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Nigerian Activists Call for Better Tracking of Sex Offenders

Nigerian activists are calling for better tracking of sex offenders after the number of rapes tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as Ifiok Ettang reports from Jos, Nigeria, the social shame of rape often leads to silencing victims instead of prosecuting offenders.  
Camera: Ifiok Ettang   Produced by: Jon Spier 

Critics Decry Zimbabwe's Press Freedom Failures

November marks three years since Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power from the late Robert Mugabe and promised to honor his people’s constitutional rights.   But critics say freedom of the press is not being respected, pointing to the two arrests this year of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.Hopewell Chin’ono exchanged words with prosecutors after his second arrest this year – both triggered by messages on Twitter.Zimbabwe Court Frees Journalist Charged With Obstructing JusticeHopewerll Chin'ono's recent arrest and that of dozens of activists has led to accusations that the country's government was persecuting opponents, a charge authorities denyThe first arrest in late July was for a tweet supporting an anti-corruption protest.  The second in November followed a tweet criticizing Zimbabwe’s chief justice. He is now facing charges of inciting unrest and obstruction of justice, as well as demeaning the country’s National Prosecution Authority.Chin’ono says authorities are sending a clear message with his arrests, and Zimbabwe’s journalists are listening.  Hopewell Chin’ono, a reporter who has been arrested twice this year for posting messages on Twitter which President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government did not like. (Photo: Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)“So, because of those arrests, consequently journalists are afraid of pushing the envelope and doing the right thing: practicing journalism, because they are saying to themselves, ‘if they could arrest Hopewell Chin’ono twice for practicing journalism what more could happen to us? We are not as prominent as he is and we could just languish and rot in the prisons,’” Chin said.Former President Robert Mugabe often used restrictive media laws to arrest critical journalists during his 37-year rule.   When President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power in 2017, he promised free expression – raising hopes of change among journalists and citizens.  Authorities have maintained that Chin’ono’s arrests were about upholding the law, not cracking down on press freedoms. Ndavaningi Mangwana, the secretary for Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information says six new television stations were just licensed in Zimbabwe, and added that foreign media houses are now free to operate in the country. (Photo: Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)“Nobody has been arrested under any law which has to do with the media.  But if laws have been broken in other sections of our security, obviously whether it’s a journalist, a lawyer or a doctor, people will be arrested.  Other than that, the environment for the media to operate has been very enabling,” said Ndavaningi Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information.The Information Ministry official noted that six new television stations were just licensed in ...

Senegalese Artist Raises Awareness of Violence Against Women

Women’s rights activists in Senegal say gender-based violence has increased during COVID-19.  To raise awareness for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov 25), Senegalese artist Diart exhibits her own experience.  Estelle Ndjandjo reports from Dakar.Videographer:  Estelle Ndjandjo           Producer: Rod James    

Botswana’s Farmers Use Sensory Toolkit to Drive Away Elephants

Farmers in Botswana's Chobe region have struggled to protect their crops from elephants. But a local conservation group has developed a toolkit to safely repel the giant mammals and prevent farmers from killing them. Mqondisi Dube reports from Chobe, Botswana.Videographer:  Reference Sibanda, Producers: Rob Raffaele/Rod James

Nigerian Men’s Involvement Key to Stopping Gender-Based-Violence

As COVID-19 lockdowns have seen increasing cases of gender-based-violence, Nigeria’s traditional and religious leaders are urging men to protect the rights of women and girls.  The campaign coincides with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov 25), as Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.Camera: Emeka Gibson       Produced by: Jon Spier 

Kenya's LGBTQ Community Faces Increased Abuse During Pandemic

Kenya has acknowledged that COVID-19 restrictions are fueling cases of gender-based-violence but has been less open on abuses against the LGBTQ community. Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and activists say many are afraid to report abuse or get medical help because of stigma.
Twenty-eight year-old Rebecca Adhiambo’s family shunned her after discovering two years ago that she is a lesbian.  
When her neighbors found out, she was insulted, evicted, and - in September - attacked.    
She says she was on her way home from the market to prepare a meal after a long day of doing casual work in Eastleigh. Someone approached her from behind, a crowd gathered, and some were shouting that she should leave the neighborhood. They started beating her and threw away all that she bought at the market.  
Said Athmani documents cases of attacks on the LGBTQ community. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, he says there’s been a jump in cases of abuse.  
“Curfew is in place, some people don’t go to work, so they stay in their locality. Our locality here is Pumwani, when people notice and recognize that in our neighborhood, we have LGBTQ+ persons, they start to abuse them, they start to victimize them, in a way they feel that they do not want them here,”  Athmani said.
The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) says during the pandemic it has been logging up to 10 attacks per month on the LGBTQ community.  
Kenya’s government raised an alarm on increased cases of gender-based-violence but has offered no targeted help for LGBTQ people.  
Donna Awuor, the security coordinator at the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, says it all boils down to acceptance.
“Inclusivity is still foreign to most of these mainstream organizations and they try to sideline us because they feel like we do not deserve to be in those spaces, that we do not deserve to get the opportunities or resources that are available because of who we are or how we identify,” Awuor said.  
Kenya is considered among the most progressive African countries. But the country's High Court in 2019 upset activists by upholding a colonial-era law that punishes homosexual acts with up to 14 years in prison.
Kelly Imathiu is a programs officer at Hivos, a development aid organization that provides financial support to organizations working in Africa, Latin America and Asia-- that seek new solutions to persistent ...

Attacks on Kenya's LGBTs Increase During Pandemic

Kenya has acknowledged that COVID-19 restrictions are fueling cases of gender-based-violence but has been less open on abuses against the LGBTQ community. Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and activists say many are afraid to report abuse to police or get medical help because of the stigma. Rael Ombuor reports from Nairobi.Camera: Amos Wangwa Produced by: Amos Wangwa, Jon Spier 

Uganda's Presidential Hopefuls Kick Off Campaigns as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Campaigning is gearing up in Uganda for general elections but candidates are struggling to follow the guidelines for containing coronavirus pandemic.As campaigns ramp up ahead of the January 14 general vote, it’s often hard to tell there is a pandemic underway.  
Many at rallies are ignoring calls to social distance and wear face coverings.  
Election officials are urging the 11 candidates running for president to take the lead and encourage people to help control the virus. Paul Bukenya, Electoral Commission spokesperson, says candidates should lay out the ground rules.
“Your first statement will be to the people … ‘Please put on your masks. If you don’t put on your masks, I will not talk to you. Please social distance, can you social distance?  Put on the distancing that is recommended,’” Bukdenya said.
    Chaos Erupts in Kampala Following Arrest of Opposition Leader Bobi Wine The arrest came after police released a statement that warned candidates against violating COVID-19 guidelinesUganda has reported more than 16,000 infections and at least 150 deaths.   
At a campaign event in northern Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni said all candidates should hold rallies with social distancing, even as his own rallies draw larger crowds.  
“So, this bankruptcy of calling people together in a such dangerous time is criminal. And we are going to deal with those people who are doing it,” Museveni said.
But it appears security may be targeting the opposition.  
Police have been seen violently dispersing crowds supporting opposition parties, while it appears ruling party rallies are being held freely.  
The National Unity Platform party led by Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as the singer Bobi Wine, and the Forum for Democratic Change have been cited as the defiant parties.   
With masses excited to see Wine, large crowds are common.  
Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson, says it’s tough for the party to ensure all their supporters practice social distancing and wear face coverings.  
“These people that wait for us, you know on the roadsides and so on, what do you do about them? These are Ugandans who are hungry for change. So, when they stand on the roadsides and wave and all of that, for starters, they also don’t commit a crime," Ssenyonyi said.  
In a statement Monday, the ruling National Resistance Movement party said it has directed police to disperse any processions being held by their party members across the country. ...

Voters Want Action Over Accra’s Annual Flooding

Ghana's capital, Accra, is plagued by frequent floods despite a raft of promises from politicians to fix it. Some Ghanaians say the issue will be a key factor on how they will vote in December’s general election, as Stacey Knott reports from Accra.Videographer, Producer: Stacey Knott

Ghanaians Remember ‘Complex’ Former President Jerry Rawlings  

The death of Ghana's former president Jerry John Rawlings at age 73 on Thursday in Accra, sparked mixed reactions across the nation.  Some were saddened by Rawlings death while others spoke of human rights abuses under his rule. Jerry John Rawlings leaves a complicated legacy in Ghana of both violence and democracy.     While seen as a champion of the poor, and a fighter against corruption, rights activists accused him of jailing and killing opponents.    Supporters celebrated Rawlings’ life at a vigil in Accra Sunday night, held by the party he founded and served twice as Ghana’s elected president — the National Democratic Congress (NDC).    Musicians and dancers celebrate former President Jerry John Rawlings at a vigil on Nov 15, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)“Our founder who has been a legend, and he is still a legend for centuries to come, his legacy reigns, and we are still going to have him in our memory.  NDC, as a party, we are going to celebrate a week-long for our departed hero,”  said Hajai Mariama Zakeri, an organizer for the NDC.  Before he was elected, Rawlings orchestrated two coups, in 1979 and in 1981.  But he surprised critics by then transitioning Ghana to democratic elections.    David Agbee, a governance and security expert, says Rawlings was unpredictable and “complex.” “After the 1981 coup, any political scientist, international relations, or any person in this country will tell you categorically that the emergence of Rawlings has more or less — or profoundly — stopped all coups in Ghana.”  Rawlings surprised critics once again by leaving office in 2001.   But he continued to hold influence in Ghana.  After Rawlings’ death at age 73  on Nov 12, supporters mourned outside his residence in Accra as his party’s top officials visited with the family.   Rita Addo says Rawlings cared for the country’s poor.  Rita Addo outside the residence of Rawlings, in Accra, Nov 13 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)She says he created policies for children to go to school and employment so they could then get jobs, which were flourishing before he left power.  Addo says she will remember him as someone who came to help the poor.   In announcing Rawlings’ death on Thursday, President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “a great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss.”    The announcement said flags would fly at half-staff for a week and then the nation would hold a state funeral, though no date has yet been set.  

Slam Poets Convene in Mali for Festival

Mali - known for its music and cultural events - attracted artists from around West Africa to this year’s annual slam poetry festival. Reporter Annie Risemberg followed one young Malian poet who is bucking stereotypes in the conservative nation in this report from Bamako.

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