AU Commission To Deploy Election Observers To Sierra Leone

Addis Ababa, 5 February 2018: The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, will deploy an African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) in the Republic of Sierra Leone as the country prepares to hold General Elections on 7 March 2018.

The African Union Commision Logo
The African Union Commision Logo

A press statement issued on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, copied to West African Journal Magazine and quoted the AU Commission as saying the deployment of the AUEOM will take place in two phases. The first phase will comprise of the deployment of 10 long-term election experts and will take place from 10 February to 21 March 2018.

The AU Commission says this move is to ensure that its observer mission conducts a comprehensive observation and analysis of all relevant aspects of the electoral process, the statement disclosed.

 In the second phase of the Mission, the AU Commission says the long term experts will be joined by 40 Short Term observers from the 26 February to 11 March 2018.

 The objectives of the AU Observer Mission, the continental body says are: (a) to provide an accurate and impartial reporting or assessment of the quality of 7 March General Elections, including the degree to which the conduct of the elections meets regional, continental and international standards for democratic elections; (b) to offer recommendations for improvement of future elections based on the findings; and (c) to demonstrate AU’s interest to support Sierra Leone’s elections and democratisation process to ensure that the conduct of genuine elections contributes to the consolidation of democratic governance, peace and stability.

SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio
SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio

Political campaigning is in full swing in the West African nation. Reports from the capital Freetown say the opposition Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP) over the weekend launched its platform. Its candidate, a retired military officer Julius Maada Bio told partisans during the launch that, “…So for these 2018 Elections let there be no mistake. The SLPP will not accept results of elections that are not credible and transparent and are not a true reflection of the will of the electorate…”

Meantime, the government of  Sierra Leone has announced the banning of the common and horrendous practice of Female Genital Mutiliation (FGM) until the conclusion of the Presidential and General elections on March 7 in an effort to discourage candidates from “buying votes” by paying for the cutting ceremony for families who cannot afford the price of the practice.

WHO Logo
WHO Logo

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women. Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women…”

Complications from the procedure can include, severe pain, excessive bleeding, infections, urinary issues, genital tissue swelling and sometimes death in victims.

Map of Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone in West Africa
Map of Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone in West Africa

With international outcry and campaign against the practice worldwide, over 300 communities in West Africa have declared an end to the practice. In January, the outgoing President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed an Executive Order banning FGM in the country for a year.

Activists are calling on the new Weah Administration to make the ban permanent.

Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine 

 

“I Refused”: Brave Women And Girls Take A Stand Against FGM

UNITED NATIONS, New York/Ouagadougou, BURKINA FASO – Fourteen-year-old Latifatou Compaoré learned the spirit of resistance from her mother.

UNFPA-logo
UNFPA-logo

Her mother was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child in Burkina Faso. “She told me that one of the girls who had been cut the same day as her had experienced serious problems and died following a haemorrhage that no one had taken care of,” Latty explained.

FGM can cause a raft of serious health consequences, including not only haemorrhage but also shock, infection and complications in childbirth.

Yet the practice is widespread around the world. An estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to the practice. Some 3.9 million girls were subjected to FGM in 2015 alone. And if FGM continues at current levels, 68 million girls will be cut between 2015 and 2030.

But brave women and girls are taking a stand against FGM, sometimes risking stigma and rejection by their families and communities.

Latty’s mother was one of these courageous women.

“When she became a mom, she made the commitment that if she had girls, she would never cut them,” Latty said. “And she kept her word.”

A voice for change

Latty was 10 years old when she heard her mother’s account. “This story really shocked me,” she said.

“I cannot understand that children can be made to suffer in such a way, that they can be mutilated under conditions with poor or no hygiene.”

She decided to become an advocate for ending the practice. A talented singer, Latty recorded a song about it, called “Excision,” which garnered attention throughout the country, even getting air time on national television and radio stations.

Latty has since recorded two more songs about ending the practice. On a Facebook page she created about eliminating FGM, her videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

But she has also faced backlash. “There are some who congratulate me and encourage me to go forward, but there are others who bother me a lot,” she said.

“I also receive messages that ask me to stop, to mind my own business.”

The opposition does not discourage her, though.

“It is a cause that I will defend throughout my life,” Latty said.

Around the world, thousands of courageous girls like Latty are calling for the elimination of FGM in their families and communities.

In Kenya, 17-year-old Sharleen Cherop also said no to FGM.

She managed to escape both FGM and child marriage – which are linked in some places, with one practice considered a precursor to the other.

“My family wanted me to be cut and get married, but I refused,” Sharleen said. She ran away from home and found support and safety at a nearby school. She is now an advocate for children’s rights.

In Egypt, FGM is widespread. More than 90 per cent of women have undergone the practice, according to a 2014 survey. The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation works with local partners and communities to raise awareness about the harms caused by FGM.

Fatmah’s mother heard some of these messages from a local NGO and taught them to Fatmah. Today, at 13 years old, Fatmah has rejected FGM and is a passionate advocate for its elimination. “FGM is wrong and it has lots of harms,” she said. “I convinced my sister not to cut her kids.”

In Ethiopia, 18-year-old Sofia Hussen experienced both FGM and child marriage. She learned about the harms of both practices from a UNFPA-supported adolescent girls group, and today she uses her own story to call for change.

“I am a living example,” she said of her work.

Promise not to cut

Latty, too, has seen real change in her community.

“A little while ago, a friend of my mother came into our yard with her 2-year-old daughter. She said that family members were insisting on cutting the little one,” Latty recalled.

She spoke to the woman at length, explaining the consequences of FGM. “She ended up promising us that she would not cut her,” Latty said.

To date, the girl has not been cut, she added.

“We have to fight every day to try to educate as many people as possible,” Latty explained. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Culled from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

Togo: More Protests Planned Against President Gnassingbe

More political turmoil is forecasted for the small West African nation of Togo in the coming days.

Administrative Map of Togo
Administrative Map of Togo

Reports say, a series of nationwide strikes are expected to be held in in the country beginning Tuesday Tuesday, January 30 through the following week into Thursday, February 8.

In its country security risk report issued on Monday, the world’s largest privately owned security firm Garda says, the first series will be a teachers unions strike which will launch and last for  72-hours beginning on January 30.

Next will be the Togolese health care workers who are expected to launch their strike on January 31 and February 1.

Garda says it is still unclear to what extent the healthcare workers’ strike will affect available medical services across the country. Public sector workers, the firm said, also plan to strike from Monday, February 4, through Thursday, February 8.  Large demonstrations and public gatherings are expected in the capital Lomé and in other areas during the strikes.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe’s government has been dogged by sometimes violent protests organized by the opposition who have called form him to go. The President has resisted calls and has instead called for dialogue with the opposition aimed at political reforms.

Women in Togo have also marched to protest the administration of President Gnassingbe. The main opposition leader Jean Pierre Fabre, who said he supports the women told the AFP that, “Faced with the refusal of the power to move forward, women have decided to enter the game.”

Togolese Anti Government Protesters
Togolese Anti Government Protesters

The opposition is demanding  the return of the original Togolese 1992 Constitution which limits the President to a two five-year term and a two-round voting system. The opposition also wants the introduction of diaspora voting, an independent investigation into killing of protesters, the release of all political detainees and an end to arrests, torture and persecution of members of the opposition.

President Gnassingbe, who was installed in 2005 with the support of the Togolese military following the death of his father General Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled the country for 38 years, is the current chair of the sub-regional economic grouping ECOWAS.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) On Decline In Senegal

http://players.brightcove.net/665003303001/SJg0bzqkZ_default/index.html?videoId=5166644786001

In the West African nation of  Senegal, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among younger women is trending downwards.

Senegal Map
Senegal Map

According to a report from the English and Wales based Charity 28 Too Many quoting data released in 2015 from the Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Demographique of Senegal and the Senega: Enquette Demographique et de Sante et de Sante 2015, the prevalence of FGM among women between the ages of 15 – 49 is 24.2%.

According to the group End FGM European Network FGM “comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

FGM which is carried out by traditional health practitioners and herbalists or community elders in Senegal is done on girls before they reach the age of 10 and around two thirds about 67.6% by the age of 5, according to the data used.

An emergency-room doctor in the U.S. Midwest has been arrested and charged with performing female genital mutilation on girls between the ages of 6 and 8, in the first criminal case brought under a 1996 law that outlawed the practice. Jumana Nagarwala, a 44-year-old doctor at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, is accused of performing genital mutilation on young girls as far back as 2005, according to a criminal complaint released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Justice said she
Ceremony in Senegal Announcing End to FGM

According to data, 50% of women between the ages of 15 – 49 were “cut, flesh removed.”

In the south of the country, FGM is widely carried out and accounts for 76.9% and about 6.9% in central Senegal.

Citing the prevalence of FGM across the West African nation, the data used notes that among various ethnic groups  “…the highest practicing group include the Mandigue 71.1%, Sonike 60.9%, Poular 50.7% and Diola 47.9%. The lowest prevalences are found among the Wolofs 1.3% and the Serers 1.1% citing low sample sizes. FGM prevalences among Animists is 44.8%, among Muslims 25% and 7.8% among Christians. 14.4% of women and 15.7% of men believe that FGM is a religious requirement.”

The practice of FGM shows a decline in women between the ages of 15-49 now at 24.2% compared to 28.2 in 2005 in Senegal. Data further shows a decline of the practice among younger women.

Legislation was passed in 1999 by the Senegalese Government which specifically sanctioned the practice of FGM.

International Practice of FGM

FGM In Africa
FGM In Africa

The United Nations says that FGM is practiced in various communities in the following African Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

In some western countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, it is reported that FGM is practiced among diaspora populations from places where the practice is common done.

However, there is an increase  effort to fight and eliminate the practice in Africa and Western countries including the formulation and enforcement of stringent legislation.

In April, 2017, the Voice of America reported that  “An emergency-room doctor in the U.S. Midwest has been arrested and charged with performing female genital mutilation on girls between the ages of 6 and 8, in the first criminal case brought under a 1996 law that outlawed the practice. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, a 44-year-old doctor at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, is accused of performing genital mutilation on young girls as far back as 2005, according to a criminal complaint released … The U.S. Department of Justice said she “performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.”

US-DOJ LOGO
US Department of Justice

The US Government says it considers FGM a “…serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender based violence and child abuse…”

Criminal consequences of performing or assisting in FGM  against US law is 5 years in jail and fines or both and may have serious immigration consequences for immigrants who are convicted.

Effects of FGM

Some of the most common problems associated with the practice of FGM include:

  • Severe bleeding, pain and shock which sometimes lead to death
  • Infection, which sometimes lead to death
  • Urination and menstrual obstruction
  • Increased risk of urinary tract infections and HIV
  • Mental health problems, including PTSD
  • Sexual dysfunction, including dyspareunia
  • Complications in pregnancy and childbirth, which sometimes lead to death

Videos courtesy of Al Jazeera

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine

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