Zimbabwe Charges US Woman With ‘Subversion

Harare – The lawyer for an American arrested in Zimbabwe and accused of insulting its president says the young woman now faces charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government.

Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

The offense carries up to 20 years in prison.

Obey Shava with the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights tells The Associated Press the charges are in addition to ones of undermining the authority of or insulting the president.

The 25-year-old Martha O’Donovan denies the charges as “baseless and malicious.” She was arrested on Friday morning.

She is accused of posting the message “We are being led by a selfish and sick man” on Twitter.

AP

Red Cross Admits Millions Missing in Donor Funds For Ebola; Blames Corruption in West Africa

Philadelphia, PA USA

The Geneva based Red Cross Federation says aid money amounting to over $8 million USD in Ebola assistance cannot be accounted due to fraud and corruption in West Africa.

Ebola Map Guinea Liberia_Sierra Leone_2014
Ebola Map of Guinea-Liberia-West Africa

In a rather stunning admission to the BBC on Friday, the global humanitarian organization says it conducted a financial audit and discovered that about $2.7 million USD disappeared in what was referred to as ‘fraudulently overpriced supplies, or salaries for non-existent aid workers of the local Red Cross office in Liberia.

Corrupt Red Cross staff in Sierra Leone reportedly colluded with local bank employees to illegally siphon off about $2 million USD while fake custom bills in Guinea led to the loss of about $1 million dollars.

The Red Cross says it regrets the financial loss of aid money and has instituted stricter financial controls to avoid a repeat. Red Cross staff involved will be held to account, the organization said.

In March, 2016, police in Liberia closed the local Red Cross office following dismissal of the entire Board of Directors, Secretary General and Head of Program by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. An investigation by Liberian authorities revealed that donor funds amount to $1.8 million dollars were missing and unaccounted for.

Ebola Workers
Ebola Workers

At the time, Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Switzerland as saying it had undertaken an audit of the Liberian member organization in 2015 and “…we found some irregularities and that led to an investigation.”

Ebola-Guinea
Ebola Awareness in Guinea

In an investigative report entitled, Lost on the Ebola Money Trail, published in 2015 on the Humanopsphere website, science journalist Amy Maxmen wrote that “…Far more than $3 million in foreign aid contributions have been donated in support of the Ebola response and much of it appears to have never reached the intended recipients in Sierra Leone…”  

According to Ms. Maxmen, the United Nation’s online financial tracker from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs puts Ebola donations to West Africa at $3.3 billion. According to this source, the US government donated 1.58 billion. 

Health_Ebola
Ebola Health Workers

Beginning in March, 2014, the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced the largest devastation of the Ebola epidemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 11,300 persons died before the outbreak was deemed over in March, 2016.

About 4,800 of the Ebola casualty were recorded in Liberia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) denotes Symptoms of Ebola to include: 

 

Fever

Severe headache

Muscle pain

Weakness

Fatigue

Diarrhea

Vomiting

Abdominal (stomach) pain

Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

EBOLA-virus
Ebola Virus

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

No one has been prosecuted for the disappearance of Ebola donor funds in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Feature: Liberian Political Parties in “Catch-22” Situation

Though most Liberians are agreed the crucial and now temporarily suspended presidential run-off scheduled on November 7th should provide the way forward for recovery in this postwar country, some opposition parties that failed to reach the runoff now feel embarrassed for having committed themselves in the so-called Ganta Declaration to gang up against their ruling party in the event of a run-off election.

Political Parties Leadera in Liberia
Political Parties Leaders in Liberia

Now, the hitherto hidden snare has surfaced as chickens must come to roost when the coalition headed by former football star George Weah and incumbent vice president Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party will duel in the runoff, if and when the scheduled run-off happens.

The matter resembles a catch-22 for some opposition parties that came in four descending places after Boakai’s 28.8 percent below that of Weah’s 38 percent.

The onus is on opposition parties that agreed to form a common block against the ruling party their—sworn enemy—only in case there is no first round victory for any party are racing against to swallow the bitter pill.

Opposition parties entered the pact unmindful of the fact that Weah’s CDC coalition was fortified with Jewel Howard-Taylor’s NPP and Alex Tyler’s People United Party, formed after breaking ranks with the ruling UP and losing the speakership to James E. Nuquay, now running mate of Boakai.

The likelihood of honoring the Ganta Declaration before the run-off election by opposition parties like Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress of Alexander Cummings that filed against suspected election irregularities with the National Elections Commission are near impossible. They are in court seeking redress and possible injunction on the runoff.

Meanwhile, controversial Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson who came fourth and could surely be a kingmaker,  a little over a week ago, publicly endorsed the CDC coalition of Weah “in the spirit of the Ganta declaration signed in November 2016.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

The endorsement came after Johnson and Weah were seen together recently in Nigerian televangelist T.B. Joshua’s synagogue in Abuja; but Johnson said their appearance together under the prelate’s invocation was purely coincidental.

Yet the former warlord who thrice failed to win the presidency, admits he previously sought spiritual counsel and guidance from Pastor Joshua to help him reconcile with Grand Gedeans for torturing Dictator Samuel Doe to death in 1990.

Johnson had earlier criticized Weah for allegedly unleashing his supporters to wound loyalists of the Liberty Party during a campaign rally in Saniquellie, Nimba County, sayng: “I reject the spilling of Nimbains’ blood and called on all Nimbaians not to vote for Weah because he is not president yet; his followers are causing confusion.”

Immediately after Johnson pledged support to Weah whom he often refers to Weah as “my son”, came the support of George Sluwar Dweh’s (Gedeh) of the Liberia Transformation Party that earned less than one percent of the votes, to the CDC coalition.

It appears the cardinal focus of all opposition parties was to galvanize toward ousting the UP, while oblivious that each party was not in the race to win a joint trophy, but specifically win the presidency.

Benoni Urey pledged support to the Unity Party which its new campaign mobilization chair, Edwin Snowe says is now engaged in a “Jehovah witness’s style campaign” for the runoff.

Liberians Waiting To Vote
Liberian Voters At Polling Stations On Oct 10th

As campaign for the runoff appears rather lackluster with the CDC banking on commitment of opposition parties that signed the Ganta declaration but were defeated in the first round further political negotiations are expected, though the declaration is silent on that only insisting on stopping prolongation of the Unity Party rule.

The bottom line here is Liberians will be forced to live with the inevitability of a George Weah presidency since voters who see themselves through him vastly outnumber the older generation who believe placing Liberia’s posterity now in the hands of someone whose only legacy is the talent of goal scoring is unsound. And unlike other international football stars of his caliber, Weah has done nothing concrete in Liberia to depict his football prowess and gains.

Moreover, Weah refused to participate in all debates for presidential candidates and has shunned invitations to appear on T-Jlateh’s 50-50 talk show in Monrovia.

By Tepitapia Sannah

Contributing Writer

Monrovia, Liberia

 

UN Calls For Protection of Journalists World Wide

Philadelphia and New York, USA

In his message to mark International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council have all condemned attacks against journalists and is calling for ensuring their safety.

UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

In a press statement copied to West African Journal Magazine on Wednesday, the U.N head averred that “In just the past few weeks, a renowned investigative journalist was murdered by a bomb that booby-trapped her car; another was dismembered in the course of researching her story; and a photojournalist was found dead after being forced to leave his home at gunpoint.”

He recounted statistics which indicate that from 2006 to 2016, 930 journalists and media workers were killed. “Thousands of others routinely face sexual harassment, intimidation, detention and ill treatment. Rampant impunity then compounds the crimes.  In nine out of ten cases, the perpetrators are never brought to justice, ‘ Secretary Guterres said.

It is in recognition of the far-reaching consequences of impunity, especially of crimes against journalists, the UN General Assembly  IN 2013 adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 (link is external) at its 68th session in 2013 which proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ (IDEI).

That resolution urged all UN Member States to implement definite measures to counter the present culture of impunity. November 2 commemorates the date in 2013 when  two French journalists in Mali were assassinated.

According to Secretary General Guterres, “When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole also pay the price.  The kind of news that gets silenced – corruption, conflicts of interest, illegal trafficking — is exactly the kind of information the public needs to know.”

UN Security Council
UN Security Council Meeting

He disclosed that the United Nations system has also endorsed a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adding that “We are committed to helping to create the environment journalists need to perform their vital work.  I am mobilizing a network of focal points from throughout the UN system to propose specific steps to intensify our efforts to enhance the safety of journalists and media workers.”

In solidarity with journalists on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the UN Secretary General called ” for justice — in memory of all journalists who have been killed, and in recognition of the importance of free and independent media in advancing development and peace,” the press statement said.

Committee To Protect Journalists
Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ)

AFRICA

In a report entitled CPJ’s 2017 Global Impunity Index which highlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free, published at the end of October this year, the Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed the African nations of Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

SOMALIA: Journalists killed with complete impunity in past decade: 26

Getting away with murder: Militant groups like al-Shabaab, government officials.

Targeted for murder: Local journalists covering politics, culture, and war.

Progress: None since early 2016, when military courts sentenced suspects in connection to six murders.

SOUTH SUDAN: Journalists killed with complete impunity in past decade: 5.

Getting away with murder: Unknown.

Targeted for murder: Local journalists covering politics and war.

Progress: None.

NIGERIA: Journalists killed with complete impunity in past decade: 5.

Getting away with murder: Extremist group Boko Haram, unknown assailants.

Targeted for murder: Local journalists covering war, politics, and human rights.

Progress: None.

 

Video: Courtesy of CPJ

Reporting by Emmanuel Abalo

Philadelphia, PA USA

Sierra Leone Mudslide Exposes Peril of Freetown’s Sprawl

Augustine Deen, a 31-year-old officer with the Sierra Leone Police Force, was on night duty at his post in Freetown, counting down the hours, when disaster struck.

Political Map of Sierra Leone
Political Map of Sierra Leone

In the early morning of August 14, a major mudslide hit Mount Sugarloaf, which overlooks the capital, slicing it in two. The collapse killed 400 people, with hundreds more still missing, and left an estimated 3,000 homeless.

Corpses floated in the floodwaters, while some families were forced to dig for the bodies of their loved ones under the rubble. Deen’s wife and six children back home in the Pentagon New Site slum on the mountain slopes survived, but his four brothers, sister-in-law and his nephew were killed.

Home to a little over 1 million people, according to a 2015 census, Freetown grew at the turn of the century as citizens in rural areas fled a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002.

The city was originally designed to house about 300,000 people, and it’s now struggling to meet basic needs for housing, electricity, sewage and water, said Jamie Hitchen, a policy researcher at the London-based Africa Research Institute.

Homes are being built in areas identified as “at risk,” and despite the creation of an European Union-funded Freetown Development Plan in 2014, city planning has been given little priority, he added.

FILE - A World Food Program tent is seen at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

FILE – A World Food Program tent is seen at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

“So far the government’s response to annual floods has been superficial and short-term,” Hitchen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Urban management problems are one of the major causes, along with deforestation and climate change.”

Freetown, initially designed by colonial-era British administrators, has been plagued by heavy rains and flooding yearly since 2008.

Its many slums and informal settlements are built high on mountain slopes, leaving tens of thousands of inhabitants vulnerable to death and displacement when the rains come.

Builders have encroached into protected forest areas on the hills behind the city, causing soil erosion — a phenomenon that contributed to the August landslide.

Officials at Freetown City Council said there are laws to prevent illegal construction, but these are often flouted or permits obtained through bribery.

In 2014, the Sierra Leone Urban Research Center carried out an environmental assessment to map areas at risk of flooding, but the government did not act on it.

FILE - Victims of the August mudslide are gathered in a queue at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

FILE – Victims of the August mudslide are gathered in a queue at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

“Over the years, many people were displaced by crises, including the … civil war, so many people escaped to the city and built houses in areas where they shouldn’t,” said Cornelius Deveaux, deputy minister of information.

Cheap but risky

High levels of poverty, however, are putting slum communities at risk of disasters.

In a country where GDP per capita is $1,400 and 60 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day, according to U.N. data, having a home is judged as more important than safety.

Parts of the Regent area where the August disaster happened remain at risk of further landslides and flooding, but many residents say they have nowhere else to go.

“The closer to the mountain you go, the cheaper [it is] to rent houses for your family,” said Salim Bangura, 38, who lives with his wife in Congo Town slum.

“Some of us don’t have electricity, but we need a roof over our head as we struggle to make ends meet,” said Bangura, who gets by peddling food and household goods.

He and his neighbors know that in a pre-election year, politicians may make promises of mass housing to get them to move, but they have been offered nothing yet.

“This is the only life we know,” he said.

FILE - A nongovernmental organization distributes meals to victims of August mudslide at the internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 19, 2017.

FILE – A nongovernmental organization distributes meals to victims of August mudslide at the internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 19, 2017.

Camps to close

All eight members of Deen’s family are living in a small tent in Juba camp, alongside nearly 500 people who lost their homes in the mudslide.

Food, clothing and medicine come mostly from relief agencies including the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which has refurbished the only health center near the disaster zone.

Kim Eva Dickson, UNFPA head in Sierra Leone, said it was providing women and girls with antenatal care, ultrasound scans, mother and baby kits, and personal hygiene supplies.

Among disaster-hit communities living in temporary shelters, “the risks of unwanted pregnancies … sexually transmitted diseases and gender-based violence increases,” she said.

The government, meanwhile, has provided counseling for the bereaved still grieving over lost relatives and possessions.

Public resources were stretched thin by the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak that killed over 4,000 people in Sierra Leone. But the government is giving cash totaling about $171 to each family affected by the mudslide, with the last payment due in November.

It plans to close the two formal camps in mid-November, leaving their more than 2,000 residents with a choice of taking cash payments or moving to new homes being built for them.

Households that opt for cash will each get about $284 to help them rebuild their lives — enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Freetown for a year.

FILE - A boy walks past a water supply point at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone. Aug. 21, 2017.

FILE – A boy walks past a water supply point at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone. Aug. 21, 2017.

The government has an agreement with local companies to construct 53 houses on the outskirts of the city for displaced families, and is in talks with other investors to build more homes for survivors.

This is separate from a long-term plan to create affordable housing for about 35,000 citizens in all, said Deveaux.

New homes shunned

Deen has heard the government is building free housing estates at 6 Mile on the outskirts of Freetown, but said there has been little information about the project.

Previous government action has made local people wary.

After floods in 2015, the government evicted 100 families living in Crab Town slum and moved them to a location about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Freetown.

But they were back in the capital a couple of months later, having rented out their new homes, said Hitchen.

The new housing stock was better than in the slums, but the village lacked basic amenities, work opportunities were few and people were cut off from their community networks.

“We don’t want to go to somewhere without knowing what we are getting into,” said Deen.

VOA

Press Statement: Liberian Leader Receives Guinean & Togolese Counterparts in Audience

Monrovia, Liberia: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has received in audience His Excellency, Professor Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea and Chairman, African Union and His Excellency, Faure Gnassingbé, President of the Republic of Togo and Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State of ECOWAS. The Liberian leader received her colleagues at the Roberts International Airport in Harbel, Margibi County.

Togolese and Guinean Leaders and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia1
Guinean and Togelese Leaders Meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

According to an Executive Mansion release, the three leaders held tete-a-tete in the Presidential Lounge at the Roberts International Airport.

President Sirleaf receives AU Chairperson President Alpha Conde of Guinea
President Sirleaf Receives AU Chair and Guinean President Alpha Conde

Meanwhile, following the formalities at the Roberts International Airport, President Sirleaf opened a one-day political stakeholders’ meeting at the Boulevard Palace involving major players in the just ended October 10 Presidential and Representatives elections.

President Sirleaf receives ECOWAS Chairperson Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe
President Sirleaf Receives ECOWAS Chair and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe

Speaking during the opening of the one-day stakeholders’ meeting, President Sirleaf briefed colleagues on the state of Liberia’s electioneering process, a successful first round coupled with scheduled runoff. She further informed the Chairs of the AU and ECOWAS during the meeting at the Boulevard Palace Hotel in Sinkor on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 that the transition remains on course and noted that the process must be concluded in time for her to turn over to a successor.

She reminded political leaders around the table of their commitment to the Farmington Declaration in the presence of West African leaders. She noted concerns expressed regarding irregularities during the first round and said the appropriate channels are being used to handle whatever the concerns.

The Liberian enjoined her Guinean and Togolese counterparts to listen to the various concerns and bring their expertise to bear on the table with a view to resolving those issues. She cautioned the need for aggrieved parties to bear in mind that Liberia is the only country that they have and the peace of this nation should be sustained at all cost.

 

Liberian Political Leaders in Meeting with Presidents Sirleaf and African Leaders
Liberian Political Leaders Meet With President Sirleaf and African Leaders

President Sirleaf called on all those who took part in the process to remain peaceful, and respect the elections laws of Liberia and give the process a chance to go on peacefully and successfully. She challenged those dissatisfied to go about it in a peaceful manner and within the constitutional time-frame.

President Sirleaf sounded a caveat to all those around the table in the midst of the West African leaders to realize that they believe in peace, in the Liberian nation and should commit themselves to staying the course of peace and commit to remaining in the country, following the elections.

The one-day political stakeholders’ meeting was led by Presidents Conde of Guinea and Gnassingbe of Togo with Vice President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the Unity Party, Ambassador, George M. Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Businessman, Benoni Urey,  All Liberian Party, Mr. Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress, among others in attendance.

Source: Executive Mansion, Liberia

 

 

U.S. President Trump Wants End to DV Program; Africa To Be Affected

Philadelphia, PA USA

If U.S.President Donald Trump has his way, the ending of the immigration lottery program will close the opportunity to hundreds of thousands of African nationals to join family members who are either American citizens or permanent residents in the United States.

USCIS
US Custom and Immigration Service – USCIS

The U.S. Diversity Visa Program popularly known as “DV” allows 50,000 people into the U.S. every year under the State Department program, which tilts toward “countries with historically low rates of immigration.”

According to the State Department, the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, as provided for by law “is to promote immigration from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.” The program is an internet-based “lottery” system that randomly selects individuals from a global pool of eligible entrants and qualifies them to apply for immigrant visas.

Nationals of 53 African countries are eligible to apply fot the 2019 fiscal year. According to the U.S. State Department, natives of the West African country of Nigeria are not eligible to apply for 2019 ” because they are the principal source countries of Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based immigration or “high-admission” countries.”

President Trump’s call to end the DV Program was the direct consequence of the most recent terror attack in New York on Tuesday by an Uzbek national who immigrated to the U.S. in 2010 under the program.

Many African families take advantage of the DV program to re-unite their families in the U.S. and take advantage of the opportunity of realizing the ‘American dream” and a better life.

Diversity visa recipients are given lawful permanent residence status also known as “green card residents” and work permits which then allow them work and live permanently in the U.S. with the eligibility option of become U.S. citizens, if they choose.

According to the Pew Research, a U.S. based fact think tank, quoting the most recent data of fiscal 2015 from the State Department, “…about 12% of the 14.4 million people who applied for the visa lottery were citizens of Ghana (1.7 million)…”

Country Map of Africa
Country Map of Africa

Other African countries are also cited in the data, according to Pew. “In some countries, a marked share of the population has applied for the program. In the Republic of Congo, for example, 10% of the country’s citizens applied for the program in fiscal 2015. Other African countries with high shares of applicants included Liberia (8%), Sierra Leone (8%) and Ghana (7%).”

The Washington Postreports that the DV Program was “originally conceived as a way to help Irish citizens fleeing an economic crisis back home, the only requirement is that entrants be adults with a high school diploma or two years of recent work experience. Winners can bring their spouses and minor children. There is no application fee.

Millions apply each year. Fewer than 1 percent are randomly selected to undergo background checks and receive a green card, which grants them permanent residency in the United States and puts them on a path to American citizenship. There were 11,391,134 applicants in fiscal 2016, the most recent data available…”

Conservatives in the U.S. have targeted the program for years and are currently supporting legislation that favors a “merit-based” immigration system. Since 2005, the U.S. Congress has tried but failed to end the DV Program including cutting off funding, Many conservatives blame an increase in terrorism and violent crime in the US. on immigration laws

President-Donald-Trump-USA
President Donald Trump

In remarks on Wednesday at the White House, the U.S. President who has taken a tough stance on immigration since a candidate in the 2016 Presidential elections said he would ask on Congress “to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program.”

“I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. It sounds nice. It’s not nice. It’s not good,” Trump said to reporters just prior to a midday Cabinet meeting,

President Trump later tweeted that “We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems.”

Reporting By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine