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Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.


By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

‘Witch-Gun’ And Superstition In Guinea And Sierra Leone By Leo Igwe.


By Leo Igwe

Belief in ‘witch-gun’ is common among the peoples of Guinea and Sierra Leone. It is not clear how they came about this superstitious notion. But the belief is deep rooted. In fact there are as many conceptions of witch- gun as there are believers. One figure whose notion of a ‘witch gun’ stands out is the National President of Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union, ‘Dr’. Alhaji Suliaman Kabba. He said “The earliest and deadliest type of witch gun is made out of the husk from rice, but today’s witch guns are made out of gun powder while others are made out of lead. In fact the type of witch gun bullet that is most frequently removed when people are shot is the lead.”

He noted that witch-gun attacks are due to malice, jealousy, struggle for positions and political offices. But that is not the issue.

The main question is: Does a ‘witch-gun’ really exist? The belief is that people can shoot and kill others spiritually using this ‘weapon’. It is not all cases of murder or death that are ascribed to witch-gun operations. Most often cases of mysterious or premature deaths are attributed to ‘witch-gun’ attack. For instance a young person who dies suddenly or a middle aged person who collapses and dies without showing any sign of sickness or a powerful and successful person who dies after a brief illness. These are often incidents categorized as unnatural, not-ordinary deaths. These are instances of misfortune believed to be caused by enemies using a ‘witch-gun’. This spiritual weapon can be procured from local medicine men and women. A witch doctor- also called a ‘herbalist’- can be commissioned to carry out a witch-gun attack. People believe a witch-gun’ can kill a person, no matter where he/she is. Witch gun belief is a sub category of a widespread belief among Africans that people can kill others using spiritual means.

Allegations of witch-gun killings are taken seriously in many parts of Sierra Leone and Guinea.  Accused persons are attacked, beaten up, banished, and sometimes may be lynched by a mob. Suspects are tried and convicted by state courts, though witchcraft is not recognized under the law in these countries.

Today, there is a growing incident of witch-gun accusation in these countries.

Early this year, three Sierra Leoneans- Usman Dumbuya, Yalmamy Kamara and Jeneba Jalloh-  living in Guinea were banished by a court for ‘shooting’ people with a witch gun and practicing sorcery. They reportedly hired a witch doctor who carried out the killing. The case was brought before a magistrate court and the court found them guilty and banished the three from the district. The accused persons denied the charge. One of them said the accusation was brought by his rivals in the district to get rid of him. Efforts by officials from the Embassy of Sierra Leone to resolve the matter were unsuccessful.

In a related development, a man, Gbongbo Mansaray, has appeared before a court in Sierra Leone. He was charged with ‘witch-gun’ sorcery. The incident allegedly led to the death of a person in Tonkolili district. Mansaray pleaded guilty to practicing witchcraft and killing one Mohammed Fullah of Masingbi town with a ‘witch gun’. Mansaray said he was hired by one Alhaji Adamu  to carry out the ‘murder’. But he never explained exactly –how, when and where- he gunned down Fullah. He only claimed that Fullah died shortly after he was taken to a local ‘herbalist’ for treatment.

Given the state of the justice system in Africa, Mansaray is likely to be convicted and jailed. The judge should not have entertained this case in the first place. That Mansaray pleaded guilty should not be an excuse to try and convict him for ‘killing’ somebody with an imaginary weapon. Due to lack of adequate health facilities, many people resort to witchcraft to explain cases of deaths and diseases in their communities. They invoke cultural narratives that have no basis in reason or medical science. And when witchcraft cases are brought to court, judges and magistrates often convict the accused due to social and political pressure, not based on evidence.

This has to change. There is need for a public enlightenment campaign in Guinea and Sierra Leone. People in these countries should be made to understand that the notion of a ‘witch-gun’ is a myth. It is mere fantasy, a product of fear and imagination. The claim that people can murder others using this spiritual weapon is baseless and untrue(After all Sierra Leone went through years of civil war. Was that war fought with witch-guns?). Witch gun belief thrives due to ignorance of the natural causes of death and the scapegoat mentality.

The governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone should take extra measures to improve the health care system. They should organize basic health education programs in rural and urban communities. Governments should promote scientific thinking and the rule of evidence-based law. They should protect the rights of accused persons and ensure access to justice for all.
Skeptics, scientists, philosophers and intellectuals in these countries should speak out against superstition based abuses, and ensure that the voice of reason is heard. The cause of combating superstitions and emancipating African people from the witchcraft mentality should not be left to politicians alone. Critically minded Africans should get involved and set up programs to get people to abandon superstition and embrace scientific temper and critical intelligence.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Guinean military chief killed in plane crash in Liberia.


  • Rescue workers gather at the site where a plane carrying Guinea's military chief, General Kelefa Diallo, and other senior military officials from the West African state crashed in Charlesville, some 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Monrovia, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Alphonso Toweh

    View PhotoReuters/Reuters – Rescue workers gather at the site where a plane carrying Guinea’s military chief, General Kelefa Diallo, and other senior military officials from the West African state crashed in Charlesville, …more 

MONROVIA/CONAKRY (Reuters) – The head of Guinea’s armed forces, a staunch ally of President Alpha Conde, was killed on Monday when the aircraft carrying him and five other top Guinean military officials crashed close to the Liberian capital Monrovia.

General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, who was on a security mission to Liberia, was appointed by Conde after the latter won elections in 2010 in the world’s top bauxite producer.

Diallo was charged with reforming the restive army in the West African state after two years of military rule.

Investigators and United Nations peacekeepers picked through the charred wreckage of the aircraft amid a grove of palm trees near Charlesville, some 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the Liberian capital Monrovia. There were no survivors.

“This accident cost the life of six members of the delegation, including General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, head of the armed forces, and five members of the crew,” Guinea’s Defence Minister Abdoul Kabele Camara said in a statement.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who visited the crash site in the company of Guinea’s ambassador to Liberia, declared a national day of mourning for Tuesday.

Liberia’s Defence Minister Brownie Samukai said the cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Rescue crews retrieved the plane’s flight recorder – its so-called black box – from the wreckage, however, and Liberian authorities said they planned to send it to Canada for analysis.

General Diallo was one of the main architects of the reform of Guinea’s powerful military, which seized power in the former French colony in 2008. Some 4,000 soldiers were forced to retire under a U.N.-backed scheme to slim the bloated armed forces.

Diallo’s predecessor, Nouhou Thiam, is in prison facing trial for his alleged role in a gun and rocket attack on President Conde’s home by soldiers in 2011.

Conde’s government has been trying to organise legislative elections for May, the final step in the transition back to civilian rule and a prerequisite to unlock millions of dollars of frozen foreign aid.

The opposition, alleging bias in the electoral authority, has called protests for Wednesday this week. Conde’s 2010 election in a vote hailed as the first free elections since the end of French rule in 1960 was marred by deadly riots and opposition allegations of fraud.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Michael Roddy)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

ReutersBy Alphonso Toweh and Saliou Samb | Reuters 

Rio Tinto slows Guinea iron ore investment: government sources.


  • A Rio Tinto logo is displayed on the front of a wall panel during a news conference in Sydney November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

    View PhotoReuters/Reuters – A Rio Tinto logo is displayed on the front of a wall panel during a news conference in Sydney November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) – Global miner Rio Tinto has slowed progress of its multi-billion investment in Guinea‘s untapped Simandou iron ore deposit and slashed staff, government sources in the West African country said on Monday.

The sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic, spoke after weekend talks between top Rio Tinto executives and government officials, during which they said the miner had announced it needed the government to progress on financing and the agreement underpinning the project before it could move ahead.

The sources said Rio Tinto – under pressure from investors to cut costs and rein in spending – had cut staff in Guinea by 90 percent.

“(Rio Tinto) have essentially announced they have frozen their investments in Guinea, arguing that they are waiting for a more stable and secure regulatory framework from the government,” a seniorgovernment official said, asking for anonymity.

Two other government sources, including an acting minister and a former minister who has retained a role in the administration of President Alpha Conde, confirmed that Rio Tinto had announced the investment freeze.

Rio Tinto denied it had stopped work, but confirmed it was working with the government on outstanding issues including financing for the government’s share of ambitious planned infrastructure.

“The Simandou project is definitely not frozen and Rio Tinto continues to progress the project and is committed to its development,” a spokesman for the company said. “The current priority is finalising the investment framework and for the Government of Guinea to secure its financing.”

The spokesman said talks between Rio Tinto and the government had been “constructive”.

Government sources said Rio Tinto’s new chief executive Sam Walsh along with other company managers met with both President Conde and Mines Minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana to inform them of the company’s decision.

The sources said Walsh told Conde and Fofana that Rio Tinto would reduce its budget by $600 million and cut its staff in Guinea to five people.

Rio Tinto is developing part of the giant Simandou iron ore concession, one of the world’s largest untapped iron ore reserves, near the Liberian border.

Guinea has been hit by investment cuts by other mining giants since last year, including BHP Billiton, Vale, and RUSAL – driven in part by a government review of mining contracts and political instability.

A sharp slowdown in global commodity prices, which has led to record profit declines and write downs for the world’s top mining firms, including Rio Tinto, has forced some to shelve expansion plans and others to part ways with their top executives.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Saliou Samb | Reuters

Guinea riots spread outside capital, election talks splutter.


  • Men stand and watch as a fire rages in the background during clashes between rival gangs in Marche Madina, in Conakry March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Saliou Samb

    View PhotoReuters/Reuters – Men stand and watch as a fire rages in the background during clashes between rival gangs in Marche Madina, in Conakry March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) – Stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in Guinea‘s capital Conakry on Monday and rioting spread to another city as main opposition leaders boycotted a meeting called by President Alpha Conde after days of unrest that has killed five people.

Hundreds of protesters have been injured since tensions over upcoming legislative polls triggered days of unrest that began on Wednesday. Guinea’s notoriously ill-disciplined security forces have a history of brutal crackdowns on protests.

Conde wants to discuss preparations for a long-delayed election that is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a 2008 military coup. He missed a deadline on Sunday for a presidential decree to officially call the election for May 12.

Preparations for the vote, which is essential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid to the world’s largest bauxite supplier, are being hampered by opposition claims that the government is seeking to rig the outcome.

A reduced opposition delegation, led by spokesman Aboubacar Sylla and former prime ministerJean-Marie Dore, went to the talks on Monday with Conde, who narrowly won a 2010 election.

“We put forward our demands and argued that today our country has need of peace and development,” Sylla said after the meeting. The opposition reiterated its call to replace South African firm Waymark which manages the electoral roll, he said.

A source who took part in the talks, and asked not to be named, said the brief meeting was concluded after statements from both sides and did not involve negotiation.

“This was simply a preliminary meeting to set a framework for dialogue,” said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara.

Earlier on Monday, the violent protests had spread to Labe, a fiefdom of opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, in central Guinea some 450 km (280 miles) from the coastal capital.

“We are showing our support for our dead and injured brothers in Conakry,” said Yimbering Diallo, a Labe resident. “We demand free and fair elections.”

In Conakry’s Madina residential neighborhood close to the sprawling main market, police fired teargas at protesters when traders gathered to protest at the destruction and looting of their stalls.

In the Dixxin district, protesters blocked roads with barricades and burning tires.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Saliou Samb | Reuters

Ethnic clashes flare in Guinea, president asks for calm.


  • Men stand and watch as a fire rages in the background during clashes between rival gangs in Marche Madina, in Conakry March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Saliou Samb

    View PhotoReuters/Reuters – Men stand and watch as a fire rages in the background during clashes between rival gangs in Marche Madina, in Conakry March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Saliou Samb

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CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinean President Alpha Conde appealed for calm on Friday after rival ethnic gangs fought with knives and truncheons in the capital in a third day of violence over an upcoming election in the volatile West African nation.

Security forces in full anti-riot gear took to the streets of the crumbling seaside capital Conakry to try to stem violence in which at least 65 people were injured, according to a statement from the presidency.

“All sides must avoid provocation, personal vengeance and taking justice into their own hands,” Conde said in a televised address to the nation.

“I ask religious leaders, security forces, elected officials and political leaders to call for calm.”

The unrest began with an opposition protest on Wednesday in which some 130 people were injured.

A long-delayed legislative vote, tentatively set for May, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a 2008 military coup, and could open the door to hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid.

But preparations for the poll have been hampered by opposition claims the government is seeking to rig the outcome in advance, leading to a political impasse and sparking sporadic street protests that often turn violent.

Residents of Conakry fled in panic as the gangs from rival ethnic groups roamed the streets. Shops and business were looted in many parts of the city.

“It has become very bad. People set fire to a car right in front of me. I’ve seen four people injured in the fighting,” said Souleymane Bah, a resident of Bambeto, one of several areas where clashes were reported.

ETHNIC TENSIONS

Politics in Guinea, the world’s top supplier of bauxite, the raw material in aluminum, are mainly drawn along ethnic lines. The opposition coalition is broadly supported by members of the Peul ethnicity – the country’s biggest ethnic group – and the government by the Malinke.

The fighting on Friday follows two days of anti-government protests that have sharpened those divisions. One civilian was killed in those protests and scores of protesters and police were injured.

The United States Embassy in Guinea issued a statement late on Thursday expressing concern about the violence and calling for restraint. “The United States continues to urge the Republic of Guinea to work with all parties to ensure that peaceful and transparent elections take place,” it said.

Conde’s government said on Friday it called on citizens to remain calm, and that it would hold talks with representatives of the country’s political parties next week.

Conde narrowly won a 2010 presidential election – billed as the former French colony’s first free poll since 1958 independence – promising to unite Guinea in the same way Nelson Mandela did after apartheid in South Africa. But many of his compatriots say he has failed.

Opposition leader and former premier Sidya Toure said opposition supporters were defending themselves.

“The situation has clearly degenerated into inter-ethnic violence between the Peuls and Malinkes. We’ve already called for calm, but what can you tell someone who is being attacked with a club?” he said.

Conde has promised prosperity for the former French colony’s 10 million people.

Guinea’s economy produces only about $1.50 per person per day despite a wealth of natural resources, including the world’s largest untapped iron ore deposit.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Jason Webb)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Saliou Samb | Reuters

IMF projects pick-up in Guinea Bissau economy this year.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Increased exports of cashew nuts from Guinea Bissau, the world’s seventh-largest producer, will help the economy recover this year, the International Monetary Fundsaid on Wednesday after talks with the authorities.

Cashew production in the impoverished West African nation fell last year after soldiers staged a military takeover in the coup-plagued former Portuguese colony.

“While the situation remains difficult in the context of continued political uncertainty, the economy is expected to recover in 2013 led by an upturn in cashew production and exports,” the IMF said in a statement.

The IMF said it had also discussed the 2013 budget and donor support in meetings with the authorities between February 13 to 19. The IMF said it also offered technical assistance to help with strengthening financial management, and tax and customs administration.

Wedged between Guinea and Senegal, Guinea Bissau is among the world’s poorest countries and is struggling to contain growing drug trafficking. Most of the country’s cashew nuts are exported to India, a major processor.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Reuters

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