Sudan to Allow Drinking Alcohol for Non-Muslims, Ban FGM 

Sudan will permit non-Muslims to consume alcohol and strengthen women’s rights, including banning female genital mutilation (FGM), its justice minister said late on Saturday, in a reversal of almost four decades of hardline Islamist policies.About 3% of Sudan’s population is non-Muslim, according to the United Nations.Alcoholic drinks have been banned since former President Jaafar Nimeiri introduced Islamic law in 1983, throwing bottles of whisky into the Nile in the capital Khartoum.The transition government which took over after autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled last year has vowed to lead Sudan to democracy, end discrimination and make peace with rebels.Non-Muslims will no longer be criminalized for drinking alcohol in private, Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari told state television. For Muslims, the ban will remain. Offenders are typically flogged under Islamic law.Sudan will also decriminalize apostasy and ban FGM, a practice which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women, he said.Women will also no longer need a permit from male members of their families to travel with their children.Nimeiri’s introduction of Islamic law was major catalyst for a 22-year-long war between Sudan’s Muslim north and the mainly Christian south that led in 2011 to South Sudan’s secession.Bashir extended Islamic law after he took power in 1989.Sudanese Christians live mainly in Khartoum and in the Nuba mountains near the South Sudan border. Some Sudanese also follow traditional African beliefs.The transition government led by Abdalla Hamdok runs the country in an uneasy coalition with the military which helped remove Bashir after months of mass protests. 

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Coronavirus Economic Fallout Batters Zimbabwe Bird Sanctuary

A fish eagle swoops over the water to grab a fish in its talons and then flies to its nest.Nearby are a martial eagle, a black eagle, an Egyptian vulture and hundreds of other birds. With an estimated 400 species of birds on an idyllic spot on Zimbabwe’s Lake Chivero, about 40 kilometers south of Harare, the Kuimba Shiri bird sanctuary has been drawing tourists for more than 15 years.The southern African country’s only bird park has survived tumultuous times, including violent land invasions and a devastating economic collapse but the outbreak of coronavirus is proving a stern test.”I thought I had survived the worst, but this coronavirus is something else,” said owner Gary Strafford. “One-third of our visitors are from China. They stopped coming in February … and when we were shut down in March, that was just unbelievable.”Gary Strafford, a Zimbabwean falconer, holds an owl inside one of the cages at his bird sanctuary, Kuimba Shiri, near Harare, Zimbabwe, June 17, 2020.A lifelong bird enthusiast, Strafford, 62, established the center for injured, orphaned and abandoned birds in 1992, and tourism has kept the park going.With Zimbabwe’s inflation rising to over 750 percent, tourism establishments are battling a vicious economic downturn worsened by the new coronavirus travel restrictions.Zimbabwe’s tourism was already facing problems. The country recorded just over 2 million visitors in 2019, an 11 percent decline from the previous year, according to official figures. However, tourism remained one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, along with minerals and tobacco.Now tourism “is dead because of coronavirus,” said Tinashe Farawo, the spokesman for the country’s national parks agency. National parks and other animal sanctuaries such as Kuimba Shiri are battling to stay afloat, he said.”We are in trouble. All along we have been relying on tourism to fund our conservation … now what do we do?” he asked.Kuimba Shiri, which means singing bird in Zimbabwe’s Shona language, was closed for more than three months. It’s the longest time the bird sanctuary, located in one of the global sites protected under the United Nations Convention on Wetlands, has been shut.On a recent weekday, the only sound of life at the place usually teeming with children on school trips was that of singing birds perched on the edges of large enclosures. Horses, zebras and sheep fed on grass and weeds on the lakeshore.A parrot standing on a flowerpot at the entrance repeatedly shouted “Hello!”A child interacts with a bird at the Kuimba Shiri bird sanctuary near Harare, Zimbabwe, June 17, 2020.”He misses people, especially the children,” said Strafford, who established Kuimba Shiri on the 30-acre spot on Chivero, the main reservoir for Harare. Now it is home to many rare species including falcons, flamingos and vultures.”This place is a dream place for me,” he said.Things turned nightmarish however when then president, the late Robert Mugabe, launched an often-violent land redistribution program in which farms owned by whites were seized for redistribution to landless Blacks in 2000.Animal sanctuaries were not spared and Kuimba Shiri was targeted “30 to 40 times,” said Strafford. Eventually, the sanctuary was endorsed by Mugabe and returned to a measure of stability.In 2009, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed as hyperinflation reached 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The sanctuary struggled to make ends meet. Many birds starved to death while those that could fend for themselves were released into the wild.”We sold our vehicles and a tractor to feed the birds. When it really got desperate we had to kill our horses,” he said.Now, a decade later, Strafford is again being forced to sell some items as coronavirus and a new economic crisis take their toll. A land excavator, a boat, a truck, a tractor and sheep are among the items he hopes to urgently sell.A bird handler prepares a bird for flight at the Kuimba Shiri bird sanctuary near Harare, Zimbabwe, June 17, 2020.But there is some hope. As Zimbabwe relaxes some of its restrictions, the sanctuary is now able to open to limited numbers of visitors.On a recent weekend, Strafford displayed the talents of his trained falcons and other raptors to a small group for the first time since March.Strafford enthusiastically described the various traits of the birds and supervised as a barn owl perched on a 5-year-old boy’s gloved hand.”Everything got to start afresh,” he said after the show. “I have started training the birds again. We are beginning to fly again!” 

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Mali Opposition Says More Leaders Arrested After Mass Protest

Mali’s opposition coalition said security forces detained two leaders of anti-government protests and raided its headquarters on Saturday after violent demonstrations against the president.Simmering tensions saw small groups of protesters erect barricades out of tires and bits of wood to block traffic through several districts in Bamako, the capital, although numbers were well below the thousands who took to the streets and occupied state buildings on Friday.The opposition coalition M5-RFP said Choguel Kokala Maiga and Mountaga Tall, two senior figures in the movement, were detained along with other activists on Saturday. Another protest leader, Issa Kaou Djim, was arrested Friday.In addition, security forces “came and attacked and ransacked our headquarters,” M5-RFP spokesman Nouhoum Togo said.There was no immediate comment from the Ministry of Security.On Friday, police fired gunshots and tear gas to disperse protesters who had occupied parliament and the state broadcaster as part of a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign for failing to tackle Mali’s security and economic problems.The arrests represented a new low in relations between the opposition and the authorities, who did not crack down after two large-scale peaceful protests against the president in June.Friday’s rally came after the coalition rejected concessions from Keita aimed at resolving a political standoff that began after a disputed legislative election in March.Mali’s neighbors and outside powers fear the turmoil could further destabilize the country and jeopardize a joint military campaign against Islamist insurgents in the West African Sahel region.Late on Friday, Keita issued a statement deploring the violence and said an investigation would be launched.”However, I would like to reassure our people once again of my desire to continue dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power with a view to calm the situation down,” he said in the statement.M5-RFP dismissed Keita’s call for calm and blamed him and security forces for Friday’s bloodshed. “Keita must resign,” it said in a statement.Three protesters were killed on Friday and several others seriously wounded, according to the United Nations MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali, whose human rights division monitored the protests.Social media platforms and messaging apps were restricted as of Saturday afternoon after being partially blocked on Friday, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.

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Five Killed in Attack on S. African Church, Hostages Freed

Five people were killed in an attack on a church west of Johannesburg in the early hours of Saturday, South African police said, with some of the attackers taking hostages who were later freed.Police arrested around 40 people and seized 40 firearms, including rifles, shotguns and handguns, related to the attack on the International Pentecost Holiness Church in Zuurbekom, police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told the eNCA television station.Police earlier posted pictures of some of the confiscated weapons on Twitter, saying they were dealing with a “hostage situation and shooting”.One potential motive for the attack is a power struggle at the church between rival factions, local media reported.”(E)verything was in complete disarray, so we have arrested all those that we reasonably believe are suspects, we are busy interviewing and interrogating them to establish exactly what the motive was,” Naidoo told eNCA. (Reporting by Alexander Winning and Lynette Ndabambi; Editing by Toby Chopra) 

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1 Dead in Mali Protests Demanding President Resign

At least one person is dead as protesters in Mali’s capital attempted to occupy key government buildings and blocked main roads Friday demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.Mali state television went off the air soon after a crowd of protesters gathered outside state broadcaster ORTM.Video taken in the capital, Bamako, by VOA’s Bambara service shows a crowd of demonstrators estimated at tens of thousands assembled outside the national assembly building, demanding that Keita step down.National guardsmen also reportedly fired tear gas at protesters throwing rocks at the parliament building.Protesters were seen building barricades with burning tires to block a main road.Groups of protesters were also seen trying to take over two main bridges in the city, leading to battles with the police.Witnesses reported hearing gunshots near the national assembly and the state broadcaster.This was the third mass protest in Bamako in the past two months.Leaders of the protest are calling on supporters to occupy buildings as part of a civil disobedience campaign to force Keita to resign for failing to enact political reforms.Keita, in power since 2013, has come under harsh criticism for failing to end a long-running jihadist insurgency and improve the African country’s economic woes.Ousmane Diallo, a researcher for Francophone West Africa at Amnesty International, told VOA this week that many Malians also are angry about alleged fraud in recent legislative elections and general poor governance.On Wednesday, Keita promised reforms to the constitutional court in an effort to appease protesters. The court has been at the center of controversy after it overturned the provisional results for March’s parliamentary poll, affecting several dozen seats.A mission from the regional group ECOWAS has called for the government to hold new elections in districts where the results are contested. 

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One Dead in Mali Protests Demanding President Resign

Protesters in Mali’s capital calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita clashed with authorities Friday as they tried to occupy key government buildings and blocked main roads. At least one person was reported killed.Mali state television went off the air soon after the protesters gathered outside state broadcaster ORTM.Video taken in Bamako by VOA’s Bambara service showed a crowd estimated at tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled outside the national assembly building, demanding that Keita step down.   National guardsmen reportedly fired tear gas at protesters throwing rocks at the parliament building. Protesters were seen building barricades with burning tires to block a main road.This was the third mass protest in Bamako in the past two months.Keita, in power since 2013, has come under harsh criticism for failing to end a long-running jihadist insurgency and improve the African country’s economic woes.Ousmane Diallo, a researcher for Francophone West Africa at Amnesty International, told VOA this week that many Malians also are angry about alleged fraud in recent legislative elections and general poor governance.

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