Oil Executive Accused of Drug Dealing Appears in Court

The head of the board of directors at Namibia’s national oil company has appeared in court to face charges of dealing drugs.

Jennifer Comalie was arrested at the company’s offices on Monday when intelligence officers acting on a tipoff allegedly found a consignment of drugs in her official vehicle.

On Tuesday she appeared in the Windhoek Magistrate Court on charges of dealing in “dangerous dependence-producing substances.”

A spokesperson for the Namibian police in the Khomas region, Silas Shipandeni, confirmed the arrest to VOA.

“The contraband [was] discovered in her vehicle of which, amongst, others there was a discovery of 995 grams of cannabis of which one can call ‘skunk, 10 grams of cocaine powder and 90 units of crack cocaine,” Shipandeni said. He estimated that the total street value was 50,000 Namibian dollars.

A group of about 50 supporters gathered at the magistrate court on Tuesday to offer support to Comalie, whom many believe was set up as a result of a power struggle between her and the managing director of the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia.

NAMCOR, in partnership with Dutch oil giant Shell and Qatar Energy, recently announced a major oil discovery off the coast of Namibia.

NAMCOR owns a 10 percent stake in the joint venture, which may provide huge revenues for Namibia if drilling and production proceed.

A Namibian corporate leader and a friend to the accused, Twapewa Kadhikwa, was among those showing support for Comalie in court.

She told VOA she believes Comalie’s arrest is politically motivated by those with an interest in Namibia’s touted oil sector.

“It’s obvious, it is not something you can put aside,” said Kadhikwa. “So, to me as a corporate leader first, I know Jenny. Jenny does not use drugs. You understand the volume of drugs that was found in her car are for, like, a trader, you know? Not for a consumer.”

Kadhikwa said the arrest seems like a plot to discredit Comalie.

Responding to questions regarding Namibia’s emerging oil and gas industry, local political analyst Rakkel Andreas said the country should ensure it has the necessary governing structures in place to ensure that those in power do not line their pockets with money that could benefit the general public.

“We are coming to learn that systemic corruption is a reality for the African continent, and a lot of times, this corruption is under the umbrella of legal frameworks,” Andreas said. “So, I think in terms of making sure that we have infrastructure in place in making sure we don’t have loopholes that can be exploited to enable systemic corruption. I think that is the larger conversation.”

Comalie was released on bail on Tuesday. The inspector general of the Namibian police, Joseph Shikongo, has called for an investigation into the circumstances that led to her arrest and who tipped off police about the drugs allegedly found in her car.

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VP Harris Stresses Democracy During Africa Visit

On the eve of her meeting with Africa’s only female head of state, Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday that having more women in power is a key ingredient for a healthy democracy.

Her meeting comes as the White House hosts its second-ever Summit for Democracy in Washington.

Harris said that in a vibrant democracy, women winning positions of power should be a common occurrence, not a rare and newsworthy one, as her ascension was.

As she prepared to meet Thursday with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, she spoke Wednesday with female entrepreneurs and leaders in Ghana’s capital, and announced more than  $1 billion in private-sector-led funding to advance women’s economic participation in Africa.

Afterward, in response to a question from VOA, Harris said women’s leadership is fundamental to a healthy democracy, and that it’s a topic she often raises in high-level meetings.

“In every bilateral conversation I have with almost any world leader, that is a topic that we raise because we do believe it is in the best interest of prosperity and security for the globe,” she said.

And, she says, it’s not about pushing women into power — in a healthy democracy, more citizens will feel empowered, and more women will gravitate toward higher office.

“When it comes specifically to this continent and the correlation between that and women’s empowerment, there’s no question when you have transparency in systems, when you have accountability in systems, when you create a system where rule of law is important, equal rights are defended and protected, you will see greater empowerment of all people including women — especially if they have been behind or you see extreme disparities,” she said. “So, there’s a correlation there, and we’re going to continue to work on it knowing that they’re interconnected.”

That’s one of the aims of the largely virtual summit in Washington, which is co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia.

In  Zambia, the Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, will host a summit-related program this week. David Carroll is director of the democracy program there, and told VOA that inclusivity is key.

“Healthy democracies are ones that are inclusive,” he told VOA on Zoom. “They are ones that have transparency, that respect core fundamental freedoms and rights. And hopefully, they’re also showing that they’re able to deliver for their people in ways that really meet the needs of their populations.”

Carroll added, “Another central element of the problem is democracies need to be respectful of core rights. They need to be inclusive as possible. They need to ensure that broad respect, but they also need to deliver for their populations.”

That is an uphill battle, especially amid what President Joe Biden has described as a global tug-of-war between democracies and autocracies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And data recently released by civil society group CIVICUS shows that 43 of the 120 nations invited to the summit “severely and routinely” restrict civic rights. According to their data, six countries have seen backsliding this year, including Ghana, the United Kingdom and Greece.

“In too many countries that have been invited to the Summit for Democracy, governments are stifling civil society and going to extreme lengths to silence their critics,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, civic space research lead at CIVICUS.

“Without freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest, democracy cannot function effectively, as people lose their most important tools to hold governments accountable and promote change.”

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Freed ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Rusesabagina Arrives in US

The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” and was freed by Rwanda last week from a terrorism sentence returned Wednesday to the United States, where he will reunite with his family after being held for more than two years.

Paul Rusesabagina’s arrival back in the United States was announced Wednesday by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who wrote in a tweet that “we’re glad to have him back on U.S. soil.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists on Monday that Rusesabagina was in Doha, Qatar, and would be returning to the U.S.

Rusesabagina’s plane touched down in Houston in the afternoon and the 68-year-old was to travel next to a military hospital in San Antonio, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. The person said Rusesabagina was on the ground and in a car heading to reunite with his family.

“We’re glad to have him back on U.S. soil & reunited with his family & friends who’ve long waited for this day to come,” Sullivan wrote. “I’m grateful to those we worked closely with in the Rwandan Government to make this possible.”

Rusesabagina, a U.S. legal resident and Belgian citizen, was credited with sheltering more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis at the hotel he managed during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, in which over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed. He received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.

Vanished in Dubai

Rusesabagina disappeared in 2020 during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs. His family alleged he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial.

In 2021, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted in Rwanda on eight charges, including membership in a terrorist group, murder and abduction, following the widely criticized trial.

Last week, Rwanda’s government commuted his sentence after diplomatic intervention on his behalf by the United States.

Rusesabagina had been accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. The armed group claimed some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in southern Rwanda in which nine Rwandans died.

Rusesabagina testified at trial that he helped to form the armed group to assist refugees but said he never supported violence — and sought to distance himself from its deadly attacks.

Rusesabagina has asserted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime President Paul Kagame over alleged human rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.

Rusesabagina became a public critic of Kagame and left Rwanda in 1996, first living in Belgium and then the U.S.

His arrest was a source of friction with the U.S. and others at a time when Rwanda’s government has also been under pressure over tensions with neighboring Congo and Britain’s plan to deport asylum-seekers to the small east African nation.

Rights activists and others had been urging Rwandan authorities to free him, saying his health was failing.

In October, the ailing Rusesabagina signed a letter to Kagame that was posted on the justice ministry’s website, saying that if he was granted pardon and released to live in the U.S., he would hold no personal or political ambitions and “I will leave questions regarding Rwandan politics behind me.”

Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Kagame in Rwanda and discussed the case.

Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesman, had said Sullivan personally engaged in the case, “really doing the final heavy lifting to get Paul released and to get him on his way home.”

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UN Refugee Agency in Mozambique Appeals for Help to Deal with DRC Refugees

The representative of the U.N. refugee agency in Mozambique said refugees fleeing war-torn parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo are making an already complicated humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique even worse.

Samuel Chakwera told VOA in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that the agency now needs additional resources to cater to the arriving asylum seekers, on top of already settled refugees and Mozambique’s own internally displaced persons.

“They are coming from Kivu north and Kivu south which is still in conflict as we speak. So, their situation is far from the best solution,” Chakwera said. “We have others integrated, we have quite a few in Maputo, in Beira and Tete.”

Violent clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces periodically drive hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC.

In February alone, according to aid agencies, nearly 300,000 people fled homes across the Rutshuru and Masisi territories in the DRC’s North Kivu province.

Now, small numbers of these people have entered Mozambique’s troubled northern regions where Islamist-linked insurgents are fighting with government troops in oil-rich Cabo Delgado province.

According to the U.N official, Mozambique hosts close to 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, of which around 9,500 reside in Maratane settlement camp in Nampula province, while the remaining 19,000 reside in urban areas with host families.

The U.N. refugee agency says it works in full coordination with the Mozambican government, responding to lifesaving needs and advancing protection and solutions for forcibly displaced persons.

Chakwera said the increasing number of temporary refugees and asylum seekers from the DRC has strained Mozambique’s resources.

“So we are appealing for more funding from our donors to provide for things like shelter,” Chakwera said. “It’s quite a thing especially given the fact that we need resilient shelter because of the weather conditions. So that is the biggest thing that we are requesting from international partners for support.”

As Mozambique’s low-lying coast is prone to climate-induced disasters, the U.N. also provides emergency assistance in the wake of powerful cyclones that periodically ravage the region.

Powerful Cyclone Freddy struck Mozambique twice in February and in March, leaving behind a trail of damage, killing dozens of people and displacing 250,000 others in the central and northern parts of Mozambique.

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Burkina Faso Banning Free Press ‘Bit by Bit,’ Says France 24 Journalist After Broadcaster’s Suspension

The journalist whose interview with a terrorist organization resulted in Burkina Faso suspending France 24 has spoken with VOA about what he says is a decline in media freedoms in the country.

Burkina Faso’s military government suspended the international broadcaster after it aired an excerpt of an interview with the head of a regional al-Qaida affiliate earlier this month.

The journalist who conducted the interview, Wassim Nasr, told VOA that the Burkinabe leadership has been looking for a reason to shut down the network as part of an ongoing effort to control the flow of information in the country.

“When we speak to Burkinabe journalists or human rights activists or social or civil society activists, they all feel that banning free press is happening today, bit by bit,” Nasr told VOA. “And they are very scared of speaking out about things that are happening and what’s going wrong in the country.”

VOA reached out to Burkinabe authorities for comments, but inquiries went unanswered at the time of publication.

Burkina Faso government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo said the France 24 interview with the head of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, amounted to acting as a mouthpiece for the terror group.

“Without contesting the freedom of the channel’s editorial choices, the government nevertheless questions the ethics that govern the professional practice of journalism on France 24,” he said.

The suspension has also been met with criticism from press freedom organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, which called the move “a blatant attack on press freedom” and urged the government to lift the suspension immediately.

The suspension follows a move by the government to suspend the French radio broadcaster Radio France Internationale in December for its reporting on terror attacks.

Dieudonne Zoungrana, editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Aujourd’hui au Faso, told AFP the climate for journalists in the country is very tense, but said the country is in a time of war and the government is naturally hesitant to give a platform to the enemy.

“With this axe that fell on France 24, it is also a warning shot for the local press, for the national press, that must be a bit careful,” Zoungrana told Agence France-Presse.

“Because in the background, it is based on how to treat information in times of war, how it should be treated. Do we have to say everything? Do we have to give everyone the floor? There are some problems that are currently being raised.”

Nasr said the interview with the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb head Abu Obeida Youssef al-Anabi, also known as Yezid Mebarek, was nearly a year in the making. He sent Mebarek 17 recorded questions and Mebarek responded with voiced answers.

Nasr said France 24 only played 20 seconds of the audio as proof that the terror leader was making the statements. He added that he was careful to put Mebarek’s statements in context and include contradictory facts when necessary.

“I analyzed what he said. I picked out the interesting informational parts of what he said. I contextualized it and even contradicted him on many issues,” Nasr said.

For example, when Mebarek said AQIM was not responsible for a massacre in Solhan, Burkina Faso, which took the lives of at least 138 people, Nasr said his sources indicate it was, indeed, a unit of AQIM which was “undisciplined.”

“I said on screen that he was wrong, that they are responsible, despite the fact that he denied it,” Nasr said.

Nasr said that for a journalist, talking to an extremist leader is important in order to help viewers understand their ideology and tactics. It is not equivalent to justifying their actions or giving them a platform to recruit.

“As far as I am concerned, talking to jihadists and interrogating them and asking them questions is part of my job,” he said. “We are journalists, so we have to talk to all parties. I am not the spokesperson of the French Government, neither of the Burkinabe government, neither of any government. It is my job to talk to all parties.”

Some information in this article came from Agence France-Presse.

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UN Concerned About Disease in Malawi’s Displacement Camps

The U.N. humanitarian agency says Malawi needs immediate help to deal with diseases spreading in displacement camps for Cyclone Freddy survivors. The Malawi health minister told reporters Tuesday that the government is beefing up its medical staff but a local newspaper says the country needs more money to adequately deal with healthcare needs.

Malawi has over 500 displacement camps for people affected by Cyclone Freddy, which also hit Mozambique and Madagascar.

In its Tuesday Flash Update, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, says heath issues are rising in the camps due to a lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. 

It says diseases such as cholera, scabies, and acute respiratory infections have been reported in some camps.

Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda is minister of health in Malawi.

She told a press conference that the main challenge has been a shortage of medical workers.


“So, we are beefing up our staff levels as well. We have been recruiting. I think over the past two weeks we have recruited over 300 health workers in the southern region just to beef up our health services in the health sector,” said Chiponda.

However, a local newspaper reported Tuesday that Malawi needs about $3 million to address health needs created by the devastating cyclone.

The World Health Organization says the unusually long-running cyclone destroyed more than 300 health facilities in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique, leaving many communities without sufficient access to health services.  

In Malawi and Mozambique, the cyclone hit amid already-exisitng cholera outbreaks.

It says additionally, malaria cases have been reported in multiple camps, requiring medical attention and the provision of mosquito nets to prevent further spread of the disease.

Maziko Matemba is the community health ambassador in Malawi.

He told VOA that outbreaks of diseases in the camps were expected.

“And already Blantyre and those sites already had cholera. So, this would just be an increase to where we came from,” said Matemba. “But also, another assessment which we have done, you know, people are coming from different places to support people who are trapped. What would happen is that those people can also migrate several diseases; cholera, COVID.”

Matemba says that for people displaced from their homes, mental health is also a challenge.

“Before parliament signs off, or of all the requests that are happening in parliament, health has to be considered as one of the areas apart from infrastructure reconstruction because we are talking of mental health; it’s a big issue in those areas as well,” said Matemba.

In the meantime, several humanitarian organizations are supporting Malawi to address its health concerns.

The WHO and Doctors Without Borders have sent medical workers to hard-to-reach areas to assist those trapped because of roads that remain cut off.


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Sudan’s Finance Minister Denies Military Government Is Trying to Consolidate Power Over State Finance

Economists say Sudan’s economy is in dire shape, struggling under the weight of high inflation and the suspension of debt cancellation by Western nations since last October’s coup. In an exclusive interview with VOA in Khartoum, Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim tells Henry Wilkins about allegations the military government is trying to assert more control over the economy, and its alleged links with Russia’s Wagner Group.

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Al-Shabab Has Lost Third of its Territory, US Ambassador Says

The U.S. ambassador to Somalia said the Somali government’s military operations against al-Shabab have cost the militants one third of their territory. 

“Somali-led offensives have restored Somalia’s sovereignty to 1/3 of the territory formerly misruled by al-Shabaab,” Larry André told VOA Somali in an email. “Ending al-Shabab’s oppression is one step further toward Somalia’s full revival.”  

Since January, the United States donated weapons to the Somali national forces to support operations against al-Shabab. The U.S. also trains an elite Somali army unit known as Danab, which means “lightning” and has been leading the offensive against al-Shabab.

The Somali government this week reported that the military operations have inflicted heavy losses on the militant group during the past six months.    

In a statement on March 25, Ministry of Information said that 3,000 al-Shabab militants were killed and 3,700 more were injured in the first phase of military operations between August of last year and January. The government also said 70 towns and villages have been liberated from al-Shabab. 

Meanwhile, the militant group has claimed that the first phase of military operations by the Somali government and local fighters has failed.     

In an interview with al-Shabab-affiliated radio, the militant group’s spokesman, Ali Mohamoud Rage, who is also known as Ali Dhere, accused the U.S. of mobilizing forces against the group.    

He said the original plan was to eliminate al-Shabab within six months.    

“The first phase of the operation concocted by the infidels has turned futile,” he said.     

Contacted by VOA about the remarks by the al-Shabab spokesman, a senior Somali security official dismissed Ali Dhere’s claims.    

The “definition of failure has to be revisited if liberating Middle Shabelle, Hiran, South Mudug and parts of Galgadud is a failure,” said Kamal Dahir Hassan Gutale, national security adviser to Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre.    

The “Somali people and their government made possible all those successes reached by our security forces in a very short time,” he said.    

Gutale said Ali Dhere’s claim that the U.S. mobilized the Somali military offensive is baseless.    

“He is facing young Somali soldiers who are well-trained, battle-hardened, who took the battle towards the front lines,” he said. “Let him face them — they have liberated over 500 KMs from al-Shabab, and still they are after him.”    


Government officials said the second phase of military operations will start during Ramadan. But preparations for the second phase have faced criticism before it officially launches.  

Abdullahi Mohamed Ali Sanbalolshe, the former director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, says preparations for the second offensive focus more on the role of the government and less on the participation of local fighters who have been integral to the relative success of the first phase. 

Sanbalolshe told VOA the local fighters have a low awareness about the new offensive. He alleges that the government is lowering the importance of the clans, locals and states.     

“All Somalis were interested and were part of the first one [offensive] – the members of the parliament, clan elders, business community, the civil society, the diaspora,” he said. 

“The participation of the clans [in the 2nd offensive] is low; it appears it’s confined to the government,” he said.    

Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur has rejected the criticism that the government is not valuing the role of the locals.    

“This fight belongs to the Somali people, and it is true that the successes were achieved with the collaboration of the people,” he said.     

“Every area that is going to be liberated, its people will be consulted with and informed.”    

Nur said most of the locals do not need the government to inform them about military offensives because they approach and ask for support. 

Mohamed Abdurahman contributed to this report.  

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