitrarily arrested at a peaceful protest and detained for hours in moving police vehicles. Some of them were dropped in several places in the main city Abidjan, others around 100 km away from their homes and forced to walk back in a practice known as “mobile detention”.

“This form of inhumane treatment is at odds with international and regional human rights law and standards. Whether people campaign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the referendum, everyone, including opposition members, has the right to peacefully express their opinion and to have their dignity respected at all times. Members of the security forces responsible for this must be identified and held to account,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.

“Côte d’Ivoire needs to focus on creating a safe and enabling environment in which all voices can be heard. By unduly restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of mainly opposition members and other dissenting voices, the authorities are failing to be on the right track.”

On 20 October, as anti-referendum protesters started to gather, police fired tear gas, clubbed the leaders and arrested at least 50 people.

An opposition leader who escaped to the arrest told Amnesty International:

“Security forces seized the cell phones of those arrested and loaded them in police vehicles that have circulated for hours throughout the city and outside Abidjan. After hours, they told them they were released but clearly indicated that since they wanted to protest they only had to walk all the way from there to the city. They called the practice ‘mobile detention’.”

Amnesty International urges the authorities to stop this practice of arbitrary detention and calls on them to ensure that opposition members can freely express their views.

Those who are still in detention solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights, must be released, including Tahouri Wase Marius, who was arrested after the 20 October protest and charged with disturbing public order. His trial is due to begin on 28 October, according to his lawyer.

The former President of the National Assembly, Mamadou Koulibali, has been arrested twice since referendum campaigns began on 22 October before being released.

Amnesty International has noted a worrying pattern of arbitrary arrest and detention of opposition members during peaceful protests or gatherings.

During last year’s presidential election period, more than 50 opposition supporters were arrested and detained solely for their political beliefs and for peacefully expressing their views. They were released after months in detention.

Amnesty International delegates, including Alioune Tine Regional Director for West and Central Africa, met the Ivorian Human Rights Minister in February to raise concerns, including on the detention of prisoners of conscience, secret detention places and selective justice. The Minister requested 100 days to consider Amnesty International’s recommendations.

However, the government has failed to take any action, despite receiving a follow-up letter from the organization in April. Meanwhile arrests of opposition groups still continue.

 Source : Amnesty International

Nigeria: Officials Abusing Displaced Women, Girls

Press release

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Abuja — Government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram. The government is not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls and ensure that they have access to basic rights and services or to sanction the abusers, who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers.

In late July, 2016, Human Rights Watch documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa. In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camps.

“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

Four of the victims told Human Rights Watch that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance. Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatization from other camp residents. Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri.

A situational assessment of IDPs in the northeast in July 2016 by NOI Polls, a Nigerian research organization, reported that 66 percent of 400 displaced people in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states said that camp officials sexually abuse the displaced women and girls.

Women and girls abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups – civilian self-defense groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – told Human Rights Watch they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse. A 17-year-old girl said that just over a year after she fled the frequent Boko Haram attacks in Dikwa, a town 56 miles west of Maiduguri, a policeman approached her for “friendship” in the camp, and then he raped her.

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

The Boko Haram conflict has led to more than 10,000 civilian deaths since 2009; the abductions of at least 2,000 people, mostly women and children and large groups of students, including from Chibok and Damasak; the forced recruitment of hundreds of men; and the displacement of about 2.5 million people in northeast Nigeria.

Irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials, along with restricted movement in the IDP camps in Maiduguri, compounds the vulnerability of victims – many of them widowed women and unaccompanied orphaned girls – to rape and sexual exploitation by camp officials, soldiers, police, members of civilian vigilante groups, and other Maiduguri residents. Residents of the Arabic Teachers Village camp, Pompomari, told Human Rights Watch in July that the camp had not received any food or medicines since late May, just before the start of the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan.

Restricted movement in the camps is contrary to Principle 14.2 of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provides that internally displaced people have “the right to move freely in and out of camps and other settlements.”

In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women. A woman in a Dalori camp said residents get only one meal a day. She said she accepted the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help in feeding her four children. He disappeared five months later when she told him she was pregnant.

Victims of rape and sexual exploitation may be less likely to seek health care, including psychological counselling, due to the shame they feel. Fewer than five of the 43 women and girls interviewed said they had received any formal counseling after they were raped or sexually exploited. A medical health worker in one of the camps, which has 10,000 residents, said that the number of people requiring treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections has risen sharply, from about 200 cases when the camp clinic was established in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016. The health worker said she believed that many more women could be infected but were ashamed to go to the clinic, and are likely to be suffering in silence without treatment.

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has direct responsibility for distributing aid, including food, medicine, clothes, and bedding, as well as managing the camps. Its national counterpart, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), supplies raw food and other materials for internally displaced people to the state agency under a memorandum of understanding.

Aid workers have warned since early 2016 that displaced women have been forced to exchange sex for basic necessities and that various elements, including members of the security forces in northeast Nigeria, have been subjecting some of them to sexual and gender-based violence. A Rapid Protection Assessment Report published in May by the Borno State Protection Sector Working Group, made up of national and international aid providers, identified sexual exploitation, rape, and other sexual abuse as major concerns in nearly all 13 camps and several local communities hosting displaced people in and around Maiduguri.

Following his visit to Nigeria in August, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, said Nigeria’s government had “a tendency to downplay the problem of sexual violence and abuse” of internally displaced people. He expressed concern that this tendency “constitutes a hidden crisis of abuse with fear, stigma and cultural factors as well as impunity for perpetrators leading to under-reporting of abuse to the relevant authorities.”

Human Rights Watch wrote to several Nigerian authorities in August requesting comment on the research findings. The minister of women affairs and social development, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, promised in a meeting with Human Rights Watch on September 5 to investigate the allegations and then respond. Her response has not yet been received at time of writing.

“Failure to respond to these widely reported abuses amounts to severe negligence or worse by Nigerian authorities,” Segun said. “Authorities should provide adequate aid in the camps, ensure freedom of movement for all displaced people, safe and confidential health care for survivors, and punish the abusers.”

Victims’ Accounts

Movement Restrictions, Food Shortages Fuel Sexual Abuse

Most of the victims interviewed lived in camps for displaced people. While victims living at the Arabic Teachers’ Village camp said they were allowed to leave the camp for about eight hours daily, victims from other camps said that their movement was severely restricted. The women and girls became victims of rape and sexual exploitation when they accepted offers of friendship or marriage from men in positions of authority.

Rape

A 16-year-old girl who fled a brutal Boko Haram attack on Baga, near the shores of Lake Chad, northern Borno in January 2015, said she was drugged and raped in May 2015 by a vigilante group member in charge of distributing aid in the camp:

He knew my parents were dead, because he is also from Baga. He would bring me food items like rice and spaghetti so I believed he really wanted to marry me. But he was also asking me for sex. I always told him I was too small [young]. The day he raped me, he offered me a drink in a cup. As soon as I drank it, I slept off. It was in his camp room.

I knew something was wrong when I woke up. I was in pain, and blood was coming out of my private part. I felt weak and could not walk well. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid. When my menstrual period did not come, I knew I was pregnant and just wanted to die to join my dead mother. I was too ashamed to even go to the clinic for pregnancy care. I am so young! The man ran away from the camp when he heard I delivered a baby six months ago. I just feel sorry for the baby because I have no food or love to give him. I think he might die.

An 18-year-old girl from Kukawa, a Borno town 112 miles from Maiduguri, the state capital, said that a member of Civilian Joint Task Force – a self-defense vigilante group working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – initially gave her privileges, including passes that allowed her to leave the camp, but then raped her:

The man started with preaching, telling me to be a good Muslim girl and not to join bad groups in the camp. He then sent his mother to propose to me, which convinced me that he was serious. He allowed me to go outside the camp when necessary. When he asked me to visit his newly allocated room in the camp, I didn’t see any reason not to go because I felt safe with him. He gave me a bottle of Zobo [locally brewed non-alcoholic drink] and I immediately felt dizzy and slept off. I don’t know what happened thereafter but when I woke up he was gone and I was in pain and felt wet between my legs. For three days I could not walk properly.

Some weeks later I fell very ill, and was told at the hospital that I was pregnant. Then everyone turned away from me: [He] refused to help me, and my step-mother who I lived with in camp pushed me out, saying I was a disgrace. I reported [him] to the police in camp several times but they have not done anything to him because they work together. Whenever I see him, I wish something terrible will happen to him. It is because of him that I have lost everything. I don’t even think the baby will last because she is always crying and I can’t cope. I pray that God will forgive me for neglecting the baby but I am helpless.

Sexual Exploitation

A 30-year-old woman from Walassa, near Bama, about 43 miles west of Maiduguri, said that she fled into a nearby wooded area after Boko Haram fighters killed her husband and abducted her daughters, ages 12 and 9. She stayed there for three months, hoping to find a way to rescue her daughters, until Nigerian government soldiers arrived in the area and the fighters escaped with their captives:

A few weeks after soldiers transported us to the camp, near Maiduguri, one of the soldiers guarding us approached me for marriage. He used to bring food and clothes for me and my remaining four children, so I allowed him to have sex with me. He is a Hausa man from Gwoza. That is all I know about him. Two months later he just stopped coming. Then I realized I was pregnant. I feel so angry with him for deceiving me. When he was pretending to woo me he used to provide for me, but as soon as I agreed and we began having sex, his gifts began to reduce until he abandoned me. Now my situation is worse as the pregnancy makes me sick, and I have no one to help me care for my children.

A woman from Bama living at the same camp said:

The soldier showed his interest by bringing me food and clothes. He used to wear the green army uniform and carried a gun. I accepted him because I needed help to take care of me and my four children. Feeding in the camp is only once a day so you have to accept any help that comes. We started having sex in my camp tent – my sister who was sharing it with me left – or at night in the open field where soldiers stay in the camp. Five months later when I realized I was pregnant and told him, he stopped coming. I have not seen him since then. I feel so ashamed because my neighbors talk and stare at me. I cry whenever I think about him. I delivered the baby two months ago but he is also suffering – I eat once a day so [am] not producing enough milk to breast feed him well. Things are so bad in the camp, there is not enough water or food.

An 18-year old girl from Baga said when she met a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the camp, she felt she could trust him because he is also from Baga:

He took me from the camp to a house on Baga Road so we could meet freely. I stayed with him in that house for about one month. Then I fell ill, and went to a clinic. The people at the clinic asked for the person I was living with, and invited him. That was when they told him I was pregnant, and he accepted the pregnancy. But immediately [when] we came out of the clinic he took me to a man to abort the pregnancy. I refused and he said if I would not abort we should separate. Then I moved to the camp. I gave birth almost a year ago but the man has refused to take responsibility. Some months ago he followed the military to catch Boko Haram far from Maiduguri. Even when he visits his two wives in the camp he never asks for me and my baby. I go outside the camp to beg so that we can survive.

A 25-year-old woman at from Dikwa said that when she fled Boko Haram’s attack on the town, she lived with her brother in a rented apartment in Maiduguri. When he was no longer able to feed her and her three children, he took her to the camp where he handed her over to camp elders. One of these elders, a local government employee – who are often financially better off than most displaced people because they receive salaries – proposed marriage and regularly brought her food and money. But the marriage did not materialize, and he began to shun her when she became pregnant. He continued to ignore her when she delivered twins and asked him for money to pay for her midwife. The woman said:

If I have a gun, I will shoot him. It is because of him that people call me and my babies names. I am so ashamed that I cannot participate in camp activities and keep to myself because of the jeers.

A 17-year-old girl said that a young man she knew took her home to his grandmother when she arrived Maiduguri from Dikwa in mid-2014:

He told me he wanted to marry me, and his grandmother referred to me as her grandson’s wife. I lived with them, cooking and cleaning the house, until a month later when he disappeared for weeks. The grandmother asked me to leave, promising to come to the wedding… It was a lie. I did not know it but I was already pregnant. Maybe she already saw the pregnancy signs and I was too young to understand. I heard the grandson fled the town because he heard I have given birth. Now I have been left alone to fend for the baby. I don’t know if any other member of my family survived the Boko Haram attack on Dikwa.

Restricted Movement

A 32-year-old woman from the Damasak said:

Life is terrible here in this camp. For the past three days we have not eaten because there is no firewood to cook the food. To make it worse, they will not even allow us to go out to fend for ourselves. Most times you have to beg the camp officials to intervene with the guards before they will give you the pass to go out. Why will you refuse if any of those people ask you for marriage? You have to survive.

Another camp resident, a 47-year-old mother of eight from Abadam, a northern Borno town, said:

We used to get food at least twice a day when I first arrived at the camp in 2014. But now, sometimes we get nothing at all. We can’t even buy food ourselves because they will not let us go out. My relatives in the town have to plead with camp officials for hours before the officials will agree to let them give us some money or foodstuff from the little they have.

A 20-year-old widowed mother of one at a camp for displaced people said:

I have been refusing marriage proposals from the men in camp because I see how they are deceiving others. I am just not sure how long I can remain in this situation. The last time I ate was four days ago when the one cup of maize I was given finished. I am suffering because I have no husband or anyone else to assist me.

A 16-year-old single mother of one in the same camp said:

Life is difficult in the camp, hardly enough to eat. There is food but whoever gets it, gets it. We are not allowed to go out to find work or get extra food. Sometimes I go to the kitchen to scrape pots to get something to eat. They distribute tickets, some get tickets and some don’t get. If you don’t get a ticket you get no food. The IDP elders distribute the tickets, so they distribute amongst themselves, they make sure their families get first. Usually distribution of tickets take place at odd times such as at midnight.

If you are not married, you hardly get anything that comes in. Women who have husbands insult us: “If you want to eat in [this camp], you should get married in [the camp] so husbands can get food for you.”

Military Screening Centers

Displaced women from several communities re-captured from Boko Haram by the Nigerian army, including Baga, Bama, and Gwoza, told Human Rights Watch in Maiduguri that the Nigerian military operated screening centers where they interrogated local people to determine how much involvement they had with militants. While some women are screened in a few days, others are interrogated daily for months before being released to a camp. Witnesses said the interviewees were separated by gender, but that male soldiers interrogated everyone.

A woman who escaped her Boko Haram abductors in Sambisa with her three children while four months pregnant described their reception after an eight-hour trek back to her home town of Bama, then under government control:

Soldiers were already back in Bama when we arrived. They took us to a primary healthcare center near the entrance into Bama to search and question us. We thought they would soon let us go, but they locked us with other women (about 20 people) for more than three months. They bring us out one by one every day to ask whether we joined Boko Haram freely or they forced us. Many of us were naked or in rags until about one month later soldiers took us to town to search for clothes among the burnt ruins of houses in the town. I was very ill because of the pregnancy. After the third month passed they drove us in lorries to Maiduguri, and dropped off sick ones like me in the hospital.

A 20-year-old woman who was abducted in Gwoza by Boko Haram, and then escaped, said:

I was three months pregnant from the Boko Haram fighter that raped me when I escaped Gwoza with my three children. Our relief on arriving at Maiduguri after a two-day trek was crushed when soldiers arrested us. They took us to Giwa barracks, where we saw up to 300 other women and children. Soldiers used to question us every day until my children and I were released four months later.

There appears to be at least one other screening center around Maiduguri, Human Rights Watch found. A 17-year-old girl from Dikwa was held in a place she described as “a compound with about five buildings just before you enter Maiduguri proper.” She was allowed to receive visitors for the month she was there before being cleared by the military to enter Maiduguri.

Lack of Mental Health Support for Victims

Many of the women and girls interviewed said that their experiences affected their psychological well-being. Some said they had difficulty sleeping, and deliberately isolated themselves to avoid insults and slurs. Many also said they felt constantly angry with their abusers, wishing they could harm them in retaliation. None said they had professional counselling.

A 30-year-old woman from Gwoza said:

I feel sad all the time. I am always thinking about all the bad things that have happened to me. Sometimes I cry; at other times I try to resign to my fate. But it is hard. My neighbors in the camp encourage me to pray. That is all I can do, pray.

A 16-year-old rape survivor said she was always thinking about death, and wished she had the courage to kill herself:

Nobody comes to this camp to talk to us. We IDPs only have one another, but even that is hard because you do not know who to trust. If you tell them your secret pain or shame, they can use it to mock you later.

A 28-year-old woman who survived rape and became pregnant by a Boko Haram insurgent said she developed hypertension from constantly thinking about her ordeal and imagining ways she could take revenge on him. Doctors have told her during hospital visits outside the camp to stop thinking about the past so she can get better. She was not referred to a counselor.

Source : Human Rights Watch

Govt. Has A Duty To Provide Free Education-Prof. Sekoni

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A university Lecturer  says  that it is the duty of Government to provide compulsory and free education at all levels.

This is the assertion of Prof. Ropo Sekoni, who delivered a lecture with theme ”The South West and the challenges of Change in Nigeria”, at the All Progressives Congress, South West conference in Ibadan, Nigeria.

”Our education is in trouble. In a democratic government, it is not the responsibility of government to establish elitist schools. The responsibility of government is to  provide compulsory and free Primary and Secondary  education. We have more Okada riders in this region. Our competitiveness has been radically and severely reduced. If we are not careful, we will be celebrating the glory of yester- years. This is some thing that should worry our leaders.

The position of the Professor was adopted by  the APC in its communique issued and read at the end of the conference by Dr. Ademodi, as it also declared that Primary and Secondary education must be made compulsory and free in the South West Geo-Political zone.

However, in Oyo state, pupils and students of public schools in the state now pay N1,000 as fees per term, this is side by side the state government’s resolve to introduce Public  Private Partnership in the education sector.

Ghana: Corruption Is in the DNA of Ghanaians – IEA Survey

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A survey conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has revealed that Ghanaians do not think corruption could be eradicated in the country and that the canker has become part and parcel of the Ghanaian society.

The survey, which sampled 1500 people from all parts of the country, quoted 24% of them as saying that corruption is like DNA in the blood of Ghanaians.

At a forum to discuss the findings in Accra yesterday, Joseph Atsu-Ayee, Professor/Adjunct Senior Fellow at IEA said of the 1500 respondents, 60% and 40% were females and males respectively.

In the report, about 44% respondents said corruption could be reduced to a limited degree. About 19% argued that it could be substantially reduced, while 4.7% believed it could be eradicated completely.

Professor Atsu noted that, corruption attracts attention because of its debilitating and corrosive effects on politics, governance, economy, society and security. According to him, effort to bury corruption has not been successful because of how people understand the root cause of corruption.

“Strategies to curb corruption have failed, because we have misunderstood the roots of corruption. Understanding the root causes of corruption is key in dealing with corruption,” he remarked.

He further noted that, the problem with Ghana had to do with the individual, citing that “Ghanaians are acquisitive and materialistic. If you want to live good, work for it.”

His comment follows argument by some of the respondents that the corruption in the system was as a result of low salaries paid workers in the country. But the Professor debunked that assertion, saying “if you increase the salaries they will still be corrupt.”

Ironically, the police are alleged to be the most corrupt institution in the country, but the survey revealed that Ghanaians still have confidence in them. According to the report, 87% of the respondents stated that they would report any case of corruption to the police before any other person or institution.

The survey, which was conducted amongst Ghanaians aged 18 and above indicated that 52% of the respondents got their information on corruption from the media. However, 35% of the respondents, between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would give bribe to make sure they got what they wanted.

At the same programme, Former Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Justice Emile Short, who was the chairman for the event, said corruption, seemed to have lost it stigmatization.

He said living good and living in poverty does not create room for corruption. “The poor can survive without corruption. Those surviving are rather those engaged in serious corruption,” he noted.

He, therefore, kicked against the limitation of corruption to only bribery and that must also it includes embezzlement and others.

“Corruption arises when the systems are weak. So to fight corruption, there should be a robust system where leaders are able to work in the interest of the country,” he opined.

Source : Ghanaian Chronicle

Cote d’Ivoire: Taking Shea From Cottage Industry to Big Business

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Khorhogo — From cosmetics to cooking, shea butter is popular around the world. It is made from the nut of the shea tree, known as “women’s gold” in Africa for it provides income to millions of women across the Sahel. In northern Ivory Coast, women are trying to transform shea butter from a cottage industry into big business.

It’s harvest season for karité, or shea, in northern Ivory Coast, and just like every year, Alice Koné picks up the fallen fruit. She processes the kernels in the traditional way her grandmother taught her.

It will take her hours of hard work to make the shea butter that will then be sold at the local market.

“Sometimes, shea butter pays well and we don’t need anything else. But when the harvest isn’t good, we have to get by with other products,” said Koné.

Like Koné, most women in the shea industry in Ivory Coast work independently and sell locally.

But shea butter is in high demand internationally for use in cosmetics or as a substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate.

Neighboring Burkina Faso and Ghana are among the world’s leading exporters. Burkina Faso earns an estimated $33 million annually exporting shea.

Ivory Coast is trying to catch up.

In one village, women have teamed up in a shea co-op.

“When you work in group, there are a lot of ideas, and also financial backers can come help us. We have received some assistance, a funding capital, they built us a warehouse. If you work alone, people can’t help you. They can’t build a warehouse for every woman,” said Ahoua Coulibaly, a shea butter producer.

In some fields in the area a new kind of shea tree is also being planted.  This kind is more productive than the traditional wild type. And the country now has two mechanical processing units. Two years ago, the government began working to structure the shea sector, an effort spearheaded by Ali Keita.

“As soon as we have a strong cooperative structure, we will have clients in China, Europe and the United States. If we manage to create an inter-professional organization, it will allow the country to export shea butter internationally,” said Keita.

Keita is also pushing for more regional cooperation among shea butter-producing countries.

Source : VOA