ECOWAS Could Lift Mali Sanctions on Friday

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, could announce Friday if it will lift crippling sanctions on Mali.Incoming interim Malian President Bah Ndaw is to be sworn in Friday in the capital, Bamako for an 18-month term.On the eve of the ceremony, Ndaw met with former Nigerian President and ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan said ECOWAS could announce Friday whether the official appointments satisfy the organization’s conditions to lift crippling sanctions.Jonathan told reporters Wednesday the soldiers now in charge are doing a job in line with ECOWAS leadership aims. He said the sanctions against Mali could be lifted following Friday’s swearing-in ceremony.Ndaw is the leader of the junta that took control of the country after ousting President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita.  

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Cameroon Journalists Say They Are Regularly Abused, Brutalized

Cameroon’s journalism association has called on authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalists detained while covering anti-government protests this week.Police detained at least eight journalists covering Tuesday’s protests, searched the homes of four of them, and seized or destroyed their equipment. At least one journalist was still in custody Thursday.Tah Javis Mai, a freelance journalist, returned Thursday to his office in the English-speaking southwestern Cameroon town of Buea. Mai said he was arrested by police in the French-speaking coastal city of Douala on Tuesday while reporting on protests against President Paul Biya.”The men in uniform asked that why am I using my phone to film them,” Mai said in a telephone call from Buea. “I said I am on a Skype call. They took us to that brigade in Bonaberi. One drinking alcohol poured the whiskey on me. He asked me to drink, and I refused. He poured it on my head. We were in an airtight cell. A cell for about two people, we were 15 in number with no food. Our phones were confiscated. They took everything from us.”    Mai said he was forced to sit on the ground for seven hours. He said he was released at 6 p.m. Wednesday after pressure from journalism associations and several international rights groups. Jude Viban, president of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, said Mai was arrested with seven other reporters in Yaounde and Douala.Those arrested included My Media Prime TV cameraman Tebong Christian, cameraman Rodrigue Ngassi of Equinox TV, Lindovi Ndjio of La Nouvelle Expression, and Polycarpe Essomba, Cameroon correspondent of RFI.”We have strongly condemned the arrest of our colleagues who went out to report and not to support the protest, and they were picked up arbitrarily and detained in facilities without communication, without access to their lawyers, without access to their colleagues,” Viban said. “This is terrible for our democracy and, unfortunately, it keeps happening. It is a very difficult period to be a journalist in Cameroon.” On Thursday, the National Syndicate of Cameroon Journalists reported that the homes of four journalists were searched by police. The report said phones, recorders and computers were seized. Rights activist Andelbert Mvomo said Cameroon is becoming notorious for its abuses on journalists, including beatings and rights violations. Such acts, he said, soil Cameroon’s image and disgrace its people.Cameroonian police and the minister of territorial administration did not react to the accusations when contacted by VOA. The Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday that police were still holding one of the arrested journalists, Lindovi Ndjio. Samuel WaziziCPJ said it has not forgotten what happened to journalist Samuel Wazizi, who died in police custody in August 2019 but whose body has yet to be seen.   The military said it was keeping Wazizi’s body for investigations. 

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Zimbabwe’s Rescued Wildlife Joins Jerusalema Dance Challenge

The Jerusalema Dance Challenge, a South African internet craze, is sweeping the African continent.As the Jerusalema spreads across Africa, in Zimbabwe, the wildlife is joining in. Staff at Zimbabwe’s Wild is Life sanctuary for rescued wildlife have seen their online dance video with elephants, giraffes and other animals go viral.The song “Jerusalema,” by South African DJ and record producer Master KG and vocalist Nomcebo, went viral during the coronavirus lockdown.Dancers, both professional and amateur, began posting their performances to the song online – including with some wildlife. Roxy Danckwerts, the founder of Wild is Life, said they used their phones to record the video.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
Roxy Danckwerts, founder of Wild is Life, is seen in at a computer, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 23, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)Danckwerts said she hopes it will help support Zimbabwe’s wildlife tourism industry.South African tourist Phillipa Meek said she decided to visit the Wild is Life center with her friend Ben Fowler after seeing the video online.South African tourist Phillipa Meek says she decided to visit the Wild is Life center in Harare after seeing the video online, Sept. 23, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)”I have been watching a few of the Jerusalema videos, and the Wild is Life one was absolutely amazing. With all the animals and baby elephants, they were so cute, the giraffes and all the spirit in the video was absolutely fantastic, and I thought it was one of the best Jerusalema videos that is out there and it really encouraged me, because I am from South Africa, to come here and I just see it for myself,” Meek said.Like much of Africa, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has been suffering since the pandemic began in March. But even before the pandemic, Zimbabwe struggled to attract visitors.Godfrey Koti, the spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said the pandemic has brought the industry worldwide to “ground zero” and it is time for Zimbabwe to take off.Godfrey Koti, spokesman for Zimbabwe’s Tourism Authority says he wants to see tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP increase from the current 8% to between 15%-18%, for a total $5 billion, in Harare, Sept. 23, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)”And we are starting with domestic tourism, making sure that everything is in place from a domestic perspective. For us to be successful, we need a sound domestic product, then we can go to the region and effectively send it to the international market and increase our arrivals, thereby increasing our contribution to the GDP, which is currently at 8%. We are looking at maybe between 15% and 18% and obviously, this will give us a very healthy $5 billion contribution to the fiscus,” Koti said.Zimbabwe has seen triple-digit inflation, adding to the country’s economic problems. Tourism is one of the industries Zimbabwe hopes will revive the country’s struggling economy.

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Zimbabwe’s Rescued Wildlife Joins Jerusalema Dance Challenge

As the Jerusalema dance challenge sweeps across Africa, in Zimbabwe the wildlife are joining in.  Staff at a Zimbabwe sanctuary for rescued wildlife have seen their online dance video with elephants, giraffes and other animals go viral. Columbus Mavhunga reports from Harare.Camera:  Blessing Chigwenhembe Produced by:  Jon Spier 

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Nigerian Military Leader, Fatally Wounded in Boko Haram Ambush, Remembered as Hero

Nigerians in the northeastern states of Borno and Yobe are mourning the death of a military commander who was fatally wounded in an ambush by Boko Haram militants and remembered as a hero.
 
Colonel Dahiru Bako and his troops were attacked by militants Sunday morning near Damboa, a community in southern Borno state. In fierce fighting, Bako was severely wounded and three of his soldiers were killed, said Col. Ado Isa, a spokesman for the Nigerian Army’s 7th Division.  
 
He said in a statement that Nigerian troops killed “scores of terrorists” and recovered weapons and equipment.  VOA could not independently verify the death toll.  
 
Bako was taken by helicopter to a military hospital in Maiduguri, Borno state’s capital, for treatment, but died Monday.  He was buried Tuesday at a military cemetery in Maiduguri.
 
Speaking at Bako’s funeral, Nigeria’s army chief, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, credited his leadership of a special military unit countering the Boko Haram insurgency.  He said Bako led many successful raids, and he described the late soldier as a hero.   
 
So did Muna Jibrin, who told VOA that Bako saved her from militants while she was in the throes of childbirth back in December 2014. The militants had overrun the Maryam Abacha maternity hospital in Damaturu.
 
“All the patients and staff of the hospital ran away, leaving only I and my auntie stranded because I couldn’t walk,” Jibrin recalled. “It was the late Colonel Bako and his team who came to our rescue.”  
 
Bako and his troops drove off the assailants and escorted the women to safety at their family home several kilometers away.
 
Jibrin’s child, Abubakar, now nearly 6, “heard a lot about Colonel Bako’s bravery. I pray for his soul,” he told VOA on Wednesday. The boy said he wants to become a soldier.  
 
Borno state’s governor, Babagana Zulum, on Wednesday presented Bako’s widow with a check for 20 million naira, worth $51,614. The families of the three other slain Nigerian soldiers received checks for 2 million naira, a military official told VOA.
 
Since 2011, Boko Haram has killed more than 37,500 people and displaced 2.5 million others in the Lake Chad Basin, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker.
 This report originated in VOA’s Hausa Service. 

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Kenya’s Chinese-Built Railway Proves Pricey

Kenyan lawmakers want the operating costs of a Chinese-built railway nearly cut in half and have called for renegotiating the Chinese loan to finance the line’s construction. Parliament’s Transport Committee says huge operating losses and debt to Chinese banks are straining taxpayers already hit by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Members of the National Assembly’s Transport Committee unveiled a report Wednesday asking lawmakers to push for reduced costs on the railway line, known as the Standard Gauge Railway, or SGR.
 
The head of the committee, David Pkosing, says legislators also want the government to seek new terms for the $4.5 billion in loans used to build the railway.  
   
“We also recommended that the entire loan framework should also be renegotiated, the original loan framework now with COVID-19 and, of course, Kenya and the world will never be the same again with this effect of COVID-19.  That loan should be renegotiated downwards or agreed on even extending the time upon which we should have paid the loan,” Pkosing said.
 
The railway carries goods from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi. In 2019, it transported 9 million tons of goods.
 
Kenya currently pays $1 million every month to China’s Africa Star Railway Operation Company to run the railway. Since 2017, Kenya failed to meet the monthly payment for 21 months.
 
Parliament wants the monthly cost to be brought to $600,000 and wants to engage China on how to pay the loan.
 
Tony Watima, an economist based in Kenya, says China may be reluctant to negotiate a deal with Kenya.
 
“The latest update we have seen that China has renegotiated debt with Angola, but circumstances are different. Angola debt is commodity-backed – they export commodity, especially oil…. So, for Kenya, those debts were not commodity-backed, they were just given debt for investment projects, so the risks are high on the China side, and they will look [at] Kenya as a country, not like Angola, and renegotiating those terms will be a big problem, it means China has to take a lot of risks. That’s one of the things we have not seen China engage in any African country on that,” Watima said.
 
Between 2010 and 2018, China lent over $150 billion to African nations for projects mainly related to its ‘Belt and Road’ infrastructure initiatives.
 
In June, Kenya’s court of appeal ruled that the Kenya Railways Corporation, as the procuring entity of the Standard Gauge Railway, failed to meet the constitutional threshold of fairness and transparency.
 
Okiya Omtata, an activist who has pushed the government to make the details of its deal with China public since 2013, questions the legitimacy of the whole agreement.  
 
“I think what the parliament should be saying is that we are not going to pay China for [that] illegal contract, and that’s the end of the day. They have crooks in Kenya and crooks in China who are in power and negotiated this thing, and the people of Kenya cannot be burdened with what they are not benefiting from,” Omtata said.
 
The railway carried more than 19,000 passengers and 421,000 tons of cargo between Nairobi and Mombasa in July, following a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

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