Gabon Divided Over Vote To Decriminalise Homosexuality


Gabon’s gay community has welcomed the decriminalisation of homosexuality adopted this week, a year after an initial ban on same-sex relations sparked weeks of debate and sharply divided the central African country.

The criminalisation of homosexuality went almost unnoticed in this country of less than two million inhabitants when it was adopted last year.

But the amendment to the legislation adopted by Gabon’s parliament late Monday has underscored divisions with praise from activists contrasting with anger from opponents in the local press, on social media and in the streets.

“It’s good news. We’re finally going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief,” said Parfait Magnaga, the head of Sante + Pro Humanitus, one of the only associations defending the rights of sexual minorities in Gabon.

The amendment removes text, added by the Senate in July 2019, which made same-sex sexual relations a criminal offence, punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of five million CFA francs (7,600 euros).

The change will formally become law once the president — whose government pushed for the amendment — ratifies it.

Although the law was never applied, “in the past year, we have been more vulnerable to violence because we no longer had the law on our side,” Magnaga, a psycho-sexologist by profession, told AFP.

In normal times, “it’s already difficult for a homosexual here to go and file a complaint when he’s verbally or physically attacked,” he added.

“Parliament’s vote is a small victory for us, but it is not a question of gloating now. We prefer to remain discreet,” he said.

Magnaga said the gay community above all wants Gabon to turn the page on this “trying” political time.

Homophobic comments

For three weeks, the issue of decriminalising homosexuality caused a stir and drew homophobic comments from all corners of Gabon.

Some press articles went so far as to equate homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality.

Leaders of the Catholic Church and the opposition have condemned homosexuality in public forums, often in violent terms, while messages inciting hate against homosexuals have been rampant on social media.

“In the taxi, in the neighbourhood, on television, at home, homophobic remarks were everywhere,” said Magnaga.

The psychologist recorded a video, which he said was shot this past week in the capital’s biggest market, showing a young man accused of being homosexual being chased by a group, insulted and narrowly escaping an attack thanks to the intervention of another man.

‘Foreign to our morals’
Many opponents of decriminalisation claim that the vote in parliament is far from a true reflection of the opinion of most Gabonese people.

Decriminalisation “does not enjoy a great deal of support”, political opponent Paul-Marie Gondjout wrote in an open letter to the government, deploring “a power that clearly chooses, and against the interests of its people, to serve lobbies and morals that are foreign to our habits and customs”.

Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba, the archbishop of Libreville, accused “certain international organisations” of “conditioning their aid on the acceptance of behaviour which is foreign to our morals”.

Homosexuality is widely criminalised in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than half of its countries banning or repressing same-sex relations — in a few places, with the threat of the death penalty.

However, Gabon had never banned homosexuality before last year, and its legislation had not even mentioned it.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Gabon, Stephen Jackson, welcomed the vote on Monday, saying it was in line with Gabon’s constitution which “recognises every person’s right to the ‘free development of their personality'”.

The UN representative hailed Gabon as a “proud, independent and sovereign nation”.




Salah Outshines Other African Players As Leading Scorer In Europe

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool in southern England on January 12, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP


Mohamed Salah became the leading English Premier League scorer this season after netting twice for Liverpool in a dramatic 4-3 triumph over Crystal Palace at the weekend.   

The Egyptian superstar has notched 16 goals, two more than Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and England sharpshooter Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a profitable day for African attackers at Anfield with Senegalese Sadio Mane also scoring for league leaders Liverpool.



Salah raised his season tally to 19 in all competitions by scoring twice to keep Liverpool four points clear at the top by defeating Palace. The Egyptian had fortune on his side thanks to some errant goalkeeping by 39-year Julian Speroni, making his first appearance in over a year, and was also lucky to escape without a yellow card when trying to win a cheap penalty just before half-time. Mane grabbed his 10th of the season with a smart finish in stoppage time.



The Ivorian scored but could not prevent Girona losing a five-goal thriller to Real Betis in La Liga. Doumbia stooped low to head in after an error from goalkeeper Pau Lopez as Girona pulled 2-1 ahead, only for Betis to score twice in the second half.


Toko Ekambi earned Villarreal a point by grabbing a late equaliser in their 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao. The Cameroonian slid in to score from close range with 19 minutes left to ensure his side avoided defeat in their fight against relegation.



Gervinho earned a penalty and scored the winner for Parma in a 2-1 victory over Udinese. Parma were awarded a VAR penalty for a Rodrigo De Paul foul on Gervinho which Roberto Inglese converted after 11 minutes. The veteran Ivorian scored the winner after 68 minutes, surging forward for the midfield to slot in his sixth goal of the season for promoted Parma, who are three points off the Europa League berths.


SALIF SANE (Schalke 04)

The Senegal centre-back put in a solid display in Schalke’s 2-1 win at home to Wolfsburg which pulled them clear of the Bundesliga relegation places with their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City looming next month. Sane was unable to stop Wolfsburg midfielder Elvis Rexhbecaj equalising midway through the first half before Schalke defender Daniel Caligiuri scored the late winner with his second goal of the game.



The Democratic Republic of Congo defender endured a day to forget as his side crashed to an embarrassing 9-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain. Ikoko and his Guingamp team-mates were ripped apart by the runaway league leaders as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani accounted for all but one of the goals as PSG set a new club record for the biggest home win.

Macron Advised To Return Looted African Art Treasures

This file photo shows the Ato ceremony of the Kingdom of Dahomey, circa 1934 on May 18, 2018 at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Experts appointed by President Emmanuel Macron will advise him on November 23, 2018, to allow the return of thousands of African artworks held in French museums, a radical shift in policy which could put pressure on other former colonial powers. GERARD JULIEN / AFP

Experts appointed by President Emmanuel Macron will advise him on Friday to allow the return of thousands of African artworks held in French museums, a radical shift in policy which could put pressure on other former colonial powers.

Calls have been growing in Africa for the restitution of its cultural treasures, but French law strictly forbids the government from ceding state property, even in well-documented cases of pillaging.

Yet Macron raised hopes for a change during a speech in Burkina Faso in November last year, saying “Africa’s heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums.”

He later asked French art historian Benedicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr to study the matter, and they are to present Macron with their report on Friday.

According to a copy seen by AFP, they recommend amending French law to allow the restitution of cultural works if bilateral accords are struck between France and African states.

The change would apply in particular to works held in museums which were “transferred from their original territory during the French colonial period,” the report said.

“We propose changing heritage laws so that all types of cases can be taken into account, and the criteria of consentment can be invoked,” Sarr told French daily Liberation in an article posted late Tuesday.

The report was welcomed by advocates of the restitution of works which were bought, bartered and in some cases simply stolen.

“Today it feels as if we’re just a step away from recovering our history and being finally able to share it on the continent,” Marie-Cecile Zinsou, a daughter of Benin’s former prime minister and president of the Zinsou Art Foundation in Cotonou, told AFP.

 Art dealers worried 

While the ownership controversy is nothing new, the issue was thrust into the spotlight in 2016 when President Patrice Talon of Benin asked France to return items including carvings, sceptres and sacred doors from the Palaces of Abomey, formerly the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey.

France refused, citing its law that museums are forbidden from permanently parting with any piece in their collections.

Of the estimated 90,000 African artworks in French museums, around 70,000 are at Paris’ Quai Branly museum, created by ex-president Jacques Chirac, a keen admirer of African and Asian art.

In order to proceed with any restitution, “a request would have to be lodged by an African country, based on inventory lists which we will have sent them,” according to the report.

The prospect has raised hackles among some curators and art dealers who say it would eventually empty museums and galleries in some Western countries.

They point to the fact that many objects came from kingdoms which no longer exist, and that in many cases the owners can claim they were obtained legitimately.

Critics also say the move could prompt private French collectors to move their works out of France for fear of seizure.

“No dealer in African art was consulted” by the report’s authors, said Yves-Bernard Debie, a Belgian lawyer who is one of the most vocal opponents of returning works taken by soldiers, explorers, and others during the colonial era.

European conservationists meanwhile have raised practical concerns, worrying artifacts could be stolen or handled improperly if given to inexperienced museums in politically unstable countries.

But the report’s authors said art market professionals were indeed among those who contributed to the report, along with collectors, lawmakers, legal specialists, and even “skeptics”.

 Dispersed heritage

Britain too has faced numerous calls to return artifacts to the countries they originate from, including the Elgin Marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.

On Tuesday, the governor of Easter Island in the Pacific tearfully begged the British Museum to return one of its famous statues.

The London museum has held the Hoa Hakananai’a, one of the most spiritually important of the Chilean island’s stone monoliths, for 150 years.

Elsewhere in Europe, the French experts said 37,000 objects from Sub-Saharan Africa were at Vienna’s Weltmuseum and 180,000 were at Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren.

The report said such collections were effectively depriving Africans of their artistic and cultural heritage.

“On a continent where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 20 years old, what is first and foremost of a great importance is for young people to have access to their own culture, creativity, and spirituality from other eras,” it said.


African Migrants Stranded In Tunisia


A Tunisian boat carrying around 40 African migrants has been stranded off the country’s coast without aid for more than a week after authorities refused to let them disembark there, the Red Crescent said on Monday.

Monji Slim, an official of the Tunisian Red Crescent, said the authorities had argued that Malta or Italy should accept the migrants. The Tunisian interior ministry declined to comment.

Slim told Reuters the boat was stuck 12 miles off the coast. “The African migrants at sea are in a bad condition after the vessel’s captain refused to receive aid to pressure the Tunisian authorities to receive them, but no solution has been reached after 11 days at sea.”

It was not clear from where the migrants had originally set off before they were rescued by the Tunisian vessel.

The new Italian government has closed its ports to charity ships operating in the Mediterranean, saying the European Union must share the burden of accepting the hundreds of migrants who are plucked from waters each month, mostly off the Libyan coast.

Rome called this month for migrant centres to be set up in Africa to stop a tide of asylum-seekers fleeing toward western Europe. Tunisia has rejected this proposal.

At least 80 migrants died when their boat sank off the Tunisian coast last month, one of the worst migrant boat accidents in the North African country of recent years.

Human traffickers are increasingly using Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as the Libyan coast guard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.

Netanyahu Cancels United Nations’ Deal On African Migrants

Migrants In Israel To Resettle In Canada, Germany, Italy – Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press in his Jerusalem office 2018. Menahem KAHANA / AFP


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled an agreement with the UN refugee agency on Tuesday aimed at avoiding forced deportations of thousands of African migrants only hours after having announced the deal himself.

The stunning turnaround after Netanyahu announced the accord in a televised address on Monday afternoon came as he faced mounting pressure from his right-wing base.

The UN refugee agency urged Netanyahu to reconsider.

Monday’s announcement drew immediate anger from right-wing politicians, including Netanyahu allies, and many of his traditional supporters.

After the deluge of criticism, the premier said in a late-night Facebook post on Monday he was suspending the agreement that would have allowed thousands of the migrants to remain in Israel at least temporarily.

On Tuesday, he said the deal was being cancelled outright after having held discussions on it.

“After having heard numerous comments on the agreement, I have examined the pros and cons and have decided to cancel the agreement,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

‘Playing with our minds’

The agreement was designed to end the possibility of forced deportations of thousands of migrants to Rwanda under a controversial plan put forward by Netanyahu in January.

Under the agreement with the UN, a minimum of 16,250 migrants would have instead been resettled in Western nations.

In return, Israel would grant temporary residency to one migrant for each one resettled elsewhere.

The presence of the primarily Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in Israel has become a key political issue, and Netanyahu is already under heavy pressure due to a string of graft probes.

He has repeatedly referred to them as “not refugees but illegal infiltrators”.

A range of Netanyahu’s own ministers spoke out strongly against the deal, with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon saying he had known nothing of it until Monday.

On Tuesday morning, Netanyahu held talks with residents of southern Tel Aviv, where many of the migrants live. A group of southern Tel Aviv residents had harshly criticised the deal.

Dozens of migrants and their supporters also protested outside Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv.

“We thought that if we came here, there is a democracy and Israel will defend our rights, but they are playing with our minds and our lives,” Sernai Dori, a 28-year-old mother of three from Eritrea who has been in Israel for a decade, said at the protest in Jerusalem.

 ‘Reconsider its decision’ 

The UN refugee agency meanwhile said it had found out about Netanyahu’s initial suspension of the agreement through news reports.

The agency, known as the UNHCR, said Tuesday it hoped Netanyahu would change his mind about the cancellation.

“We continue to believe in the need for a win-win agreement that can benefit Israel, the international community and people needing asylum and we hope that Israel will reconsider its decision soon,” spokesman William Spindler told AFP in an email.

Netanyahu said he was forced to resort to the deal with the UN after Rwanda indicated it would not be able to follow through on the previous plan.

In his Monday night Facebook post, Netanyahu said Rwanda had faced “tremendous pressure” from “elements in the European Union” and others to not accept the arrangement.

The EU mission in Israel responded with a mocking tweet.

“Guess it’s just one of those days. At 20:57 you congratulate #Israel & @refugees on their agreement, at 21:46 you like @IsraelMFA announcement on the deal, at 22:50 the PM suspends it and blames, among others, #EU (where #UNHCR hoped to resettle a significant number of refugees),” it said.

Under Netanyahu’s previous plan, migrants who entered illegally would face a choice between leaving voluntarily or facing indefinite imprisonment with eventually forced expulsion.

According to interior ministry figures, there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families who are not facing immediate deportation.

As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel had offered to relocate them to an unnamed African country, which deportees and aid workers had long said was Rwanda or Uganda.

Netanyahu specifically mentioned Rwanda for the first time in his Monday Facebook post.

Uganda had also said it could not accept those sent involuntarily.

The initial plan had drawn criticism from the UN refugee agency, rights groups and some Israelis, including Holocaust survivors who said the country had a special duty to protect migrants.

Migrants began entering Israel through what was then a porous Egyptian border in 2007. The border has since been strengthened, all but ending illegal crossings.


Africans Aubameyang, Hakimi Star In Europe

UEFA director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti, French former international Eric Abidal and UEFA head of club competitions Michael Heselschwerdt take part in the draw for the round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League football tournament at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on December 11, 2017. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Former African Footballer of the Year Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and teenager Achraf Hakimi were among the African stars in the major European leagues at the weekend.

Gabon striker Aubameyang was belatedly credited with a Borussia Dortmund goal to become the leading all-time Bundesliga scorer with 97 goals.

Morocco defender Hakimi became only the sixth African to score for reigning European champions Real Madrid as they routed Sevilla 5-0 in La Liga.



The Egypt winger maintained his superb form with a sublime strike in a 1-1 draw against Everton at Anfield. Salah broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute when he curled home from the edge of the penalty area. It was his 13th goal in 12 games and 19th of the season.


The Ivorian international struck with a much-needed goal for his club, himself and manager Paul Clement to secure a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers West Brom. It was the first time since December 2014 that the 28-year-old has scored in back-to-back matches.


Their record signing has not rewarded the outlay for him with many eye-catching performances, but although he didn’t score in a 1-0 win over Chelsea, his sublime tackle on Nigerian substitute Victor Moses late in the match all but extinguished the champions hopes of getting even a point.



Morocco right-back Hakimi fired home his first Madrid goal with an impressive effort from a narrow angle as Real ran riot in thrashing Sevilla 5-0 with all five goals coming before half-time. The 19-year-old, deputising for suspended Dani Carvajal, did his chances of featuring more regularly for the European champions in 2018 no harm as an inexperienced Madrid backline nullified Sevilla’s threat.



Ivorian midfielder Kessie played a pivotal role as AC Milan got their first victory under new coach Gennaro Gattuso with a 2-1 win against Bologna. The 20-year-old former Atalanta player bolstered the defence and provided impetus up front.



The Gabon striker became the Bundesliga’s all-time top-scorer after belatedly being credited with his 12th goal this season in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat at home to Werder Bremen. Shinji Kagawa’s second-half cross hit the arm of Bremen defender Philipp Bargfrede, who was initially credited with an own goal, as Aubameyang scrambled the ball into the net. However, the Bundesliga later credited the goal to Aubameyang, who has now netted 97 times in Germany’s top flight, beating the previous record of Ghanaian Anthony Yeboah, who scored 96 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburg.

SALOMON KALOU (Hertha Berlin)

The Ivory Coast veteran striker rescued Hertha with a 91st-minute equaliser off the bench in their 1-1 draw at Augsburg. Kalou came on 11 minutes from time and stabbed the ball home from close range after a corner



The 23-year-old Democratic Republic of Congo forward came off the bench to score a late equaliser as Rennes drew 1-1 at Ligue 1 bottom club Metz. It was a fourth goal of the season for Mubele, but a first since August.

More Than 90 Migrants Alleged Missing After Boat Sinks Off Libya

MigrantsMore than 90 migrants are believed missing after their boat sank off the coast of western Libya on Wednesday, a coastguard spokesman said.

Ayoub Qassem said coastguards had rescued 29 migrants some 26 miles off the shore east of Tripoli, and that survivors said 126 people had been on the rubber boat before one of the sides was ripped and it started taking on water.

Libya is the main departure point for mostly African migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Smugglers arrange ill-equipped and overcrowded vessels that frequently break down or sink.

Qassem said the boat that sank on Wednesday had left at dawn from Garabulli, about 50km (31 miles) east of Tripoli.

“Because of overcrowding one of the sides of the boat got torn and water leaked in,” he said. “Ninety-seven illegal migrants are still missing or they have drowned.”

The rate of recorded deaths in the Mediterranean has risen sharply this year, with more than 3,740 migrants drowning on their way to Europe. That nearly matches the toll for the whole of 2015.

The route between Libya and Italy has become the busiest crossing point after a deal between Turkey and the European Union in March largely closed off pathways to Greece.

Smugglers in Libya act with impunity, taking advantage of a security vacuum that developed amid the political chaos following the country’s 2011 uprising.

They often send migrants with just enough fuel to reach international waters and be picked up by international rescue vessels.

Rio 2016: Buhari Commends Nigeria’s Paralympic Team

Paralympics-Team-NigeriaPresident Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Team Nigeria for an outstanding performance at the Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

President Buhari commended the athletes for doing the country proud by winning 12 medals and setting new records, which made them the top-performing African team at the 2016 Games.

The President acknowledged the resilient spirit of the Nigerian Paralympic athletes, who were able to excel in the face of adversity.

He applauded the athletes for their tenacity, focus and determination, which has brought glory to the country.

The President also expressed gratitude to all the officials and trainers of the Paralympic athletes, who made sacrifices and persevered to fly the country’s colours.

Hundreds of Nigerians turned out at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja to welcome the first batch of Rio 2016 Paralympics athletes who returned to Nigeria on Sunday.

Amosun Advocates Promotion Of African Culture

Ibikunle Amosun on African cultureGovernor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, on Thursday called for the promotion of the African cultural heritage.

The Governor says a smooth blend of religion, culture and tradition is a way of enhancing peaceful coexistence and national development.

He made the call during the celebration of an annual festival in Ijebu-Ode, Ojude Oba, in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria.

Among the dignitaries at the event are the governors of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson and his Kaduna State counterpart, Mr Nasir El-Rufai.

Shiites Criticise Sharia Council’s Call For Group Ban

Shiites, ShariaThe Islamic Movement in Nigeria has faulted the call for its ban by the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN).

The spokesman for the Shiites, Mr Ibrahim Musa, made the observation on Monday during in telephone interview with Channels Television.

He claimed that the Sharia group had never respected the beliefs of the movement led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, saying they are not surprised at such call.

Hate Campaigns

“The group called Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria is a group of some people that are known for their hate campaigns against anybody who is not following their own religious belief, especially Christians and we who are followers of Shiite Islamic faith.

“Islamic Movement in Nigeria is just a collection of Muslims who believe that Muslims should be guided by Allah’s teaching and his prophet’s teachings.

“So how can you ban such group?” Musa questioned.

The Kaduna State chapter of the Sharia group had earlier called on the Federal Government to ban all activities of the Shiites and prosecute their leader, El-Zakzaky.

They noted that the acts of impunity exhibited by the Shiite group over the years in Zaria, Kaduna State and other states in Nigeria’s northern region, were against the teachings of Islam and the Nigerian Constitution.

The Islamic group re-emphasised the urgent need to proscribe the Shiites for the interest of peace and security of Nigeria.

Muslim Leaders Ask FG To Ban Shiites

Muslim-SCSN-ShiitesThe Kaduna State chapter of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN) has called on the Federal Government, to ban all activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and prosecute their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Rising from their meeting in Kaduna, the group comprising of Islamic preachers and scholars, supported the indictment of the Shiites by the Judicial Commission of enquiry set up by the Kaduna State government to investigate the December 2015 clash between the Shiites and soldiers in Zaria.

The Muslim leaders maintained that the acts of impunity exhibited by the group over the years in Zaria and other states in Nigeria’s northern region, were against the teachings of Islam and the Nigerian Constitution.

They re-emphasised the urgent need to proscribe the Shiites for the interest of peace and security of Nigeria.

The spokesman for the SCSN, Sheikh Muhammad Suleiman, told reporters that failure of the government to deal decisively with the alleged excesses of the Shiites would pose a great security risk for the country.

The Islamic group also called on the Federal Government to stop the herdsmen crisis by checkmating the influx of herdsmen that come into Nigerian from other neighbouring African countries.

They stated that the armed herdsmen that have been attacking and killing innocent citizens in some parts of the country are not Nigerians.

Nigeria Urges Africa To Collectively Tackle Climate Challenges

Nigeria, Africa, AfricaNigeria has called on African countries to act in a collective and collaborative manner to tackle climate related challenges bedevilling the continent.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, made the call on Friday in Abuja during a meeting of the Council of Ministers in charge of National Meteorological Services in ECOWAS member countries.

Mr Amaechi described Africa as one of the most vulnerable continents to the impact of global warming and climate change.

Increasing Poverty

He believes that drought and desertification were responsible for forced trans-boundary migration of persons and increased security challenges in Africa.

The Minister added that the consequences of climate related challenges were impacting negatively on agriculture and increasing poverty in the continent.

The Chairman of the Council, Bushuben Keita, encouraged the ECOWAS member states to improve their climate monitoring capacity.

A representative of the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organisation, Bennard Gomez, also advised the member states not to ignore the current climate challenge.

The meeting continued behind closed doors and it is expected to adopt the ECOWAS Meteorological Programme.

The fundamental objective of the programme is to improve the quality of meteorological services in member countries, so as to reduce the risks associated with extreme weather conditions.