Ivory Coast Opposition Presidential Candidate Calls for ‘Civil Disobedience’ to Block Possible 3rd Term for Outtara

Ivory Coast’s main opposition candidate is calling for civil disobedience to prevent President Alassane Outtara from being elected to a third term in next month’s elections.Henri Konan Bedie issued the call Sunday in the capital, Abidjan, during a gathering with other opposition candidates and their supporters.The West African country has been mired in violence that has left at least a dozen people dead since last month, after the 78-year-old Outtara broke a promise he made earlier this year not to seek reelection. Outtara reversed his stance and formally accepted the nomination of his ruling party after his handpicked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died suddenly of a heart attack in July.Outtara’s opponents say he is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, but the president has dismissed their complaints, saying a new constitution approved after he was elected to a second term in 2015 does not apply to him. The country’s Constitutional Court has cleared Outtara to stand in the election.The current unrest is likely to dredge up memories of the post-election violence in 2010, when 3,000 people died after then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede the presidential election to Outtara.Gbagbo was charged by the International Criminal Court in 2019 of crimes against humanity in connection with the violence, but he was cleared of those charges in a ruling last year. He is currently living in exile in Europe while prosecutors appeal the court’s ruling.  

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Somali Schools Reassure of Students Health Safety as Learning Resumes

Fifteen-year-old Nasra Aidarus is happy to be back in class after a four-month school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit Somalia.The seventh-grader at Daynile Primary and Secondary School was just settling into her new school when classes were canceled in March to limit the coronavirus spread. Her family came back to Somalia in 2018 after living in Yemen as refugees for years.
She was worried she might never fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.She said her greatest fear was not being able to complete her education and being married off at a young age because of the school closure.Aidarus is one of 390 students who went back to the school in the Daynile District in mid-August, but more have yet to report for fear contracting the coronavirus.Daud Jiran, Mercy Corps Somalia’s country director, said the coronavirus pandemic has taken away years of gains in drawing children, mostly girls, into classrooms.“When the schools were going on, girls had a safe space,” Jiran said. “We understand from the little assessment that we do that girls are being depended on more by their families. So the burden of social support to their families has become more. Girls dropping out of school have increased.”We also see when teenage girls stay home long, we see the issue of early marriage increasing now because society feels they need support.”Aid agencies say Somalia has one of the world’s largest populations of children out of school — 2 million out 5 million of school age.Years of disruptionThe country’s educational system has been affected by decades of conflict, displacement and, most recently, the coronavirus.Daynile Deputy Headteacher Mahad Dahir Hassan says the school is reaching out to the children’s families, trying to assure them that the school is doing everything possible to minimize the virus’ spread by keeping students apart. Some students have heeded the call and have reported to the school, he said, but others have not. School officials, he said, sometimes even go to the youths’ homes to try to persuade them to return to classes.More classrooms were created to allow greater spacing in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, which has resulted in teachers working at least two shifts a day.President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has just inaugurated the national curriculum for secondary schools, ending three decades of multiple nonstandardized educational systems in Somalia.

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Somalia’s Education System Struggles to Attract Girls

Fifteen-year-old Nasra Aidarus is happy to be back in class after a four-month school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit Somalia.The seventh-grader at Daynile Primary and Secondary School was just settling into her new school when classes were canceled in March to limit the coronavirus spread. Her family came back to Somalia in 2018 after living in Yemen as refugees for years.
She was worried she might never fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.She said her greatest fear was not being able to complete her education and being married off at a young age because of the school closure.Aidarus is one of 390 students who went back to the school in the Daynile District in mid-August, but more have yet to report for fear contracting the coronavirus.Daud Jiran, Mercy Corps Somalia’s country director, said the coronavirus pandemic has taken away years of gains in drawing children, mostly girls, into classrooms.“When the schools were going on, girls had a safe space,” Jiran said. “We understand from the little assessment that we do that girls are being depended on more by their families. So the burden of social support to their families has become more. Girls dropping out of school have increased.”We also see when teenage girls stay home long, we see the issue of early marriage increasing now because society feels they need support.”Aid agencies say Somalia has one of the world’s largest populations of children out of school — 2 million out 5 million of school age.Years of disruptionThe country’s educational system has been affected by decades of conflict, displacement and, most recently, the coronavirus.Daynile Deputy Headteacher Mahad Dahir Hassan says the school is reaching out to the children’s families, trying to assure them that the school is doing everything possible to minimize the virus’ spread by keeping students apart. Some students have heeded the call and have reported to the school, he said, but others have not. School officials, he said, sometimes even go to the youths’ homes to try to persuade them to return to classes.More classrooms were created to allow greater spacing in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, which has resulted in teachers working at least two shifts a day.President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has just inaugurated the national curriculum for secondary schools, ending three decades of multiple nonstandardized educational systems in Somalia.

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Somalia Names New PM, Revises Election Plan

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Thursday appointed a political newcomer to become prime minister, nearly two months after the country’s parliament voted out former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire. Mohamed Hussein Roble’s appointment came hours after the president and five regional leaders reached agreement on a revised election model after days of talks in Mogadishu and international pressure. The president, who in February signed historic legislation giving ordinary citizens the right to vote in parliamentary elections, conceded to having the indirect elections preferred by regional leaders. Somali President Signs Historic Election Bill Into LawNew law allows Somalis to cast direct votes in presidential, parliamentary elections for first timeA statement from the president’s office said Roble was directed to form a new transitional government ahead of general elections in the Horn of Africa country. The new agreement calls for election preparations to begin November 1. Planners would determine dates in 2021 for choosing a parliament, whose members then would select the president, as in 2016. Mohamed, widely known as Farmajo, is expected to seek a second four-year term; his current term ends February 7. Roble is expected to appear within several days for a confirmation hearing before parliament, whose members’ four-year terms expire December 27. If approved, Roble would have 30 days to pick cabinet members. Roble, 57, brings a fresh face to the country’s political scene. He is a graduate of Somali National University, where he studied civil engineering. Roble’s representatives told VOA that after Somalia’s civil war broke out in 1991, he fled to Sweden. He has worked for the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, in multiple locations including Somalia. In a short statement posted on social media, Roble said he would work with all Somalis during the transition. Revised election model The elections agreement revises a plan reached August 20 by Mohamed and three of five regional leaders. It was rejected by leaders of Puntland and Jubaland. Regional leaders reportedly worried that registering individual voters would be risky, given insecurity in Somalia, and could prolong incumbents’ terms in office. According to the new agreement, traditional elders, civil society leaders and regional authorities will select a federal map of 101 delegates from each state, who then will elect representatives to parliament. The plan likely will allow clans to retain more of the power that political parties had hoped to share. The new 15-point agreement allows the federal government and regional administrations to appoint federal and regional electoral commissions to manage voting and related processes. According to the revised agreement, election planning will begin November 1 in two locations in all five states. Representatives in Somaliland, which considers itself a breakaway republic, will be elected in Mogadishu, the capital. The deal also preserves a quota guaranteeing women 30% of the seats in the parliament’s 275-member lower chamber and 54-member upper chamber. Challenges President Mohamed said he chose Roble to consolidate security ahead of elections, rebuild the armed forces, develop infrastructure and fight corruption, a goal analysts describe as unrealistic given that Roble’s transitional term likely will not extend beyond 143 days, at most. “The man was appointed in a critical short time when the country is preparing for elections. His major challenges include security,” said Abdirahman Mohamed Tuuryare, former director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency. “Al-Shabab, the terrorist group, will intensify attacks in the time of elections to threaten and disrupt the process, as they did in the past.” Liban Isse, a Mogadishu University professor of international studies, said Roble’s appointment holds promise. “Seen as nonaligned in the Somalia political landscape, he could help pave the way for compromises and consensus” on the election process, Isse said. This story originated in VOA’s Somali service.
 

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Graft Alleged as Kenya’s Fight Against COVID-19 Struggles

Organizations have contributed aid worth more than $2 billion to help Kenya’s in its fight against COVID-19.  But much of the aid has gone missing, prompting President Uhuru Kenyatta to order an investigation into who might have taken it.Money and medical supplies were donated by such groups as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Jack Ma Foundation.The Network Action Against Corruption (NAAC), an organization sanctioned by the Kenyan government to promote fiscal accountability, accuses KEMSA, a government agency that supplies medicine and medical equipment to the Ministry of Health, of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars meant for the COVID-19 battle.Several schemes allegedThe network said officials in KEMSA ran multiple schemes. In one, NAAC said, the organization paid for personal protective equipment (PPE) that actually had been donated by the Jack Ma Foundation. The money then went to phony companies controlled by the KEMSA officials.In another, NAAC said, KEMSA officials contracted with fictitious shell companies to supply protective equipment.  No equipment was supplied, but the companies got paid anyway.Dr. Gordwins Agutu, chief executive officer of NAAC, said those who ran the alleged schemes also planned to resell PPE on the black market.“The PPE kits consist of a number of items, but … the PPE kits, which they stole from Jack Ma’s donation, they would break it down,” he said. “So, they have the overalls separately, they have the boots supplied separately.  So you can imagine how much were they intending to make out of that.”FILE – Patients rest on their beds at the Kenyatta stadium where screening booths and an isolation field hospital are installed to aid with COVID-19 treatment in Machakos, Kenya, July 28, 2020.Kenyatta has ordered a forensic audit into the use of both state and donor funds meant to be used to combat COVID-19.“All persons found to be prima facie culpable as a result of those ongoing investigations should be brought to book,” he said.Caroline Gaita, executive director at Mzalendo Trust, a parliamentary monitoring organization, said mismanagement of the money and protective gear has affected Kenya’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.“We’ve seen even as we speak now, the level of preparedness for COVID is not there yet,” she said. “The isolation units that were meant to be put up are not ready. We’ve seen doctors complaining about lack of PPE, so it would seem we got these resources but we have not utilized them for the right reason and yet we will continue paying for them.”Far-reaching effectsDr. Samuel Oroko, national chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union, said the shortage of protective supplies coupled with the low quality of those made available is having far-reaching effects.“The doctors and workers working in the outpatient department should be given N95 [masks] each and every day they see patients,” he said, adding that the limited supply and low quality of the PPE “has led to more than 1,000 health workers being infected with the coronavirus.”Kenya’s Senate and investigative agencies have been tasked with unraveling the allegations of financial misappropriation.Meanwhile, the country’s Health Ministry has recorded more than 36,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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UNICEF Criticizes Sentencing of 13-Year Old for Blasphemy in Nigeria

The United Nations Children’s Agency, UNICEF, has condemned a Nigerian court for upholding a 10-year prison sentence with manual labor for a 13-year-old boy convicted of blasphemy.  The Sharia court in the northern Nigerian state of Kano convicted Omar Farouq in August of using foul language against Allah during an argument with a friend.A UNICEF statement this week firmly opposed the sentence, saying it contravened core principles of children’s rights and justice in Nigeria.The U.N. children’s agency called on Nigerian authorities to immediately review and reverse the sentence.Milen Kidane, the chief of child protection at UNICEF Nigeria, said that he case has received global condemnation, and that she is certain that it’s something that the U.N. committee on the rights of the child may even take up.Farouq’s sentence is one of several controversial cases recently passed by the state-sanctioned Sharia court.Last month, human rights groups protested the sentencing to death by hanging of a 22-year-old singer, Yahaya Aminu, for blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Mohammed in a song.Human rights lawyer Martin Obono say he opposes such court rulings.”Blasphemy is a religious affair, it has nothing to do with the state in the real sense. Sharia law is bound by people in the north and Muslims who are also signed up to it. But then again, there’s a superior law which is the constitution that trumps over even Sharia law and what does that law say? It also gives you the right to freedom of expression,” Obono said.Sharia law applies mainly in the 12 predominantly Muslim states in northern Nigeria.Although blasphemy against Islam is theoretically punishable by death, the death penalty is rarely imposed unless approved by a state governor.Islamic scholar Is-haq Abdulganiyy says other criteria, not the age of an offender, are considered before any judgment is passed.”In Islam we don’t count age. If that boy has reached that age of puberty, I think the Sharia court in Kano … before they even have the judgement, they must have followed all the necessary investigations to know the boy is deemed fit to be sentences to ten years imprisonment,” Abdulganiyy said.Kidane says UNICEF wants to appeal the court’s ruling.”UNICEF is committed to actions to revisit this judgement including through appeal, through child sensitive judiciary measures that respect the fundamental rights of the child to a fair hearing,” she said.Blasphemy in Islam is considered a serious offense. But subjecting offenders to Sharia law continues to trigger strong opposition in other parts of Nigeria, where secular laws are more accepted.

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