On the Brink of Extinction, the Northern White Rhino Now Has a Chance at Survival 

The northern white rhino is on the brink of extinction.  Poachers decimated the population, but now science has a chance to bring it back.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.Camera:  Reuters Produced by: Arash Arabasadi  

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Malawi’s Former President Welcomes Biden Administration, Criticizes Rival

Peter Mutharika is certain he won reelection last June, in a poll which he insists was rigged and which triggered violent protests.But instead of pursuing his case through the courts, he invited the new president and his wife over for a chat and some coffee.Landlocked Malawi is Southern Africa’s poorest nation, and was rocked by political protests over the June poll, which was a redo of a February poll that courts invalidated. But after months of protests and challenges, Mutharika folded and says he’ll never run for office again.“I thought we needed peace in this country after 11 months of violence,” Mutharika said. “So that’s what happened, and I think my people are so glad, that they acted responsibly and accepted that we should go on, let them take the government and let Malawi go on in peace.”Malawi’s newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera takes the oath of office in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 28, 2020.President Lazarus Chakwera acknowledged, broadly, some of his shortcomings late last year, said he accepted criticism for his handling of the pandemic and other pressing issues.”Someone asked if I have done enough,” Chakwera said. “No, I will be the first one to tell you that I have not done enough, and this country has not done enough.”One thing Chakwera’s government was quick to do shortly after taking office was to freeze Mutharika’s bank accounts amid a corruption investigation. The former president is accused of taking part in a $6 million scheme to illegally import cement.When asked about it by VOA, Mutharika denied his involvement in the purchase.Mutharika, who remains leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, called out his rival for what he sees as his biggest stumble — dealing with coronavirus.He said the government has failed to provide enough tests and economic assistance for citizens affected by viral restrictions.“They need to do more,”  Mutharika said. “We probably need some kind of lockdown at some point. We also need to have resources to assist those families in terms of buying food and nutrition.”The former president did note the government is encouraging the use of face masks and urging people to social distance, steps he said were good for the fight against COVID-19.The 80-year-old statesman added that he would not hesitate to take the vaccine when it arrives in Malawi, which has yet to happen.And finally, Mutharika says he’s encouraged by political change in a major donor nation, the U.S.President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2021, in Washington.“We’ve already seen President Biden reversing so many things, going back to COP-25, for example, and also getting the United States back into the World Health Organization,” Mutharika said. “So, there are changes, and I assume that Africa, the previous government probably was not very active in Africa. I assume that perhaps the new government will be more active in Africa, as Democrats normally tend to do.”He did, however, offer some praise for the Trump administration, noting that Malawi was one of four countries that Melania Trump graced during her only tour of Africa, in 2018.    

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Somali Journalists Worry About Arrests Ahead of Elections

The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), a press freedom group, says at least 14 journalists have been arrested and a radio station attacked in the country in just three weeks. The group condemned the latest attacks on media organizations and their workers, which come as Somalia prepares for parliamentary and presidential elections.
 
Since the beginning of this year, at least 14 journalists have been arrested across Somalia, either for airing views that upset local administrations or for reporting security incidents authorities wanted to keep quiet.  
 
Osman Aweys Bahar is one of the arrested journalists.  South West federal state security officers stormed his radio station in the town of Barawe, taking him into custody and pulling the FM station off the air.
 
“They arrested me because we aired the opinions of the public, complaining about the bad governance of Barawe town on the radio, Bahar said. “I was in jail for four days and the four days I was behind bars the radio was off the air. I was released after elders intervened on the issue but they told me to continue with my work and to stop airing the voices of those opposing the administration.”
 
On Wednesday of last week, authorities in Galmudug federal state arrested two journalists.  Abdiweli Jamaa, the director of the office of president, told VOA the two reporters were arrested for sharing sensitive security details and the president’s activities in Puntland state.    
 
“These journalists have directly violated media laws and regulations that are preventing the journalists from interfering with the peace of the people, reporting on something that injures the peaceful existence of the people. If you check their social media pages they reported something that has effects on the security of the region and its leaders and this kind of reporting brings a lot of problems,” Jamaa said.
 
The journalists were released the following day.   
 
The SJS, which fights for the rights of journalists and free media, says it’s worried about the rising number of detained journalists.
 
Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the secretary-general of the organization, says the upcoming elections are a key factor driving the arrests.   
 
“There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding this election and journalists are trying to get the news out and to feed information for the public interest. But unfortunately, the authorities do not want to see that.  That’s why you see they are targeting journalists, they are targeting local radio stations including radio in Beledweyne. Also, since they are local complaints, uprisings in various states the local authorities are trying to suppress these voices,” Mumin said.
 
The current Somali government mandate ends February 8 with no end in sight to the disagreement over how to conduct the parliamentary and presidential elections.
 
The growing tension has increased the appetite for news, but may lead to further problems for Somali journalists as they try to keep the public informed.
 

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UN Gears Up Operations to Help Mozambicans Battered by Cyclone Eloise  

Humanitarian operations are underway to provide life-saving assistance to tens of thousands of people in Mozambique devastated by Tropical Cyclone Eloise.  At least six people reportedly have died and more than 176,000 have been affected.  Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall Saturday, dumping torrents of rain in areas already affected by Tropical Storm Chalane, which flooded large areas of Mozambique three weeks ago.     A family from Nharrime takes shelter in the Samora Machel school to take shelter from Tropical Cyclone Eloise in Beira, Mozambique, Jan. 23, 2021. (UNICEF/Franco/Handout via Reuters)The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports 32 accommodation centers have been opened up in the heavily affected Sofala province.  The centers are providing temporary shelter for more than 15,000 families.  OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke says survivors of this destructive cyclone are in urgent need of food, tents, drinking water, mosquito nets, COVID-19 prevention materials and other essential relief.     “The cyclone destroyed, damaged or flooded more than 8,800 houses in Mozambique and at least 26 health centers have been damaged,” he said. “Large areas of crops have been flooded which raise concern for the annual harvest which is expected in April.  Again, these numbers may go up when we get more assessment results.”   A recent analysis of the food and malnutrition situation in Mozambique indicates more than 2.9 million people face high levels of food insecurity in rural and urban areas in southern, central and northern provinces.     World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri says his agency, along with the government and partners, is currently assessing the needs to have a full picture of the storm’s impact. “Whilst the full extent of the need will be revealed once ongoing assessments have been concluded, early indications are that the storm has aggravated further the precarious food security situation in Sofala province.  People need food assistance now to cope and will need support to re-establish their livelihoods going forward,”  he said.  Aid agencies express concern about the extra level of danger posed by COVID-19.  They say it is very difficult to maintain social distancing in displacement centers where people are in enclosed areas with little or no ventilation.   The International Organization for Migration reports its staff is distributing soap and hygiene materials and a limited supply of cloth face masks to the most vulnerable and encouraging people to do their best to keep their distance from others.    

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Ghana Pays Final Respects to Former President Jerry Rawlings

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, lawmakers and a host of dignitaries on Tuesday will pay final respects to former President Jerry John Rawlings, Ghana’s longest serving leader.  Large crowds of mourners have already paid their respects to Rawlings, whose body lay in state at the Accra International conference center. Rawlings, who was 73-years old, died in November of last year, but his cause of death has not been revealed. His burial was partly delayed because Ghana’s political leaders disagreed on some logistics of his funeral. Rawlings had a checkered past in Ghana, having led a military junta before coming to power in coup in 1992. Rawlings was twice democratically elected to two four-year terms.  Funeral service for Ghana’s former President is set for Wednesday. 

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Nigerians Laud Biden Reversal of Trump’s Travel Ban on Muslim, African Countries

Abuja resident Joseph Abba wished to honeymoon with his wife in the United States after their wedding in 2018.He readied their documents and applied for a visa but says his visa was denied, even though he met the basic requirements.”As an applicant, the pain of being refused, even when you know you’re qualified, is something else,” Abba said. “Having known the already concluded decisions even before going for the interview, it’s a discouragement on the applicant.”Nigeria was one of several African nations included in the travel bans imposed by former U.S. president Donald Trump. As a result, travel between Nigeria and the U.S. became almost impossible.The Trump administration said the restrictions were imposed because of terrorism concerns, saying the countries on the list did not meet minimum security standards.But critics like Abba doubt security issues were the real reason.Trump was highly criticized in his early days in office for derogatory comments about Africa countries.”Nigeria is not the only country in the world that is having insecurity as a problem. Insecurity is just like the pandemic, it’s a global problem,” Abba said.On his first day in office, Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, signed 17 executive orders, including one that overturned the travel restrictions.Nigerian business owners like Taiwo Charles, who runs a travel agency in Abuja, welcomed the move.”It’s a big relief for entrepreneurs like me, especially in the travel industry, who can now begin to see so many opportunities coming up and then begin to enjoy the benefits of influx between Nigeria and America,” Charles said.With travel made easier once again, Nigerians like Abba said they will begin to visit the United States again, and travel companies are expecting to see a rise in revenue.  

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Malawi Recruits Healthcare Workers to Combat Surge in COVID-19 

Malawi says it is recruiting hundreds of healthcare workers to address a shortage as the country deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Healthcare workers welcome the move but say the government needs to do more than just hire more nurses.Government statistics show that about 900 Malawian health workers are currently in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. Ten of them have died.Dr. Charles Mwansambo is secretary for the Ministry of Health.Speaking during a televised presidential address on Sunday evening, he said to address the shortage, the government is attempting to recruit 1,380 new healthcare workers from various schools this week.“So there are 219 workers for central hospitals, 150 workers for CHAM [Christian Health Association of Malawi] facilities and 377 for district hospitals. And we are also recruiting 634 interns,” he said.Malawi is experiencing a lot of challenges under COVID-19, including a shortage of personal protective equipment or PPEs.Mwansambo said Malawi has set aside about $1.2 million for the procurement of the PPEs.“Districts where the pandemic is severe have been furnished with emergency treatment units. And our next step is to set up emergency treatment units in each of the remaining district with a bed capacity between 30 and 60,” he said.In an address Sunday night, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said he was concerned with an unprecedented rise in coronavirus cases.“In the past seven days, we have confirmed a total of 6,675 new infections, which is an average of 953 confirmed infections per day. This means that the average daily number of new infections from this past week is double what it was the previous week,” he said.Chakwera also said in the past seven days, the daily average number of COVID-19 deaths was more than double what it was the previous week.“Covid-19 deaths in the seven days between January 10th and 16th were 80, but in the seven days between January 17th and yesterday, the total was 170. The continued rise in new infections and new deaths over the past week means that the urgent directives I gave a week ago must continue to be implemented with uncommon speed,” he said.The directives included a nighttime curfew, suspension of schools and a recommendation that Malawians wear face masks.

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Uganda Court Orders Opposition Leader Released from House Arrest 

A high court in Uganda has ordered security forces to end the de facto house arrest of opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, calling it unlawful and a violation of his rights. Uganda’s high court on Monday ruled the security presence at the home of National Unity Platform party leader Bobi Wine since January 14 was unlawful.Deputy Court Registrar Jameson Karemani read the ruling, which said the detention of Wine and his family was a violation of their rights.   “It has been established that his right to personal liberty has been infringed.  Having found, as I do that the restrictions imposed on the applicant are unlawful, it is hereby ordered that they are lifted. Consequently, an order for restoration of the personal liberty of the applicant is hereby issued,” said Karemani.Uganda’s state prosecutors had argued that the movement of Wine’s wife Barbara Itungo was not restricted, which the court found untrue.     The state also argued the security forces were at Wine’s home for his own protection, a claim that Wine’s supporters dismissed as a cynical ploy. Speaking to VOA’s James Butty by phone on Sunday, Wine said he and his family were running out of things to eat.”The last time that my legal team was able to access me, they brought in some food and we’ve been surviving using that food. But now, we’ve run out of food. But the military and the police will not hear of it,” he said.Wine called for the end to his de facto house arrest.”We are governed by the law. If I am doing anything illegal, I should be arrested and charged. And if not, I should be made to be free,” he said.The Ugandan opposition leader also said again that Yoweri Museveni won the presidential election by fraud.”It was fake; it was not real. It was not anywhere related to what actually the people of Uganda said through their vote on the 14th of January. We defeated General Museveni resoundingly, and we have evidence to that.”The court ruled Monday that if there is a case against Wine, he should be produced before the court.     Wine’s lawyers led by George Musisi applauded the ruling and said they hoped that the state would comply. FILE – Joel Ssenyonyi, left, spokesperson of National Unity Platform, speaks to media with lawyers of Bobi Wine, after being blocked to enter at the security checkpoint near Kyaguolanyi’s home in Magere, Uganda, Jan. 18, 2021.“We are glad that court has emphasized the constitutional freedoms by saying that the restrictions on personal freedom are so important that if you are to restrain someone’s freedom, especially if you’re saying that you have grave allegations against them like they are alleging, they should be taken to court and charged,” he said.   Army spokesperson Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso said security forces would respect the court’s decision but indicated they might not withdraw immediately.     “That is something we will all have to wait for and that will depend on how the security chiefs determine to do the withdrawal process.  To really call upon the other side, that really you need to keep law.  We really need to do less of those things that seemingly cause insecurity.  The provocations, the chaos that sometimes cause unnecessary anxiety,” she said.  Ugandan security forces surrounded Wine’s home as voters went to the polls January 14 to elect a president.   After Wine declared the election a fraud and himself the president-elect, security forces moved in on his house and prevented anyone from leaving or visiting — including family.  A patrol car of the Ugandan police is seen stationed outside the compound of Ugandan opposition leader Bobi WIne on Jan. 20, 2021.Wine’s brother Fred Sentamu said they were looking forward to his release.   “My brother Robert Kyagulanyi didn’t commit any crime in standing for presidency of the country.  Whoever stands against president [Museveni] becomes a criminal.  This means there’s no democracy at all in our country.  He has suffered, psychologically.  Physically, he’s growing thin,” he said.Uganda’s electoral commission said 76-year-old President Yoweri Museveni was elected to a sixth term with 58 percent of the vote, which Wine maintains was engineered by fraud.   FILE – Election officials count the ballots after polls closed in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 14, 2021.Uganda’s Electoral Commission said it was investigating videos circulating on social media showing people allegedly ticking ballots and stuffing ballot boxes.  The U.S. State Department declined to congratulate Museveni and said it remain concerned by reports of election irregularities and politically motivated arrests.   Museveni called the election Uganda’s fairest ever vote. 

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