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African religious leaders called on to help tackle genital mutilation

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Group calls on African religious leaders to help tackle female genital mutilation
(File photo)

Religious leaders in Africa must speak up against the practice of female genital mutilation, which affects millions of children across the continent, an international conference in Dakar said Tuesday.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, is generally carried out on girls under seven years of age and “constitutes a danger and a physical attack on the physical integrity of women,” Senegalese imam Abdou Aziz Kane told reporters on the sidelines of the three-day conference.

Participants agreed that religious leaders have a central role in eliminating both genital mutilation and arranged marriages for child brides. traditional practices which affect millions of children in Africa.

Religious and traditional leaders were invited to “promote dialogue within their communities to challenge the ideas handed down from long ago according to which the marriage of children and genital mutilation are acceptable practices,” said the final declaration from the meeting organised by Senegal, Gambia and the Safe Hands for Girls NGO.

The conference gathered some 500 members of NGOs, victims’ associations and government officials from a dozen countries as well as international institutions such as the World Bank.

‘Religion, still a big problem’ –

“Religion is still a big problem on the ground because people believe those practices are a religious obligation. I believe this summit will bring changes and make our cause advance,” said Lisa Camara, Gambia co-ordinator for Safe Hands for Girls.

Rates of female genital mutilation among girls under 14 have fallen sharply in most regions of Africa over three decades, according to a report published in November.

The age-old ritual of cutting or removing the clitoris of young females has been decried by human and women’s rights advocates and can lead to a host of physical, psychological and sexual complications.

And yet, it remains widespread in parts of Africa and the Middle East. 

Historically, rates of FGM have been high in East Africa. In 2016, for example, the UN children’s agency said 98 per cent of women and girls in Somalia had been cut.

But the research suggested the practice has been falling over time in younger children, the most at-risk group. 

While still endemic in many societies there is a growing stigma attached to the practice, making it hard for researchers to get a good idea of whether FGM has remained stable or is in decline.

According to UNICEF, 39 per cent of girls in Africa are married off before their 18th birthday.

The participants in the Dakar conference also called on governments to “reinforce the promotion of equality between the sexes”.

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PepsiCo to buy South Africa’s Pioneer Foods for $1.7 billion

PepsiCo has offered 110 rand per Pioneer ordinary share in what would be its second largest deal since 2010

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PepsiCo to buy South Africa's Pioneer Foods for $1.7 billion

PepsiCo has struck a deal to buy South Africa’s Pioneer Food Group for $1.7 billion, the companies announced on Friday, lifting Pioneer’s shares and boosting a sector that has been hit by drought and tough trading conditions.

The U.S. drinks and snack group see Pioneer Foods’ product portfolio as complementary to its own and would help PepsiCo to expand in sub-Saharan Africa by adding manufacturing and distribution capabilities. 

“Pioneer Foods forms an important part of our strategy to not only expand in South Africa, but further into sub-Saharan Africa as well,” PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said in a statement. 

PepsiCo has offered $7.89 per Pioneer ordinary share in what would be its second largest deal since 2010, the companies said, with the news lifting the South African company’s shares by 29.32% to more than 100 rand. 

Shares in agribusiness investment company, Zeder Investments, which holds Pioneer as part of its portfolio, also rose more than 22%. 

“It’s a vote of confidence in South Africa at a time when we really need it,” Pioneer CEO Tertius Carstens says.

Food producers have struggled amid a slump in retail sales as consumers cut back and dry weather hit maize and other produce. 

Pioneer, which uses maize in many of its products, reported a decline in half-year earnings in May, weighed down by shortages in the staple food. 

“It’s almost a signal to other overseas companies that we are open for business. If PepsiCo is willing to put money down it may lift sentiment of other foreign investors that might come looking at South Africa for bargains,” said Greg Davies, equities trader at Cratos Capital. 

Pioneer, whose brands include Weet-Bix cereal, Liqui Fruit juice and Sasko bread, is the latest consumer goods firm to be the target of a buyout after South Africa’s Clover Industries, which processes products including yoghurt, beverages, and olive oil, began takeover talks with a consortium of companies called Milco SA last year. 

Pioneer was in talks over a potential deal with “a multinational organisation” in 2017, but that fell apart after South Africa’s credit rating was cut to junk status.

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Aid worker, 5 others missing after jihadist ambush in Nigeria

The three-vehicle convoy was returning to Damasak from Layi village when the gunmen opened fire

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Aid worker, 5 others missing after jihadist ambush in Nigeria

Six people are missing following an ambush by suspected jihadists on a humanitarian convoy in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, an aid group said on Friday.

Action Against Hunger (ACF) said in a statement that a member of staff was among the missing after the convoy was ambushed in Kennari, a village outside Damasak Town near the border with Niger.

“One of the drivers was killed, while one Action Against Hunger staff member, two of the drivers and three health workers are missing,” ACF said. 

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident as these are colleagues dedicated to providing life-saving assistance,” they added. 

A statement by the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator, Edward Kallon, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the attack. 

“I call on all who may have influence to do everything they can to keep them unharmed and work towards their safe return,” he said. 

An Islamic State-affiliated group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), has been active in the area, repeatedly attacking military bases.

The three-vehicle convoy was returning to Damasak from Layi village where ACF runs a clinic for locals when the gunmen opened fire, according to a humanitarian source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the vehicles veered off the road and crashed into a tree, killing the driver.

“The four were stuck in the vehicle and seized by the attackers,” the humanitarian source said.

“The occupants in the other vehicles abandoned their vehicles and fled on foot to Damasak, eight kilometres (five miles) away,” the source added. 

The jihadist insurgency in northeast Nigeria has been raging for a decade. 

Further complicating the conflict has been a split within Boko Haram. In 2016, ISWAP, a group that has sworn allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, broke away. 

Since 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed, some two million have fled their homes and milliions are dependent on aid. 

NGOs have increasingly been targeted by jihadists.

Two female aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were murdered by ISWAP last year and an aid worker with the UN children’s agency Unicef is still being held by the group.

The trio were seized during a raid in the remote northeast town of Rann where three UNICEF staff were killed along with eight soldiers.

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Guinean teen delivers child during exam and returns to finish

She was rushed to the local hospital where within 10 minutes she swiftly delivered a baby boy

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Guinean teen delivers child during exam and returns to finish
(File photo)

The 18-year-old, from the town of Mamou in eastern Guinea, realised she was just about to give birth as she sat down for the physics part of her baccalaureate, a high-school diploma that entails exams in a range of subjects.

She was rushed to the local hospital where within 10 minutes she swiftly delivered a baby boy.

Just 40 minutes after leaving the examination room, she was back at her desk, stunning her family who had rushed to the clinic as well as the invigilators.

Her tale, recounted by the local media, was confirmed by the head of the exam centre, Mohamed Diakite.

Conde told reporters that she had told no-one, including her husband, that childbirth was imminent “out of fear that they would ask me to stay at home or go and see my doctor.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to imagine missing a single exam for my baccalaureate, which I have been studying for the whole year,” she said.

One of her relatives said that her husband, a corporal in the police, was delighted and was telling everyone who would listen about “this terrific woman”.

“Everyone in Mamou is congratulating them, and we are praying to God that Fatoumata gets her baccalaureate,” said the relative, expressing the hope that the baby is named Espoir, “Hope” in French.

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