Guinea Temporarily Frees Jailed Protest Leaders

Vice Principal Gets Life Imprisonment For Raping 12-Year-Old In Ekiti
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A Guinean court on Thursday temporarily freed 10 opposition leaders first jailed for staging mass anti-government protests, which have continued to paralyse the West African country despite their arrest.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets on several occasions since mid-October over speculation that President Alpha Conde, 81, is seeking a third term.

At least 20 civilians have been killed in the unrest to date, plus one gendarme.

On October 22 a court in the capital Conakry jailed several protest leaders on charges of organising unauthorised demonstrations and paralysing the economy.

However, lawyers representing the activists persuaded a court on Thursday to free 10 of them pending an appeal trial due to start on December 5.

Cries of “freedom” from oppostion supporters rang out in the courtroom following the verdict, according to an AFP journalist who was present.

Abdourahamane Sanoh, the co-ordinator of the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), an alliance of opposition groups, was among those freed.

“We have won a battle but on December 5, we will win the war,” said Saloum Assia Cisse, an FNDC activist.

The protest leaders’ lawyers successfully argued to postpone the appeal trial by one week on Thursday in order to give them time to prepare their case.

They also convinced the court to the release the activists until that date.

“We have always said that this trial had no reason to exist,” said Mohamed Traore, one of the lawyers.

“We are going to fight again so that the appeal judge knows that innocent people were found guilty in the first ruling,” he added.

A former opposition figure himself, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010.

But critics say his regime has become increasingly authoritarian.

In September, he launched consultations on the constitution, which limits the number of presidential terms to two.

Conde has neither confirmed nor denied his intention to seek a third term.

Guinea, a former French colony, is rich in minerals but ranks among the poorest countries in the world. In the UN’s 2018 Human Development Index, it was listed 175th out of 189 countries.

Top Key Facts On How Education Is Under Attack In West And Central Africa

 

About thirty years ago,  governments around the world adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, the right to an education is being violated in communities hit by conflict in West and Central Africa.

According to a report by UNICEF on the region in focus, right now, nearly two million children are being robbed of education in the region due to violence and insecurity in and around their schools.

The report titled ‘Education Under Threat In Central and West Africa’, reveals that in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, a surge in threats and attacks against students, teachers and schools – on education itself – is casting a foreboding shadow upon children, their families, their communities and society at large.

Below are more key facts as stated in the report by UNICEF.

1. The number of schools forced to close due to rising insecurity in conflict-affected areas of West and Central Africa tripled between the end of 2017 and June 2019.
As of June 2019, 9,272 schools were closed in the region, affecting more than 1.91 million children and nearly 44,000 teachers.

2. The increasing number of children forced out of school due to violence in West and Central Africa contributes to a total of 40.6 million primary and lower secondary school-aged children who are out of school in the region. About one in four children globally who need humanitarian support – including education and other services critical to learning – live in just 10 countries in West and Central Africa.

3. Nearly half of the schools closed across the region due to attacks, threats of attack and increasing violence are located in the northwest and southwest Cameroon; 4,437 schools there closed as of June 2019, pushing more than 609,000 children out of school.

4. More than 2,000 schools are closed in Burkina Faso, along with more than 900 in Mali, due to growing violence across both countries.

5. The number of schools closed due to violence in the four countries affected by crisis in the Lake Chad Basin – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – stayed at roughly the same high level, varying only from 981 to 1,054, between the end of 2017 and June 2019.

6. Between April 2017 and June 2019, the countries of the central Sahel – Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – witnessed a six-fold increase in school closures due to violence, from 512 to 3,005.

Note: References to school closures include schools closed or non-operational.
Sources of data: Ministries of Education, humanitarian partners and UNICEF.

READ ALSO: Education, The Way To Overcome Poverty – Buhari

Cameroon. Fanta, 14, attends school near the refugee settlement where she landed after the Boko Haram armed group attacked her family, killing her father and brother, and kidnapping her sister. Kidnapped girls are often forced into child marriage – not what Fanta wants for her future. She hopes to study and become a dressmaker. Credit: UNICEF
Nigeria: On the outskirts of Banki, a town beset by violence and conflict, a row of old desks lies across the road. Beyond the desks, homes and shops are deserted because of the dangers nearby. © UNICEF/UN0322365/KOKIC
Northeast Nigeria. Mohammed,12, attends a school in Banki that was reopened after being attacked. With support from UNICEF, the school now includes a high-perimeter wall, gates, and teachers trained to provide psychosocial support to children affected by conflict.

UNICEF’S A Call To Action

More than ever, governments today must reaffirm their commitment to protecting education from attack and providing the resources needed to help their youngest citizens to keep learning.

Now is the time for renewed efforts to make sure the potential of a generation of young people is not wasted.

In a bid to stop attacks and threats against schools, students, teachers, and other school personnel in West and Central Africa – and to support quality learning for every child in the region, governments, armed forces, and other parties to conflict and the international community must take concerted action.

Some of such actions include:

200 Arrested For Terrorism In West Africa – Army

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More than 200 people were arrested last week in a joint anti-terror and security operation in the West African countries of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin and Togo, the Burkinabe army said. 

“Fifty-two individuals were arrested in Burkina Faso, 42 in Benin, 95 in Togo and 13 in Ghana”, Colonel Blaise Ouedraogo told AFP late Friday.

Explosives and contraband goods were also seized.

At least two of those arrested in Burkina were suspected of being involved in jihadism, Ouedraogo said, adding that “40 sticks of explosives, 38 guns and 623 illegally registered motorbikes” had been found.

Around 2,900 security and defence officers from the four countries took part, he added.

Burkino Faso’s Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said the joint operation was the result of an agreement between the leaders of the four countries in Ghana’s capital, Accra, last year.

He said such operations would be repeated in future “so that we can pool our resources, our expertise and our ability to overcome serious crime and terrorism.”

The number of deadly attacks has been on the increase in the north of Burkino Faso in recent years, as well as in the east of the country and the border areas with Togo and Benin.

AFP

‘West Africa Gorillas Still Endangered And In Dire Need Of Protection’

Photo Credit: http://www.limbewildlife.org

Gorillas and chimpanzees may be twice as numerous in West Africa as previously thought, but the apes are still endangered, declining fast and in dire need of protection, an international study found Wednesday.

Prior estimates were based on nest counts taken from isolated areas across the great apes’ habitat range, said the report in the journal Science Advances.

The new count uses mathematical modelling to project likely ape numbers in areas where their nests haven’t been directly surveyed by people.

The estimates are based on other factors known to influence ape numbers, such as proximity to roads and people, and recent outbreaks of Ebola virus which can be deadly.

Spanning 59 sites in five countries surveyed over 11 years, it is the most comprehensive and accurate dataset ever compiled on these apes, said one of the lead authors, Fiona Maisels, conservation scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The results show that western lowland gorillas in western equatorial Africa number nearly 362,000, up from prior estimates of 150,000-250,000 individuals.

And chimpanzees in the area are expected to number almost 129,000, up from earlier counts of 70,000 to 117,000.

Still in danger

But despite the larger numbers, researchers still found a speedy drop in the population in recent years, which means the apes are still in danger of going extinct.

Some 19.4 percent of the gorilla population was lost between 2005 and 2013, said the report.

At this rate, the gorilla population is expected to plunge 80 percent in just three generations.

Maisels said researchers are “pleased” to have a more accurate number, but cautioned that it does not change the gorillas’ status as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Nor does it change the characterization of chimpanzees as endangered.

“What we are worried about is the gorillas are going down to a tune of 2.7 percent per year,” Maisels said.

“The other kind of worrying thing is that the majority of gorillas and chimps do not live in protected areas,” she said.

As many as 80 percent of the great apes live outside protected areas, according to the study.

About 60 percent of all known gorillas and 43 percent of chimpanzees live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Gabon is home to 27 percent of the gorilla population and 34 percent of chimpanzees.

High densities of both apes also live in southern Cameroon.

Even though killing gorillas is illegal worldwide, hunting remains the top threat to survival, followed by disease and habitat loss.

More anti-poaching efforts are needed, both inside and outside protected areas, said the report.

Better land planning could help preserve the apes’ high-quality habitat.

“Given that gorillas are more numerous and chimpanzees are more ecologically resilient than expected, and that large areas of ecologically functional great ape habitat remain, we are hopeful that robust conservation policies, well-managed parks, and responsible industrial practices can stop their declines and provide for secure and thriving populations,” the study concluded.

AFP

Nigeria Will Lead Fight Against Violent Extremism – Buhari

Nigeria Will Lead Fight Against Violent Extremism – Buhari
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President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the commitment of Nigeria to playing a leading role in bringing West African countries together to fight violent extremism in the sub-region.

A statement issued Sunday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the President was addressing a security meeting in Jordan hosted by King Abdullah II.

He said that with what Nigeria had gone through, the country was ready to share the experiences with a view to fashioning out comprehensive action plans in tackling the scourge of violent extremism in West Africa.

President Buhari further called for a stronger and well-coordinated collaboration among the countries in the region.

He said the joint regional collaboration under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), combined with the efforts of the Nigerian military, had gone a long way to decimate the activities of extremists in the region.

The Nigerian President, however, lamented that the insurgents were able to attract members into their fold because of the insidious preaching of extremist clerics and called for an action plan to halt the trend.

He also urged leaders, especially from the Muslim world to speak up against the hateful violence committed by deranged people in the name of Islam.

“All nations, irrespective of religion, should partner effectively in implementing national, regional and global action plans to counter violent extremism,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, participants resolved to come up with concrete action plans that would change the narrative of violent extremism in the West African sub-region at a follow-up meeting to be hosted by Nigeria.

The statement comes a day after President Buhari held a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, on the sidelines of the counter-terrorism summit.

During the meeting, he stressed that regional cooperation was needed more than ever to tackle the global threat of violent extremism.

The Nigerian leader had also recommended that inter-regional cooperation and information sharing were the only ways the evil of terrorism could be curtailed.

He also used the opportunity of the meeting to thank King Abdullah II for his constant support and assistance to Nigeria, especially in the area of security.

Liberia Scarred By War And Ebola

Liberia, which elects a new president on Tuesday, is an English-speaking nation in West Africa that is still scarred by a gruesome civil war and a devastating Ebola outbreak.

Here is a snapshot of the country:

– Oldest republic in Africa –

In 1822 the United States starts sending freed black slaves to a part of West Africa that eventually becomes Liberia. The new arrivals declare independence in 1847, establishing the first republic in Africa.

Descendants of former slaves run the country until the assassination in 1980 of president William Tolbert in a coup led by Samuel Doe, who establishes an authoritarian and corrupt regime.

Doe is captured in 1990, at the height of civil war, and tortured to death by men loyal to warlord Prince Johnson, one of the candidates in Tuesday’s election.

– 14 years of civil war –

The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of Charles Taylor launches a rebellion in December 1989 in the northeast that quickly takes control of most of the country but not the capital, Monrovia.

The civil war involves seven rival factions until it ends under a peace accord in 1997.

In the elections that follow, Taylor is elected president.

Violence again erupts in 1999 when another rebellion flares and Taylor loses control of much of the country, fleeing in 2003 to Nigeria.

The death toll from 14 years of civil war is estimated at 250,000 with hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Some of the worst abuses are perpetuated by government forces.

In 2012, Taylor is convicted by an international criminal court of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

– First female leader in Africa –

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becomes Africa’s first female head of state in 2005 when she wins presidential elections.

“Ma Ellen” wins relection in 2011, and a month later is co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a champion of women’s rights.

The 78-year-old has served two terms and so is barred from standing in the coming election.

– Worst-hit by Ebola –

Liberia suffered the most deaths in West Africa’s 2014-16 outbreak of Ebola.

The virus killed 11,300 people in three countries, more than 4,800 of them in Liberia.

– A recovering economy –

The years of civil war devastated the economy and infrastructure of Liberia, which is rich in natural resources such as minerals and forests.

Growth stagnated at zero percent over 2014 and 2016 because of the Ebola outbreak and a fall in commodity prices, the World Bank says.

But prospects are better for 2017 with gold production and improvements in service likely to account for better economic performance, it says.

Most of the population of 4.7 million people lives without basic services such as water and electricity.

AFP

ECOWAS, ICRC Present Report On International Humanitarian Law

ECOWAS Member States Meet Over Implementation Of IHLEleven out of 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are at different levels of domestication and implementation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

The implementation of the law is aimed at reducing the effects of armed conflicts on persons not directly involved in such conflicts.

The resolve was made at a meeting on Friday in Abuja, where ECOWAS member states examined a report by the ECOWAS Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on the implementation of the International Humanitarian Law in West Africa.

The head of the delegation of the ICRC, Mr Eloi Fillion, said efforts were ongoing to help national authorities domesticate the International Humanitarian Law treaties.

Statistics reveal that armed conflicts across the West African sub region have left millions of persons in need of humanitarian aid.

Also, according to the ICRC, at least nine million people are in need of different humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad Basin alone.

The ICRC and ECOWAS also noted that they have been working for over 15 years to see to the ratification, domestication and implementation of the International Humanitarian Law in the sub region.

The International Humanitarian Law is made up of a body of laws, including the Arms Trade Treaty and the African Union Convention on the protection of Internally Displaced Persons among others.

The ECOWAS Commission has stated its preparedness to adopt a new plan of action that will ensure full implementation and domestication of the International Humanitarian Law in the sub region.

Why I Stepped Down, Gambia’s Jammeh Explains

Gambia Election: Jammeh Given Last Chance To ResignECOWAS mounting pressure to force Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh out of office paid off after all, as he has attributed his decision to step down to the pressure from West African armies which entered the Gambia this week.

Mr Jammeh had rejected the result of the presidential election he lost to Adama Barrow, even after he had earlier said he accepted the defeat.

Jammeh is yet to leave the presidential palace but his announcement on state television overnight appears to signal an end of a political impasse. It also brings to a close a reign that began in 1994 when he seized power in a coup.

While Jammeh held on to power, tension rose, countries withdrew their nationals from the tiny nation and some 7,000 soldiers from Nigeria and Senegal entered Gambia backed by tanks and warplanes. They were poised to move into the capital as Jammeh’s army provided no resistance.

ECOWAS delegations led by Nigeria’s leader, Muhammadu Buhari had at different journeys to the country tried to convince Jammeh to hand over power but he insisted he was staying on.

After talks failed to yield a positive result, ECOWAS said it would involve military in ensuring he handed over power.

“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation,” said Jammeh, dressed in a usual white robe and looking tired.

“It was not dictated by anything else but by the supreme interest of you the gambian people and out dear country taking into consideration my prayer that peace and security continue to reign in the Gambia.

“All those who have supported me or were against me in this period, I implore them to put the supreme interest of our nation the Gambia above all partisan interest and endeavour to work together as one nation,” he added.

Jammeh made no mention of whether he would go into exile, but said he was leaving power in the national interest and was grateful there was no bloodshed during the political stalemate.

Reuters reports that he spent much of Friday in talks in Banjul with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania over where he would live and whether he could be offered amnesty for alleged crimes committed during his years in power.

Those talks were yet to be concluded and some in Banjul said they were angry he was being allowed to bargain and sceptical he would in fact step down, not least because he first accepted he lost the December 1 election to Barrow and then changed his mind.

In a last bid to cling to power this week, he declared a state of emergency and dissolved the cabinet. More than half the government resigned and 45,000 people fled to Senegal.

“It’s hard because we want our freedom now. But this man he can say this today and tomorrow it can be different. That’s the kind of person he is,” said Ismaila Ndiaye, 61, a plumber and stone mason as he gathered with others close to State House.

Patience Williams, 50, a dental nurse, derided the West African leaders for not taking a tougher line and said: “He’s a stubborn man. It should be surrender, handcuffs or death.”

‘Rule Of Fear’ Banished

Hours to the inauguration set date, the parliament extended Jammeh’s rule by 90 days, but that did not stop the inauguration of Mr Barrow in Senegal.

Barrow, 51, is a soft-spoken man who worked as a property developer and led an opposition coalition few thought would win.

He was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal on Thursday and called for international support.

“The rule of fear has been banished from Gambia for good,” Barrow told a crowd at a Dakar hotel on Friday, once it became clear a deal had been struck for Jammeh to relinquish power.

“To all of you forced by political circumstances to flee our country, you now have the liberty to return home,” he said. Barrow was also expected to return to the country.

The crisis was a test for regional bloc ECOWAS, not least because Jammeh held office longer than any other current president in the grouping of states. The African Union and U.N. Security Council supported the military intervention.

 

Governor Okowa Tells Youths What To Do To Succeed

Okowa Inaugurates Assembly Service Commission, Demands DisciplineYouths in the Delta State have been advised to consistently work towards achieving success patiently and without losing faith in themselves.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State gave the advice in Asaba when the winner of the MTN Project Fame, West Africa, Season 9, Miss Okiemute Ighorodje, from Delta State and the 2nd runner up in the contest, Mr Okiemute Okotete, another Deltan paid him a courtesy visit.

Governor Okowa said: “Hard work pays. We can achieve things for ourselves. We must start thinking outside the box. As youths, we must start thinking of how to succeed. Success is difficult to attain but with the right frame of mind and commitment, success will come.

“Youths should try to fend for themselves and realise that they can start small and make it big”.

He congratulated the winners for being good ambassadors of the state, asserting; “we believe that this type of thing can inspire other youths who are ready to work to excel”.

“I want to truly congratulate both of you for the victory you brought to Delta State. We are proud of you as Deltans. You can use this as springboard for a better future and I want you to use this position that you are in to act as mentor to other youths because, the life you live and influence the youths on a positive note will count for you in heaven if not on earth here,” Governor Okowa emphasised.

Earlier, Miss Okiemute who was accompanied by her relations on the visit, thanked Governor Okowa’s administration for his support for the youths in the state.

“Thank you your excellency for providing an enabling environment for the youths to harness their potentials which makes it possible for them to emerge victorious in all that they do.

“I dedicate these awards to the governor and the people of Delta State and I pledge that we will judiciously work to make the youths more focused in achieving their desired goals,” she told the governor.

Gambia’s Adama Barrow Says Win Heralds ‘New Hope’

Gambia's Adama Barrow Says Win Heralds 'New Hope'The Gambia’s president-elect, Adama Barrow says his shock win of the country’s general election heralds new hope for the country.

Incumbent leader, Yahya Jammeh, an authoritarian president who ruled for 22 years, has confirmed that he will step down.

51-year-old Mr Barrow, who has never held political office, won Thursday’s election with 45.5% of the vote.

Hundreds of Gambians took to the streets to celebrate one of the biggest election upsets West Africa has ever seen.

President Buhari Congratulates Gambian President-Elect, Adama Barrow

President Buhari Congratulates Gambian President-Elect, Adama BarrowPresident Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the President-elect of The Gambia, Mr Adama Barrow, on his victory in the country’s December 1 presidential election.

The Nigerian President also salutes the spirit of statesmanship displayed by the outgoing President of The Gambia, Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, by conceding defeat, noting that such uncommon gesture is crucial in calming fears of unrest in the West African nation.

While expressing delight at the gallantry shown by President Jammeh, President Buhari enjoined President-elect Barrow to be magnanimous in victory.

The Nigerian leader also commended Gambians for peacefully exercising their democratic right to freely choose their leader and called on all stakeholders to maintain the peace.

President Buhari said that he was looking forward to a smooth transition of power and working with the incoming President of The Gambia to deepen existing cordial relations between both countries.

The electoral commission head declared Mr Barrow president-elect on state television, with 45.5 per cent of the vote against Jammeh’s 36.7 per cent.

“Having received 263, 515 votes out of the total votes cast in the election, I hereby declare Adama Barrow newly elected to serve as president of the republic of the Gambia,” Alieu Momarr Njai said.

With Barrow’s victory, Gambian leader, Yahyah Jammeh, lost a bid for another term after having ruled the nation for 22 years and vowed to remain in the helm of affairs for “a billion years”.

Oil & Gas Sector: NCDMB To Boost Local Economy

pipelineThe Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), says it is strictly implementing the Nigerian Content Act in order to boost manufacturing and infrastructure, manpower, technology, and job creation.

This is in line with the economic transformation agenda of the federal government.

The Executive Secretary of the board, represented by the Director Planning and Research and Statistics, Daziba Patrick-Obah, stated this during the unveiling of the Nigerian Institute of Welding Non-destructive and Destructive Testing Laboratory, in Imasabor community in Edo state.

The ultra-modern laboratory of the Nigerian institute of Welding, which is the first of its kind in West Africa, is expected to create jobs for millions of Nigerians and also boost local manpower supply to the nation’s oil and gas sector.