Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guinea massacre toll put at 157

At least 157 people were killed when Guinean troops opened fire on opposition protesters on Monday, a human rights group says.

But the country's interior ministry has told the BBC that a total of 57 people have died in the protests.
Human rights groups say they have had reports of soldiers bayoneting people and women being stripped and raped in the streets during the protest.

Junta head Capt Moussa Dadis Camara denied knowledge of sexual assaults.

But he admitted that some of his security forces had lost control.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France was suspending military ties with Guinea after the "savage and bloody" crackdown on opposition protesters, French news agency AFP reported.

Out of control

About 50,000 people were protesting over rumours that Capt Camara intends to run for president in an election scheduled for next January.

But soldiers moved in to quell the rally using tear gas and baton charges and firing live ammunition into the crowds.

The Guinean Organisation for Defence of Human Rights put the toll at 157 people killed and more than 1,200 wounded.
But the interior ministry told the BBC that a total of 57 people died during the violence.

The ministry source admitted that some soldiers had fired live rounds into the crowd, but said that only four people had died from gunshot wounds. The others, the ministry said, were trampled to death.

The opposition has accused the army of taking away some bodies to hide the scale of the violence.

Human rights groups said there were widespread reports of rape.

"The military is going into districts, looting goods and raping women," Mamadi Kaba, the head of the Guinean branch of the African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO), told AFP.

"We have similar reports from several sources, including police sources and some close to the military," said Mr Kaba, from his office in Dakar, Senegal.

An eyewitness told Human Rights Watch: "I saw several women stripped and then put inside the military trucks and taken away. I don't know what happened to them."

"They were raping women publicly," opposition activist Mouctar Diallon said in an interview with French radio station RFI.

Guinean human rights activist Souleymane Bah told Reuters news agency that people trying to escape from the shooting were "caught and finished off with bayonets".
A doctor at a government hospital in Conakry said his wards looked like "a butchery".

Threat of sanctions

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah, in Conakry, says Capt Camara acknowledged that "uncontrollable soldiers" were responsible.
He told local radio stations that it was difficult to control the soldiers when there was tension in the country. The military strongman also said he was "immensely saddened" by the deaths.

Opposition leader Sidya Toure, who was arrested during the protests, told our correspondent that after his release he had returned home to find his home completely looted.

Mr Toure said he had witnessed women being sexually attacked with gun butts and added: "I don't know whether I'm on earth or in hell".

There has been worldwide condemnation of the violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Guinean authorities to exercise maximum restraint, while the West African regional body Ecowas is reported to be pursuing sanctions against the military regime.

The African Union has now expressed grave concern over the latest violence, condemning the "indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians".

According to Africa analyst Paul Melly, the AU declared sanctions against the leading figures of the regime earlier this month in an attempt to dissuade Capt Camara running for president.

He said following the military's capture of power after the death of long-time ruler Lansana Conte, it was hoped Guinea's human rights record would improve.

"We were already getting signs that this wouldn't in fact happen, but now we've seen a repetition of the army's traditional resort to violence when facing protest," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The military takeover initially had some popular support, but in recent weeks there have been several anti-government protests.

Guinean officials and former aides of Capt Camara have been accused of corruption and links to the drugs trade, including the son of former President Lansana Conte, who was shown confessing on TV to smuggling cocaine.

Guinea expert Gilles Yabi told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the rally was "only the beginning" of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that can be expected in the next few months.

Should Capt Camara stand for president, he said, it would be a violation of the tacit agreement between military and civil forces which has kept him in power.

And it would mark a perpetuation of the kind of rule that Guinea has seen for the past decade - which the military had promised to sweep away.

Source BBC Africa

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

UGANDA/ Bride Price: You Feel You Are Family Property

KAMPALA, Sep 28 (IPS) - John Owor is a paid spokesperson for brides and grooms. His job is to represent one of the parties during traditional marriage negotiations, which involves the payment of a bride price.

In Uganda bride price is traditionally the money given as a token of appreciation by grooms to the families of their brides.

It is a controversial practice that saw earlier this month women’s rights activists petitioning the Ugandan Constitutional Court to declare this old traditional practice unconstitutional.
Owor has been in this business for 15 years, and has joined others in the trade to form an association of about 200 men in Kampala alone, who work as negotiators for either the bride or groom.

He admits that negotiating on behalf of the groom is particularly challenging, as you may end up being blamed for giving in to the demands of the bride's family too easily.

During the ritualised negotiations the family of the bride presents the groom's side with a list of how many cows and/or other material or monetary considerations they would find acceptable before allowing their daughter to take the groom’s hand in marriage.

"Some families are inconsiderate, and will ask for many things ranging from Friesian cows to a car or sofa sets etc. And as spokesperson you are supposed to negotiate a fair deal for your side," says Owor.

He says because of transport difficulties and the unavailability of animals in some areas, some families will opt for a cash bride price running into millions of Uganda shillings. (One dollar is approximately 1,900 Uganda shillings.)

According to customary match-making, a man who wishes to marry a woman lets it be known. He then gets a delegation of about ten men to go to the woman's home, where a delegation of men from the her side awaits them.

The speaker of the delegation from the man's side introduces himself, and makes clear the intention of their visit. The two sides then begin negotiating.

The speaker from the woman's side makes known the number of cows, goats and money they consider "worth" their daughter and the speaker from the man's side tells what they are willing to pay.

The process of "please reduce", "no, you must increase" continues, as if both parties are in a commercial or political negotiation.

In the traditional marriage preliminaries the groom is not supposed to speak during the ceremony, and this has made the job of a paid spokesperson crucial to ensure the groom pays less, just as the spokesperson on the bride’s side tries to ensure they get as much as possible.

Keturah Kamugasha, editor of Bride and Groom magazine, says the bride's family gain pride and prestige when their daughter fetches a substantial dowry, but often the bride feels the practice is dehumanising.

"There are always two ceremonies, like among the Banyankole ethnic group in western Uganda. Kuhingira (the give-away), as they call it, used to be enough, but today there is a church marriage that day or later."

Miria Matembe, a women's rights activist and former Ugandan Minister for Ethics and Integrity, told IPS the bride price should be discarded immediately, as it turned women into property.

"It's degrading, and intended to entrench men’s dominance over women. Insecure men think their selfish interests are safeguarded when the bride price is paid," says Matembe.

Rebecca Mudoi was working as a nurse in the Mukono district of Uganda until she got married. Her husband stopped her from working, and sent her to their village in Tororo, eastern Uganda, where she had to till the land and look after their children.

In later years her husband, who was working in Kampala, came home less frequently. At first he did not return to his rural home for three months, then a year, and eventually several years.
"I felt my future had been ruined by the marriage. I was tortured psychologically," Mudoi says.
and went for an HIV test in the Tororo government hospital, which turned out positive. Today, she is a member of the Aids Support Organisation branch in Tororo.

Speaking to IPS in Kampala on the issue of bride price, Mudoi traced her fate to the cows her husband paid to marry her and take her away from her family. "I had no way of refusing. I had no power to decide for myself," she says.

"If there had been no bride price, I wouldn't have gone to the village."

Atuki Turner, executive director of the Mifumi Development Association, which petitioned the court to declare the bride price unconstitutional, says across Africa women suffer health hazards because of the practice.

She said that a man who has paid believes he has the right to sex with his wife, even if he has a mistress, and the wife fears this might put her at risk of contracting HIV.
She can neither refuse to have sex with him nor ask him to use a condom. Nor can she refuse if he wishes to take a second wife, even if she is aware that if her husband has intercourse with another woman, while continuing a sexual relationship with her, increases the risk of HIV.

"Bride price renders the notion that a man has purchased a wife, including her sexual consent, labour and obedience," Turner said.

In a traditional setting the delegation from the man's side cannot be given food until both sides have agreed on how much is to be paid.

If the man is not able to pay all that is required, he will not be allowed to marry the woman.

Hope Turyasingura of the Domestic Violence Prevention Center says this has caused financial trouble for many newly married couples because it results in the prospective groom borrowing money until he has enough to pay the full price.

"By the time the two get married the man finds himself in poverty, his life devoted to paying off debt. He becomes frustrated and resorts to beating or mistreating the wife, saying that after all, she is the cause of their misery," says Turyasingura.

When arguing the case before the Ugandan Constitutional Court, Turner had said that demand for payment of a bride price gave rise to conditions of inequality during marriage.
It was an argument dismissed by the state.

"In all marriages, be it Christian, Muslim or even at the registrars’ office, there is a cost incurred and the issue of price cannot arise," the state argued. Judgment is yet to be heard.

Source: IPS News

ZIMBABWE: Virgins Forced into Marriage to ‘Appease’ Evil Spirits

By Nyarai Kachere

MUTARE, Zimbabwe, Sep 29 (IPS) - Three years after being seized from their families and forced to marry and have sex with adult men in a Shona ritual to appease an avenging spirit, five teenagers are facing a dismal reality.
The girls from Honde Valley in Manicaland had to drop out of school, become under-age wives and mothers and live an impoverished life as vegetable vendors to contribute to their new families’ household income.

In 1999, Felicitas Nyakama, Nesta Maromo, Juliet Muranganwa, Precious Maboreke and Perseverance Ndarangwa, who were then between the ages of seven and 15, were handed over by their parents to the family of Gibson Kupemba as payment for the man’s murder. The girls' relatives killed Kupemba to prepare muti, traditional medicine, which is sometimes made from body parts.

According to traditional belief, a murderer's relatives need to appease a dead person’s spirit with virgin girls, sometimes as young as six years old. The virgin has to live with the murdered person’s family, no matter her age. When she reaches puberty, she is made the wife of one of the male members of her new family.

Kupemba's grandson Gibson (junior) said his grandfather appeared to him in his sleep, demanding a virgin girl as compensation from each family involved in his murder. He insists the girls were not forced to offer themselves, but it was their personal choice to rescue their families from an evil spirit.

"They came here to confess on their own volition. Each girl must be accompanied by 22 heads of cattle," said 28-year-old Kupemba junior, who married Precious Maboreke in 1999, when she was 15 years old. They have three children.
While five girls have already been pledged to the Kupembas, Kupemba junior says his family still demands twelve more virgins to avenge his grandfather’s death.

Kuripa ngozi, or virgin pledging, is a punishable offence under Zimbabwe's Domestic Violence Act, the practice is rampant throughout the country but no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted.

The saga of the five girls began in 1995, the year Kupemba was murdered by four local grocery shop owners with the help of 13 other villagers. Kupemba's mutilated, decomposing body was found discarded in a dry riverbed.

Some time later, locals say, Kupemba's spirit started causing sudden ailments and deaths in the families involved, resulting in some of them confessing to killing him. The shop owners admitted to having chopped off his private parts, little fingers, tongue and a patch of hair for the preparation of traditional medicines to boost their businesses.

Despite the confessions, no arrests were made, and Kupemba’s relatives allege the shop owners bought the police’s silence.

To appease the dead man's spirit, the families handed over the first five virgins to the Kupemba family from 1999 onwards, but the process was stalled in 2006 when children's rights organisation Girl Child Network (GCN) compelled the police and the Department of Social Welfare to investigate the matter and return the girls to their families.

But shortly thereafter, investigations were put on ice. Headman Samanga of Honde Valley told IPS he pulled out of the Kupemba case, as all involved families had accused him of preventing them from resolving private, domestic affairs.
"In this area, people strongly believe kuripa ngozi can only be settled by offering a virgin girl. I was the lone voice against the practice, and it was soon drowned. The families believed I was hindering their efforts to settle their transgressions," he explained.

Eventually, the police, which had rescued four of the girls from the Kupemba family and put them under the custody of GCN, ordered GCN to send the girls back to their families, who returned them to the Kupembas.

Only the mother of one of the girls, Anna Ndarangwa, says she tried to rescue her daughter from the ritual. "I had a heated argument with the Kupembas," she said, but did not manage to take her daughter home.

Ndarangwa believes the girls were brainwashed into believing that the health and well-being of their families were dependent on their personal sacrifice. "It was like something was upon them. I don’t want my daughter to pay for a crime she did not commit. I will die fighting for her," she declared.

Afraid to talk to the media, all five refused to be interviewed by IPS.

Source: IPS News

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Moremi Institute Online Conference: Call for Contributions

Dear all,
as you may have read in your inboxes, the executive committee has launched a call for suggestions on our first post-Ghana meeting. We realize that many people do not have regular access to internet and also that we are all living in different time zones. In view of that, please post your suggestions below on the following:

Date of meeting:
Medium: e.g skype, msn, yahoo messenger, g-chat etc.

We look forward to your suggestions and I for one am excited about our first meeting.

Thank you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Maternal death rate in Sierra Leone is a "Human Rights Emergency"

As world leaders meet at the United Nations in New York to discuss increased funding for healthcare in developing countries, Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan has launched a campaign to reduce maternal deaths in Sierra Leone.

The report Out of Reach: The Cost of Maternal Health in Sierra Leone uses graphic and personal testimonials to show how women and girls are often unable access lifesaving treatment because they are too poor to pay for it.

In Sierra Leone, one in eight women risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth. This is one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. Thousands of women bleed to death after giving birth. Most die in their homes. Some die on the way to hospital; in taxis, on motorbikes or on foot. In Sierra Leone, less than half of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant and less than one in five are carried out in health facilities. "These grim statistics reveal that maternal deaths are a human rights emergency in Sierra Leone," said Irene Khan, launching the report in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown. "Women and girls are dying in their thousands because they are routinely denied their right to life and health, in spite of promises from the government to provide free healthcare to all pregnant women." At the United Nations General Assembly meeting on 23 September, access to healthcare in the developing world will be high on the agenda.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to announce a series of new finance packages devoted to improving healthcare in the developing world with particular focus on infant and maternal health. Sierra Leone is expected to be among the recipients of the fund. "Additional money is desperately needed in Sierra Leone but will not reach women and children in remote areas who are at greatest risk," said Irene Khan. "The lives of women and girls will only be saved when the health system is properly managed and the government is held to account. "Money alone will not solve the problem. In Sierra Leone severe discrimination and the low social status of women underlies the terrible tragedy of maternal deaths. This is a country where girls are forced into early marriage, excluded from schools and face sexual violence. Women's health needs are given a low priority by their own families, community leaders and their government."

Irene Khan's visit to Sierra Leone marks the start of Amnesty International's action against maternal mortality in the country. A "campaign caravan" will tour Sierra Leone over the coming weeks, providing information and fuelling debate on the issue of maternal health.

Amnesty International believes poverty is a human rights issue. This year, it launched a global campaign called Demand Dignity, which calls for an end to the human rights violations that drive and deepen poverty. The Demand Dignity campaign mobilises people across the world to demand that governments and corporations listen to the voices of those living in poverty and respect their rights.




Villagers in the Congo's Plateaux nord region have started mapping their forest resources, in a move officials say will help to protect their interests. "We began making maps which show where we grow things, where we hunt, fish and gather - everything which allows us to live from day to day," said Denis Bongo, village headman in Assengue, Ollombo District. The initiative started in the first half of this year in Assengue, Ibangui, Epounou and Inga villages in Ollombo District, with the aim of protecting their livelihoods in the face of rampant deforestation and logging activities. Implemented by the Congolese Human Rights Forum (OCDH) with the Rainforest Foundation of UK (RFUK), the project aims to promote the rights of forest communities to access, control and utilize the forests in accordance with Congolese law. (IRIN)

Ivory Coast

An oil trading firm has agreed to pay more than USD 46 million in compensation to people in Ivory Coast who say they were made ill by dumped waste in 2006. Trafigura, with offices in London, Amsterdam and Geneva, said 30,000 people will each receive USD 1,546. The money is in addition to the nearly USD 200 million that the company paid the Ivorian government in 2007. Trafigura and the plaintiffs' lawyers agreed that a link between the dumped waste and deaths had not been proved. A joint statement by the company and the British lawyers representing the Ivorians, Leigh Day and Co, said at worst the waste had caused flu-like symptoms. (BBC)


The drought that has ravaged parts of northeastern Kenya, killing a large number of livestock, has affected the availability of milk, in turn undermining child nutrition, say officials. "Most [of my livestock] died as we migrated. My youngest child, a girl, became ill and died on the way," said Joseph Lemanyan, a livestock keeper. His family is among hundreds to have moved south to the foothills of Mount Kenya, but there they lost more cattle because of the cold weather. The death of so many cattle has reduced the supply of milk, which should form a large part of the daily diet of children. (IRIN)


A senior ally of Madagascar's ousted leader on Wednesday accused the government of breaking a deal signed in Mozambique last month on the release of political prisoners. The Indian Ocean island's justice minister confirmed Sept. 22 that Manandafy Rakotonirina had been found guilty of threatening state security and usurping public office. Critics of Africa's youngest leader, Andry Rajoelina, who toppled Ravalomanana in a March coup, say he is cracking down on key political opponents as he seeks to consolidate his internationally-ostracized government. (Reuters)


A high-level Rwandan rebel indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal for his role in the 1994 genocide has been handed over to the court after being arrested in the neighboring Congo (DRC). Gregoire Ndahimana, a high-level figure in the FDLR, was arrested in eastern DRC by the Congolese Army on Aug. 10, and handed over by the Congolese Government to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) at the weekend in a transfer facilitated by the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC. (UN News Service)


The United Nations is investigating the use of its vehicles by suicide bombers who killed 17 African Union peacekeepers at their main base in Somalia, a senior official said on at the weekend. The Somali government warned on Sept. 18 that Islamist rebels from the al Shabaab group had six more stolen UN cars primed with explosives ready for suicide attacks."There are very large numbers of UN vehicles in Somalia that have been used for a variety of projects," said Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. Insurgents overran and looted UN compounds in Jowhar and Baidoa in May and July. (Reuters)

South Africa

South Africa's murder rate has dropped slightly, but the country faces a distressing rise in rapes, robberies and hijackings, South African police said Sept. 22. The number of murders decreased 3.4 percent to 18,148 between April 2008 and March 2009. That still leaves 50 murders a day in the country of some 50 million people. Sexual offenses increased 10.1 percent, with a total of 71,500 reported offenses. Robberies at homes and businesses increased more dramatically, up 27.3 and 41.5 percent respectively. South Africa has one of the worst crime rates in the world, putting the government under pressure to show that safety is improving ahead of next year's soccer World Cup. (AP)


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed deep concern at an upsurge in fighting between Sudanese Government forces and rebels in the war-scarred region of Darfur and urged both sides to cease hostilities and turn to the negotiating table. Media reports indicate that as many as 18 civilians have been killed and numerous properties destroyed in the area in and around the town of Korma over the past week. “The Secretary-General calls on all parties to use restraint, renew their commitment to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and redouble their efforts to reach a political settlement of the conflict in Darfur,” a statement issued by his spokesperson said. (UN News Service)


A court in north-western Tanzania has sentenced three men to death by hanging for killing a 14-year-old albino boy. They were found guilty of attacking Matatizo Dunia and severing his legs in Bukombe district in Shinyanga province. In the past two years there has been a huge rise in murders of albino people. Witchdoctors use their body parts in potions they claim bring prosperity. Dozens of people have been arrested, but the justice system is notoriously slow and this is the first conviction. In July a court in Burundi sentenced one person to life in prison and eight others to jail for the murder of albinos whose remains were sold in Tanzania. (BBC)


President Yoweri Museveni said on Sept. 23 Uganda would achieve economic growth exceeding 7 percent in 2009/10, higher than previously forecast. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, he focused on economic development rather than recent violence in his country. Museveni said Uganda's economy had grown at a rate of 6.5 percent for the past 23 years, and achieved 7 percent growth last year despite the global recession. "In this financial year (2009/2010), our rate of growth will be in excess of 7 percent," Museveni said. The east African country has experienced steady growth over the past two decades. The Finance Ministry had previously forecast Uganda to grow 6 percent in 2009/10. (Reuters)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Aid deal pledges free health care

At least 10 million people in developing nations will get access to free health care, in an aid deal launched by British PM Gordon Brown.

Nepal, Malawi, Ghana, Liberia, Burundi and Sierra Leone say they will expand access to health services as part of the programme. The plan, unveiled at the United Nations, is backed by $5bn (£3bn) from states and the online travel industry. Mr Brown said the world must be "shamed" into stopping child deaths.

'Turning point'

For the past year, Mr Brown and the director of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, have been leading an international taskforce to raise money to help improve health care in developing countries. Of the $5bn committed, an estimated $3bn (£1.8bn) will come from voluntary contributions solicited by the online travel industry.

The balance is being raised by the United Kingdom, Austria, Norway and the Netherlands, through an extension of the international finance facility which raises money on capital markets through government bonds which will be repaid from future aid budgets. Mr Brown said the UK's contribution would be worth £250m ($410m).

The programme's initial focus will be to help mothers and young children in an effort to reduce high levels of maternal and infant mortality. The UK will also share health expertise through a Centre for Progressive Health Financing, Mr Brown told the programme's launch in New York.

In an article to mark the launch, Mr Brown said: "A few pence is the price of life or death for millions. "Burundi, Nepal, Malawi, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia have taken major steps towards the provision of free services. "I hope today it will be a turning point, a day when the battle to provide healthcare to all and abolish user fees won a significant victory."

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said it was "appalling" that people were dying because they could not afford basic treatment. He added: "Poor health and poverty go hand-in-hand and so we must first improve people's health if we are to improve their lives. "This won't happen overnight but we hope in the years ahead we will see a shift in approach that will revolutionise health services in the world's poorest countries."

The Nepalese Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, was expected to express his commitment to improving the health of women and children in his country when he addressed the event in New York.

In Nepal - the only non-African country targeted by the scheme - 80% of women are believed to give birth at home, and every day six women are estimated to die from childbirth. Infant mortality is also high, with one in sixteen children dying before they reach the age of five.

Death for Tanzania albino killers

A court in north-western Tanzania has sentenced three men to death by hanging for killing a 14-year-old albino boy.

They were found guilty of attacking Matatizo Dunia and severing his legs in Bukombe district in Shinyanga province. In the past two years there has been a huge rise in murders of albino people. Witchdoctors use their body parts in potions they claim bring prosperity. Dozens of people have been arrested, but the justice system is notoriously slow and this is the first conviction.

In July a court in neighbouring Burundi sentenced one person to life in prison and eight others to jail for the murder of albino people whose remains were sold in Tanzania.

Lucrative business

The three men attacked and killed the young boy last December - one of a string of more than 50 albino murders that have taken place in Tanzania over the past two years. They have the right to appeal against the death sentence - a punishment their lawyers described as unexpected. Albino people are killed because potions made from their body parts are believed to bring good luck and wealth.

Witchdoctors in Tanzania and other parts of East Africa - especially Burundi - have made tens of thousands of dollars from selling potions and other items made from the bones, hair, skin and genitals of dead albino people. Witchdoctors pay a lot of money for body parts. The Tanzanian government has publicly stated its desire to end the killings.

In March, President Jakaya Kikwete called on Tanzanians to come forward with any information they might have. Officials banned witchdoctors from practising, however many have continued to work. Some correspondents say it is possible that Wednesday's death sentence will deter people from killing albino people. But BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper says in a country as poor as Tanzania, it is likely that some murders will continue because so much money can be made from selling the body parts.

There are estimated to be about 17,000 albino people living in Tanzania. They lack pigment in their skin and appear pale.

Doctor jailed for Obasanjo death

A Spanish doctor has been sentenced to a year in prison, for his role in the death of the former first-lady of Nigeria, Stella Obasanjo.

The wife of Olusegun Obasanjo had visited a clinic in Marbella in October 2005 to undergo cosmetic surgery. She underwent liposuction to reduce the size of her abdomen, but left the operating theatre with fatal injuries. The judges said the surgeon had shown carelessness and neglect.

Mrs Obasanjo, 59, came to Spain in October 2005, checking in at the Molding Clinic - a discreet and luxury facility, specialising in cosmetic surgery. The court heard that a tube used for removing fat had been placed by mistake into the patient's abdominal cavity - puncturing her colon and lacerating her liver. Mrs Obasanjo became seriously ill the following day. But prosecutors said the surgeon initially failed to answer his mobile phone, and then waited more than four hours before driving the patient in his own car to an intensive care unit, where she died an hour later.

The doctor - identified in court documents only by the initials AM - was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for causing homicide through negligence. He was disqualified from practising medicine for three years, and ordered to pay $176,000 (£108,000) in compensation to Mrs Obasanjo's son.

The court said simple blood tests or an ultrasound procedure would have detected the internal injuries - which, with more time, could have been treated.

Trial HIV vaccine cuts infection

An experimental HIV vaccine has for the first time cut the risk of infection, researchers say.

The vaccine - a combination of two earlier experimental vaccines - was given to 16,000 people in Thailand, in the largest ever such vaccine trial. Researchers found that it reduced by nearly a third the risk of contracting HIV, the virus that leads to Aids. It has been hailed as a significant, scientific breakthrough, but a global vaccine is still some way off.

The study was carried out by the US army and the Thai government over seven years on volunteers - all HIV-negative men and women aged between 18 and 30 - in some of Thailand's most badly-affected regions. The vaccine was a combination of two older vaccines that on their own had not cut infection rates. Half of the volunteers were given the vaccine, while the other half were given a placebo - and all were given counselling on HIV/Aids prevention.

The results found that the chances of catching HIV were 31.2% less for those who had taken the vaccine. "This result is tantalisingly encouraging. The numbers are small and the difference may have been due to chance, but this finding is the first positive news in the Aids vaccine field for a decade," said Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet medical journal. "We should be cautious, but hopeful. The discovery needs urgent replication and investigation."

The findings were hailed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UN/Aids). They said while the results were "characterised as modestly protective... [they] have instilled new hope in the HIV vaccine research field". Some 33 million people around the world have HIV.

Research into a vaccine has been made difficult because HIV is very good at hitting the immune system, the BBC's health correspondent, Jane Dreaper, reports.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jamaica: High Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Violence Rates

Jamaica: High Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Violence Rates

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Conversations for a Better World

Conversations for a Better World is a blog about the important issues of our time, with a special focus on population, gender and health. The blog is created by the Media and Communications Branch of UNFPA. The mandate of UNFPA is to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. The opinions expressed on the blog do not reflect the positions of the UNFPA, we are only providing a space on the Internet and allowing people to connect and share ideas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let Nkrumah’s birthday unite us – Mills

Joseph Appiah-Dolphyne, AfricaNews editor in Accra, Ghana

Ghana's President John Mills has urged Ghanaians to put aside their political and social acrimony and unite for a better Ghana. "Let this day, my brothers and sisters, be the day we begin to breathe new life into Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's vision of a strong, united Ghana. Let us grab this opportunity and rekindle our sense of national pride and self-worth."
In an address to the nation on Monday morning to mark the centenary birthday of Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, christened the Founder’s Day, Prof Mills noted that Dr Nkrumah “created one Ghana” that should not be allowed to disintegrate.
Eulogizing Dr Nkrumah, president Mills recounted that Ghana's first president's leadership role in projecting Ghana to the outside world as the true black star of Africa and the part he played in liberating most African countries from colonialism is unrivaled.

“We must take a collective pride in celebrating the day, the 100th birthday of the man who led our independent struggle and lit the flame that blazed the liberation struggle of the African continent.

“…we are not celebrating our founder for the sake of doing so, we are celebrating him also for what he stood for and what he gave our dear nation. Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s contributions to the development of Ghana and Africa to creating a vision for Ghana, nurturing and forming the life and spirit of our nation are unsurpassed.”

Touching on politics in Ghana, the president was full of praise for Dr Nkrumah for breaking the jinx that portrayed politics as a preserve for the elites and opening its doors to all, including civil servants, teachers, market women, youth and fisher folks among others.

After demystifying politics in Ghana, Dr Nkrumah, Mills remembered, also went ahead to break down ethnic barriers in politics and social life.
President Mills therefore reached out to all Ghana’s to come together, irrespective of one’s political affiliation, religion and ethnic background, and work toward the development of the country.
“We need to measure the greatness of this nation by the extent to which we care for each other. Let us care for each other and by so doing we will care for mother Ghana.”
He noted that the commemoration of the day was in fulfillment of a commitment he made during the electioneering campaign. He reiterated the adoption of Dr Nkrumah’s centenary birthday as a continental event to be included on the African Union’s calendar of special events.
“These two events are unprecedented and speak to the uniqueness and global stature of our own Kwame Nkrumah.”
Various activities are being held across the country to marks Dr Kwame Nkrumah's birthday.
Source: Africanews

Namibian men justify wife beating

Glaudine Coetzee, AfricaNews reporter in Windhoek, Namibia

Forty one percent of Namibian men believe that wife beating is justifiable while 32 percent of women think there is no problem with their husbands beating them.
According to the Niwemang blog post, in Zambia, nearly half of women surveyed said a male partner had beaten them - the highest percentage of nine developing nations surveyed on three continents. About 80% of Zambian wives find it acceptable to be beaten by their husbands "as a form of chastisement", according to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey.

The report said a World Health Organization study has found that while more than a third of Namibian women reported enduring physical or sexual abuse by a male partner, often resulting in injury, six in seven victims had either kept it to themselves or confided only in a friend or relative.
In South Africa, researchers for the Medical Research Council estimated last year that a male partner kills a girlfriend or spouse every six hours - the highest mortality rate from domestic violence ever reported, they say. In Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, domestic violence accounts for more than 6 in 10 murder cases in court, a United Nations report concluded last year.

Cultural expectations
As part of cultural expectations, women spend a lot of time on unpaid tasks – referred to as the ‘care economy’ - that include chores in the home and subsistence farming, neither of which is recognized and valued as work.
These are some of the concerns raised during a five-day United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Africa Regional Violence against Women Prevention and Response Strategy Development workshop.
“The common belief is that increased levels of education and literacy rates should positively affect gender relations including better interpersonal communication, respect and tolerance - these being the main ingredients that could effectively neutralize Gender Based Violence,” Fabian Byomuhangi, UNFPA Representative in Namibia said.

Byomuhangi said concerns have been raised about GBV and other related social problems such as alcohol and substance abuse. He pointed out that it is for this reason that issues of gender, including GBV are high on the agenda of the UNFPA.
He acknowledged the government’s relentless efforts as well as that of civil society to combat GBV.
The workshop aimed to raise awareness on how the economic crisis is affecting issues of GBV, reproductive health and poverty on the continent.

Source: Africanews

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Every sexually active woman is at risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infections(STIs). Using a condom can significantly reduce your risk of contracting numerous STIs. However, condoms cannot protect against those STIs that can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, such as "Crabs," also known as scabies and pubic lice, and the HPV virus which is responsible for genital warts and cervical cancer. If you are sexually active, it is important to know the facts about STIs as well as engage in safe sexual practices in order to protect yourself and keep yourself healthy.

All STIs can be treated to help relieve symptoms. However, most do not have cures and some may even prove to be fatal. Incurable STIs include herpes, genital warts, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. Other STIs, like trichomoniasis, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be cured but immediate treatment is necessary in order to prevent damage to your reproductive organs

Even if an STI can be cured, any damage that may occur to your body prior to treatment is irreversible. This makes early treatment of STIs crucial to your reproductive and sexual health, as many sexually transmitted diseases remain undetected and can lead to more severe conditions such as cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervical cancer. Receiving regular pap smear tests is one of the best ways to prevent and diagnose STIs and related complications in women.

Experts are always working to develop new ways of treating, curing, and preventing STIs. Thanks to their efforts, there is now a vaccine for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, and HPV. While these vaccines will help to curb the number of women affected every year by these devastating infections, they cannot help those already infected. On the other hand, there is no vaccine currently available for Hepatitis C. However, there are some ways the disease can be prevented.

HIV/AIDS is another STI that receives a lot of attention from researchers. While HIV treatment is currently available, it can often come with unwanted side effects. For this reason, scientists are devising newer, more effective treatments that do not have the same extreme side effects associated with them.

Fears as Uganda players abscond

The disappearance of seven Ugandan cricketers in Canada may make it more difficult for athletes to get visas, a Ugandan cricket official says.

Latimer Mukasa told the BBC it would have "far-reaching consequences". The players disappeared from their hotel last week, two days before they were due to return home. Canada refused to grant visas for the Sierra Leone team to play in the under-19 qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup in New Zealand. Uganda failed to qualify.

The seven left their passports in the team hotel in Toronto but Canada's National Post newspaper reports they had six-month visas and so have not committed any crime. It says that police are not looking for them. "This kind of incident will have far-reaching implications for sportsmen getting visas to go and play in outside countries," Mr Mukasa, the Uganda Cricket Association spokesman, said. He also said he was worried for their safety as they are "young and cannot look after themselves".

Two years ago, two Ugandan cricketers went missing after playing a tournament in Australia.

Ivory Coast deal is 'not enough'

A group of Ivory Coast residents who were victims of dumped toxic waste have said a compensation deal offered by a London-based oil firm is not enough.

Trafigura has said it is close to agreeing compensation to settle a case against it by 30,000 claimants. Under the deal, the company would pay an undisclosed sum to those who suffered less serious illnesses. On Wednesday, the UN published a report suggesting a strong link between 15 deaths and the toxic waste dumps.

The oil trading company has always insisted that it was not responsible for the dumping of the waste as this was carried out by a sub-contractor. It also denies that the waste - gasoline residues mixed with caustic washings - could have led to the serious illnesses the residents claim, which include skin burns, bleeding and breathing problems.


The head of Ivory Coast's National Federation of Victims of Toxic Waste has told the BBC that although the deal represents a good start, it does not go far enough. “ Trafigura always sought to comply with the laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which it operates ” "This decision needs to be enlarged to take in all the people affected and also secure the cleaning-up of all the intoxicated sites, and as well and above all, a health centre to look after the victims," Denis Titira Yao said. Some estimates put the number of those affected by exposure to the waste at closer to 100,000 people. Thousands became ill after coming into contact with the waste, which was dumped in 15 open sites around the city of Abidjan in August 2006.

The UN report suggesting that there was a strong link between the reported deaths of at least 15 Ivory Coast residents and the toxic waste dumps has been dismissed by Trafigura. "We are appalled at the basic lack of balance and analytical rigour reflected in the report," the firm said in a statement, adding that its conclusions were "premature" and "inaccurate".

Somali deaths 'will not deter AU'

The African Union (AU) has vowed to continue its mission in Somalia, despite the killing of 14 peacekeepers in suicide blasts claimed by Islamists.

The dead included the deputy commander of the AU force in Somalia. Shelling after the double bombing left at least 13 people dead, mostly civilians, witnesses say. Spokesman Maj Barigye Ba-hoku said the AU would continue to work with "peace-loving Somalis", however he admitted that the mission was "complicated". "We do not run away when the situation worsens," said Lt Col Felix Kulayigye, a spokesman for the Ugandan military, which contributes about half of the 5,000-strong AU force. "We go there hoping for the best and expecting the worst. If it's good, we'd be glad, but if it's bad, we'd adjust accordingly to deal with it," he said.

The peacekeepers are helping to protect the weak, UN-backed government in its battle against Islamist insurgents. Burundi is the only other country to have sent peacekeepers to Somalia. Its senior officer in Somalia, Maj Gen Juvenal Niyonguruza, was among the dead. The BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge in Burundi says the government has yet to comment on the deaths. Other countries, such as Nigeria, have promised to contribute troops but these have not arrived. The UN has also said it will take over the mission - at an unspecified date.

A security official said two white vehicles with UN logos, but packed with explosives, drove into the AU base near the Mogadishu airport before blowing up.

Black smoke

The Islamist al-Shabab group said the attacks were revenge for a US raid on Monday. This reportedly killed Kenyan-born al-Qaeda suspect Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was wanted by the US for attacks in Kenya. "We have got our revenge for our brother Nabhan. Two suicide car bombs targeting the AU base, praise Allah," al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told Reuters news agency.

An hour after the blasts, the BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan saw missiles fired from the base near the airport towards Islamist-held parts of Mogadishu. Witnesses say this left 13 people dead and 30 wounded. Our reporter says the suicide explosions rocked a large area of the capital. As soon as he heard them, he went to the roof of his house and saw palls of black smoke in the air.

A security official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the soldiers at the gate had assumed the vehicles were on UN business and let them enter the base. "When the cars entered, one of them sped toward a petrol depot and exploded. The other one exploded in a nearby area," he said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the blast in the "strongest terms". US officials say Nabhan was killed on Monday in a US military raid in southern Somalia. He was wanted in connection with the 2002 attacks on a hotel and an Israeli airliner in his home city of Mombasa. It is believed he fled to Somalia after the attacks and was working with al-Shabab, which the US sees as al-Qaeda's proxy in Somalia.

Al-Shabab and its allies control most of southern and central Somalia, while the government, helped by the AU force, just runs parts of Mogadishu. The country has not had a functioning central government since 1991, leading to a complete breakdown of law and order both on land and in recent years in Somali waters.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist and former insurgent, was chosen in January after UN-brokered peace talks. He has vowed to implement Sharia but al-Shabab accuses him of being a Western puppet. Years of fighting and anarchy have left some three million people - half the population - needing food aid.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Missed or Irregular Periods

Most women have between 11 and 13 menstrual periods each year. You may be different: You may have more or fewer. Missed or irregular periods must be looked at in terms of what is normal for you.

Periods are often irregular during the first few years after menstruation starts. It may take several years for the hormones that control menstruation to reach a balance. Menstrual periods also may be very irregular at the other end of the menstrual years. Many women realize that they are approaching perimenopause and menopause when their otherwise regular periods become irregular. Menopause occurs when it has been 12 months since you have had a menstrual period.

Pregnancy is the most common cause of a missed period. If you might be pregnant, treat yourself as if you are pregnant until you know for sure. Use a home pregnancy test as the first step to finding out whether you are pregnant. If you are not pregnant, other causes of missed or irregular periods include: Excessive weight loss or gain. Although low body weight is a common cause of missed or irregular periods, obesity also can cause menstrual problems. Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. For more information, see the topic Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. Increased exercise. Missed periods are common in endurance athletes. Emotional stress. Illness. Travel.

Medicines such as hormonal birth control methods, which may cause lighter, less frequent, more frequent, or skipped periods or no periods at all. Hormone problems. This may cause a change in the levels of the hormones that the body needs to support menstruation. Illegal drug use. Problems with the pelvic organs, such as imperforate hymen, polycystic ovary syndrome, or Asherman's syndrome. Breast-feeding. Many women do not resume regular periods until they have completed breast-feeding.

Remember, you can still become pregnant even though you are not menstruating. Practice birth control if you do not wish to become pregnant. Premature ovarian failure is when you stop menstruating before age 40. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis may cause premature ovarian failure.

Other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, tuberculosis, liver disease, and diabetes can cause missed or irregular periods, although this is rare. However, if any of these diseases are present, you will usually have other symptoms besides menstrual irregularities.

If you've skipped a period, try to relax. Restoring your life to emotional and physical balance can help. Many women miss periods now and then. Unless you are pregnant, chances are your cycle will return to normal next month.

Review the Check Your Symptoms section to determine if and when you need to see your health professional.

Leading Rwanda genocide suspect pleads guilty

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AFP) – A close associate of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose murder triggered the country's 1994 genocide, pleaded guilty Thursday to complicity in the slaughter.

Michel Bagaragaza, who headed Rwanda's tea industry, admitted playing a role in the massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In particular he had allowed the militants to use tea factory vehicles on their rampages.

Bagaragaza, who had testified against other suspects in earlier hearings of the court, including Harbyarimana's brother-in-law, had been detained in the Netherlands. Claiming to fear for his life, he had secured a deal with the ICTR's prosecutor whereby in return for his testimony against other defendants he would be tried in Europe. But attempts to have him tried in Norway and the Netherlands came to nothing and he was sent to the Arusha court in May last year.

Formed in late 1994, the UN-backed ICTR is responsible for judging primary suspects in the Rwanda genocide.

Morocco sends aid to Niger, Burkina Faso

Morocco has dispatched tons of aid to Burkina Faso and Niger following the catastrophic floods that hit the two Western African countries a fortnight ago.

Tons of humanitarian assistance aboard seven aircraft left Morocco's Atlantic town of Kénitra for Niamey and Ouagadougou. The assistance is composed of several tons of medicines, hundreds of tents and thousands of blankets, Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) said on Tuesday. The special airlift was set up by the North African country in accordance with the instructions of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

His Majesty the King had decided to send emergency humanitarian aids as part of the active solidarity and brotherly ties between Morocco and the two West African states. The recent torrential rains and flooding have affected 600,000 people in 16 West African nations, according to the United Nations. The worst hit countries are Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana, and Niger.

A total of 159 people have died, and more than 100,000 people are still homeless in Burkina Faso and Senegal after the heavy rains, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Trafigura knew of waste dangers

BBC Newsnight has uncovered evidence revealing that oil-trading company Trafigura knew that waste dumped in Ivory Coast in 2006 was hazardous.

Trafigura had persistently denied that the waste was harmful but internal e-mails show staff knew it was hazardous. On Wednesday, Newsnight learned that Trafigura has offered to pay damages to settle a class action brought on behalf of 31,000 who said they were injured. Up until now Trafigura has refused to settle, denying it was to blame.

The news of the settlement came as a UN report on claims that people had fallen sick or died as a result of the dump was published. The report says there is "strong prima facie evidence that the reported deaths and adverse health consequences are related to the dumping of the waste from the cargo ship". The chemical waste came from a ship called Probo Koala and in August 2006 truckload after truckload of it was illegally fly-tipped at 15 locations around Abidjan, the biggest city in Ivory Coast. In the weeks that followed the dumping, tens of thousands of people reported a range of similar symptoms, including breathing problems, sickness and diarrhoea.

Refinery by-product

The story began four years ago at an oil refinery in Mexico, owned by the state company Pemex, or PMI. “ This is as cheap as anyone can imagine and should make serious dollars ” Trafigura e-mail In its chemical processes the refinery was producing a by-product - coker naptha, a dirty form of gasoline which could not be treated on site. The e-mails which Newsnight has obtained reveal that Trafigura executives realised they could make a fortune by buying the dirty Mexican oil for next to nothing. One e-mail says: "This is as cheap as anyone can imagine and should make serious dollars." However, to sell it on at a profit, Trafigura first had to find a cheap way to clean the coker naptha and lower its sulphur levels.


Trafigura chartered the Probo Koala and while the ship was off the coast of Gibraltar poured tons of caustic soda and a catalyst into the dirty oil to clean it - a rough and ready process known as "caustic washing". The method is cheap, but it generates such dangerous waste that it is effectively banned in most places around the world. The e-mails obtained by Newsnight show that in the months before the waste was dumped the company knew about the difficulties they would face in disposing of the waste. "This operation is no longer allowed in the European Union, the United States and Singapore" it is "banned in most countries due to the 'hazardous nature of the waste'", one e-mail warns. Another e-mail points out that "environmental agencies do not allow disposal of the toxic caustic". The process left a toxic sulphurous sludge in the tanks of the Probo Koala.

Costly process

Claiming that the waste was simply tank washings - the standard oil-water mixture produced by routine tank cleaning - Trafigura attempted to offload the waste in the Netherlands. However, when the waste was offloaded the smell was so strong, the emergency services were called. Samples were taken and Trafigura was told the waste was toxic and would cost hundreds of thousands of euros to treat safely. However, Trafigura opted for the much cheaper option of reloading the waste and taking it elsewhere. It ultimately ended up in Ivory Coast.

Evidence seen by Newsnight shows that knowledge of the waste and problems getting rid of it went to the very top of Trafigura and the company's President Claude Dauphin. The Trafigura e-mails say that Mr Dauphin was urging his team to "be creative" in how they dealt with the hazardous waste. The contractor that they found in the end was Solomon Ugburogbu, the owner of a company called Tommy, which had no facilities to handle hazardous waste. Ugburogbu, is now serving a 20 year sentence for poisoning local people.


Trafigura has always denied and continues to deny any liability for events that occurred in Ivory Coast. In a statement to Newsnight on Wednesday the company said: "With regard to Trafigura's proposals for handling the treatment and disposal of the slops, Trafigura always sought to comply with the laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which it operates." In 2007 they paid £100m to the Ivorian government to "compensate the victims" amongst other things. The government administered fund paid compensation to the families of 16 people whose deaths they believed were caused by the waste.

On Wednesday Trafigura admitted a "global settlement is being considered" for the victims who suffered lesser injuries. A statement from the Ivorians' lawyers, Leigh Day and Company, confirms an offer has been made and says: "The claimants are very pleased and are keen to see the issue resolved."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dream of Visually Impaired Person Hangs on the Balance

Does He Not Have A Right To Higher Education?

A visually impaired young person, Sulayman Sowe, talks about the efforts being made in his quest to acquire higher education. He explains the response of some of the institutions he had approached in this pursuit.

Foroyaa: How did you start your education?

Sowe: I started at Campama Primary School in Banjul, where the school for the visually impaired was stationed. We were taught how to read and write in Braille. In the said school, we, the visually impaired students, were integrated with sighted ones. After completing primary school, I attended Crab Island Junior Secondary School and School for Educational Pursuit (SEP) Senior Secondary School.

Foroyaa: How did you fare in your educational pursuit? Was it very tough for you?

Sowe: Initially, when I started from grade one to seven, I found it very easy. However, it was the later part has been extremely rough for me.

Foroyaa: As a visually impaired student, were you provided with all the facilities you needed?

Sowe: Well, from grade one up to eight; I was provided with some of the basic facilities I needed. However, when I reached grade nine, even to get a Braille machine was a problem for me. It was however a personal friend of mine who bought Braille machine for me. Some of my visually impaired colleagues were faced with the same problem and they had to rely on my Braille machine for their class work and lessons. It was again a Nigerian friend of mine who bought me a type writer machine which enabled me to communicate with sighted people.

Foroyaa: What was the experience like sharing the same class with sighted students?

Sowe: Sharing the same class with sighted students was a very good experience for me. It enabled me to build friendship with some of them who turned out to be very helpful to me. They would read what was on the black board for me to write it in Braille or type it if it is a class work for a teacher to read. I have learnt a lot from them and I’m sure that they too have also learnt something from me. In addition, my classmates were very cooperative, cordial and opened towards me. It is unfortunate that some persons with visual impairment do stay away from interacting with sighted people. I personally found that to be uncalled for and anti social. Those with such attitude should change.

Foroyaa: When actually did you complete high school and after that have you attempted to pursue any course?

Sowe: Actually, I completed high school in 2006. However, after completing, I attempted to further my education, but the response I got from institutions of higher education is that their facilities cannot cater for the needs of people with visual impairment. And when they told me this, I told them to consult with organizations dealing with the visually impaired so as to get advice as to how to handle students such as me. I reminded such institutions that persons with visual impairment have a right to education and that they make efforts to cater for them as well. Unfortunately, some were not keen. So far, the only institution that has been helpful in the education of persons with visual impairment is GTTI. Unfortunately for me, the GTTI is not offering the course I want to study.

Foroyaa: How did you feel when you were told that the facilities you need as a visually impaired student cannot be catered for by such schools of higher learning?

Sowe: Well, I was surprised. As a Gambian, I thought I have every right, just like any other compatriot, to be educated here. But, unfortunately this is not the case for us at least.. It is utterly disheartening that in this twenty first century, such systematic discrimination of visually impaired people is going on right here and that no one seems to be taking note. It is only the victims who experience the anguish and trauma. We believe we have potentials. But our hearts are broken simply because we are not given the opportunity to explore our potentials. Well, one cannot find oneself in a more frustrating situation than this.

Moreover, what is even more striking was when a Dutch lady wanted to open an account for me at a particular bank. Unbelievably, I was told by the officials that the particular bank did not have access for the blind. Upon hearing this, the Dutch lady broke into tears. However, when we talked to the branch manager of the said bank, but he told us that they do not yet have a facility for blind people to operate accounts.

Foroyaa: When was this?

Sowe: This happened in 2005, around the month of August. This bitter experience has left me without a bank and the Dutch lady’s good intentions were rendered naught. Foroyaa: Where does your dream of getting higher education lie now. Do you still plan to accomplish your dream of pursuing higher education?

Sowe: I am still very much determined to pursue and accomplish my dream of acquiring higher education. Even if this means going beyond the borders of this country, I’ll still go for it. In this respect, I am therefore appealing for support so that I can further my education.

Foroyaa: What actually do you want to study?

Sowe: I would want to study engineering. I t is possible for me to realize my dream of becoming an engineer if the opportunity exist for me to do so.

Foroyaa: Some people may wonder how a visually impair person can become an engineer?

Sowe: I would like to assure such people that it is possible for us to be engineer if we are given the opportunity to pursue courses in engineering. Knowledge and skills are learnt by those with brains and we have brains just like the sighted people. Our visual impairment is just a challenge that can be surmounted when the opportunity is created. This is no fiction. You have engineers, doctors, lawyers, technicians etc. who are visually impaired. As for me, I Am ready to be a roll model and a light that can be can be source of inspiration.
Submitted by Fatou Malang.
Source: Foroyaa Newspaper, Gambia

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shakazz, the photographer of AFROCHIC

Pouvez vous vous présenter aux internautes?
Je suis un photographe africain résidant en france , connu sous le nom de Shakazz.
Mes photos et visuels me définissent mieux que moi-même.. rires.
Qu'est ce que le concept Afrochic?
Afrochic est un concept crée par Pantherimage (mon activité photo).Par ce concept j'ai voulu créer un véritable univers afro autour de la photo.
Un univers dans lequel les noirs seraient mis en lumière et en valeur. Lorsque l'on regarde les différents sites de photographes sur la toile, on retrouve perpétuellement les mêmes images encore et encore: modèles de type européen et très peu de noirs.
Et même s'il existe quelques photographes européens qui illustrent leur sites avec des noirs, les photographes noirs mettant en valeur le monde noir sont malheureusement peu nombreux. Il y a vraiment une sous-représentation des noirs dans le monde artistique en France, je voulais donc en résumé faire quelque chose à mon modeste niveau.
D'ou la naissance d'Afrochic il y a deux ans maintenant. Petit à petit ce concept est devenu une identité à part entière dans mon travail. Afrochic est tout simplement l'expression de la beauté noire. Pour illustrer cette beauté je me sers de la femme noire , elle est au centre de mes oeuvres . On la voit tour à tour fière "princesse nubienne" , forte et combative "la gwada sé tannou" (créole) caline "duo d'ébène"....
Qu'elle soit Africaine, métissée, ou créole, cette femme illustre la beauté ébène et surtout la beauté de l'Afrique.
On sent dans certaines de vos photos un côté « militant » voire « roots » avec des cheveux très naturels, des tenus très africaines, c’est volontaire ?
Le coté naturel et authentique fait partie intégrante du concept Afrochic, je collabore volontiers avec des modèles portant fièrement leurs cheveux afro, tresses ou autres. L'ambiance est roots vous avez raison de le dire. Mes modèles sont d'autant plus fières de porter leurs coiffures que souvent on leur demande
d'avoir une perruque afro (le comble de la caricature selon moi) ou de se défriser les cheveux. Je mets en valeur les cheveux crépus, les lèvres pulpeuses, les
cambrures et les formes . Je me sers aussi énormément de tenues africaines, du bogolan, je collabore avec des stylistes ayant le même état d'esprit comme les bijoux Ayjahtal. J'essaie de créer une synergie et un mouvement dynamique. Afrochic revendique l Afrique, d'ailleurs tout est résumé dans "l'Afrique, nos racines, notre Force".
Nous avons tout intéret à profiter et exploiter notre double culture, à réfléchir sérieusement à notre contribution vis à vis de l'Afrique. Comment allons nous contribuer à son épanouissement? L'avenir c'est l'Afrique et c'est à nous qu'il incombe de nous en charger.

US Embassy Hosts Iftaar Dinner For Religious Leaders

Africa / The Gambia
Monday, September 14, 2009
The United States Embassy in Banjul as part of the holy month of Ramadan recently hosted an Iftaar dinner for prominent Gambian religious leaders, including the Imam Ratib of Banjul, Cherno Mass Kah, Imam Tafsiru Gaye, Imam Abdoulie Fatty of State House, Imam Baba Leigh of Kanifing Estate, among others, at a reception held at the Ambassador’s residence in Fajara.
The Iftaar dinner accorded the religious leaders the opportunities to watch some films about Muslims’ live in American, especially in the holy month of Ramadan.
Addressing the gathering, the US Ambassador to The Gambia, Barry Wells, said such a forum was of great joy to them at the Embassy, noting that it enables them to interact with the men and women of God, who play an important role in society.
For Ambassador Wells, the event is also a clear demonstration of the US government’s support and respect for Islam and its 2.8 million followers living in America.
He stated that fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, adding that it was during this holy month that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) beginning with a simple word Iqra.
“It is therefore a time when Muslims reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith and responsibility”, he told the gathering.
According to Ambassador Wells, President Obama reiterated his commitment to see a new beginning between Americans and Muslims around the world in his speech in Cairo on June 4th, adding that President Obama said that “this beginning must be borne out to respect for one another and to seek common ground”.
He commended the government of The Gambia for establishing and maintaining its ties with the United States of American in many areas. He also acknowledged the efforts The Gambia plays in participating in peace-keeping efforts in Africa.
The Gambia, he added, by its long established tradition of peace, religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue and collaboration, represents an example of peaceful co-existence that President Obama seeks to promote around the world.
Speaking on behalf of the Imams, Imam Ratib of Banjul Alhagie, Cherno Kah underscored the numerous contributions of the US government to The Gambia. According to him, he is not associating himself with America under President Obama’s leadership because his father is an African, but the new strategic policy towards Muslims around the world and seen in Cairo, where he spoke about the need for seeking a new beginning with the Muslim world.
He commended Ambassadors Wells for organising the Ramadan Iftaar for religious leaders, adding that it’s a step in the right direction towards promoting peace and tolerance between Americans and Muslims around the world.
Submitted by Fatou C. Malang

Yemeni girl, 12, dies in painful childbirth

A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, died during a painful childbirth that also killed her baby, a children's rights group said Monday.Fawziya Ammodi struggled for three days in labor, before dying of severe bleeding at a hospital on Friday, said the Seyaj Organization for the Protection of Children."Although the cause of her death was lack of medical care, the real case was the lack of education in Yemen and the fact that child marriages keep happening," said Seyaj President Ahmed al-Qureshi.

Born into an impoverished family in Hodeidah, Fawziya was forced to drop out of school and married off to a 24-year-old man last year, al-Qureshi said.Child brides are commonplace in Yemen, especially in the Red Sea Coast where tribal customs hold sway. Hodeidah is the fourth largest city in Yemen and an important port.

More than half of all young Yemeni girls are married off before the age of 18 -- many times to older men, some with more than one wife, a study by Sanaa University found.While it was not immediately known why Fawziya's parents married her off, the reasons vary. Sometimes, financially-strapped parents offer up their daughters for hefty dowries.

Marriage means the girls are no longer a financial or moral burden to their parents. And often, parents will extract a promise from the husband to wait until the girl is older to consummate the marriage.

Children's organization UNICEF issued a statement Monday saying: "Child marriages violate the rights of children in the most deplorable way. The younger the girl is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the health risks for her and her baby.
"Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Child marriage denies girls of their childhood, deprives them of an education and robs them of their innocence." "More must be done to address the underlying causes in order to prevent tragic deaths like those of 12-year-old Fawziya and her baby," the statement added.

The issue of Yemeni child brides came to the forefront in 2008 with 10-year-old Nujood Ali.She was pulled out of school and married to a man who beat and raped her within weeks of the ceremony.To escape, Nujood hailed a taxi -- the first time in her life -- to get across town to the central courthouse where she sat on a bench and demanded to see a judge.After a well-publicized trial, she was granted a divorce.

The Yemeni parliament tried in February to pass a law, setting the minimum marriage age at 17. But the measure has not reached the president because many parliamentarians argued it violates sharia, or Islamic law, which does not stipulate a minimum age.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Migrants risk lives for Europe

Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon has returned to West Africa to trace the route of African migrants as they attempt a deadly four-day crossing of the Sahara desert on foot. They set out unaware that the Europe they dream of reaching is deep in recession and the welcome less than warm.

The man from the Libyan security services held a black beret over his nose. We had been walking in the heat for more than an hour across the dunes. Along the way we had seen discarded T-shirts and jeans, the occasional rucksack, and now this. The body was fresh, around two weeks old. It was that of a young man, clothed in a chocolate-brown T-shirt and faded jeans. There was no visible injury, no blood. He was lying on his back, propped awkwardly against the hot Saharan rocks. I crouched beside an outstretched arm and saw something had fallen from his grip. It was a plastic water bottle, empty and half submerged in the sand. The guard pointed back up the path. "Many more this way, many more," he said. Our trip to this remote part of Libya took place three weeks before the celebrations for Colonel Gaddafi's 40 years in power.

While the rest of the world's press struggled to get entry visas, and news of the pending release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison not yet broken, we were embedded with Libya's security services in the Sahara desert. We were not looking for al-Qaeda, even though its followers are known to operate close to here on the Algerian border, we were looking for African migrants.

Every year, around 40,000 of them cross the Sahara on their way to Europe. We found ourselves in the middle of the most dangerous migration route in the world. Most of those who attempt to cross here are economic migrants, but some are political refugees, fleeing conflict and persecution in places like Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. We had air-conditioned vehicles and huge tanks of water, but the migrants cross this part of the desert on foot. When the British Army patrol in similar conditions in Afghanistan, each soldier is supposed to drink 14 litres of water during a day-long operation. These migrants walk in the desert for four days, sometimes with just a litre or two of water, so that they can keep the weight down.

The next body we came across lay with his wrist across his forehead, like he was wiping away the sweat. He looked about 18. His jeans had been torn around the left calf, probably by a jackal, and the flesh was torn away down to the bone. Nearby, there was another empty water bottle. It is a story that has come to dominate my life for the last two years.

'We walked'

In 2007, an extraordinary photograph in the morning papers set off my work on this story. It was an aerial shot of a tuna net, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Hanging from it were 27 men, clothed but with no sign of any boat. It seemed they had fallen from outer space. When I finally tracked them down, to a hostel in Italy, it turned out they had been trying to cross the sea to Europe when their boat had capsized. They had clung onto the net for three days without proper food or water. None of them could swim, and they were so unfamiliar with the sea, they believed the tuna in the net were man-eating fish. "But how did you get the Mediterranean in the first place?" I asked. They looked at each other, puzzled. "We walked across the Sahara," they said.

The youngest was a 19-year-old, from Ghana, named Justice Amin. As we talked I realised the journey he'd taken, that they'd all taken in the hope of reaching a "promised land" was of biblical proportions. They had not just risked their lives crossing the sea, they had first risked them on that walk across the desert. All of them had lost friends. They had been reduced to drinking their own urine on the Sahara, and drinking seawater on the Mediterranean. A quarter of those who attempt the journey each year end up dead. Justice's story was particularly compelling. He had been raised by a witchdoctor, who spoke in tongues and sacrificed chickens on a clay idol outside their hut. Yet he could still speak four languages, and quote lengthy tracts from both the Koran and the Bible.

He told me about the journey to Europe - about the nomads who lead men into the desert and then abandon them without water, the people smugglers who trick migrants onto boats without enough petrol to reach the other side and the Libyan border patrols who dress "like ninjas" and capture migrants on the dunes. I wrote a book about him, called "I am Justice", and now here I was, on the Sahara, with the very patrols he had tried to evade.

We were back in the air-conditioned jeep when the radio message came through. They'd just spotted 21 migrants walking across the sand a couple of miles away. If caught they would be thrown into a Libyan prison. But if they were not stopped, they might just make it to the Mediterranean and the next step on this deadly journey. Or, they might end up as corpses propped against Saharan rocks, arms reaching out for empty bottles.

Aux Antilles

Le leader du LKP, présent samedi à la fête de l’Huma, a menacé de "redescendre dans la rue", estimant que l’Etat ne tenait pas ses engagements.

Elie Domota, le leader du LKP, le collectif à l’origine d’une grève générale de 44 jours en début d’année en Guadeloupe, a également annoncé nouveau mot d’ordre de mobilisation pour le 3 octobre.

« On dit clairement au préfet et au gouvernement : on ne va pas se laisser faire. Nous allons, le moment venu, redescendre dans les rues pour défendre nos droits et nos intérêts », a-t-il déclaré à l’issue d’une intervention à la Fête de l’Humanité à Paris. « Ce ne sont pas les décisions du gouvernement qui vont nous dire à quel moment nous allons descendre. Ni le transport, ni l’octroi de mer, ne peuvent justifier des écarts aussi importants sur les marges et sur les prix », a-t-il ajouté au micro de RFO Paris.

Nouvelle mobilisation en Guadeloupe le 3 octobre
"L’Etat a signé des engagements, notamment sur les prix et l’essence. Il s’est engagé à faire un certain nombre de contrôles et à prendre des décisions pour garantir aux Guadeloupéens l’arrêt de la "profitation" sur les marges, sur les prix, sur l’essence…"
, a-t-il fait valoir à l’issue de son intervention à l’Agora, aux cotés de syndicalistes de Nouvelle-Calédonie.

"Aujourd’hui, on voit que l’Etat ne respecte pas ses engagements. Bien au contraire, l’Etat se met du côté des profitants pour revenir (à la situation) d’avant le 20 janvier", a-t-il ajouté.
Elie Domota a également critiqué le projet de réforme des collectivités locales du gouvernement. « Les choses sont claires : M. Sarkozy va fusionner régions et départements. Il va régionaliser les institutions. Les régions vont devenir concurrentes entre elles », a-t-il estimé.
« Tout cela pour dire : vous allez avoir plus ou moins d’autonomie »
, a-t-il poursuivi, estimant que « le développement économique de la Guadeloupe doit être financé par l’Etat français ».

Submitted by Annette Quarcoopome

Taken from