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Campaigners demand arrest of Nigerian pastor accused of rape, set for court

The anti-rape campaigners want Police to arrest Fatoyinbo, an Abuja pastor for allegedly raping Busola Dakolo while she was a teenager

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Campaigners demand arrest of Nigerian pastor accused of rape, set for court
Photo credit: Biodun Fatoyinbo - Instagram

Nigerian anti-rape campaigners and rights activists have threatened to mobilize rape victims to institute a class action suit in court against a popular pastor in the country’s capital, Abuja who has been accused of rape by his members.

Biodun Fatoyinbo, a founder and senior pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, was on Friday accused of rape at 16, by wife of a popular musician, Busola Dakolo while she was a teenager. She is a former choir member in the church.

The campaigners said Police action is slow but police sources told News Central in Abuja on Saturday that there was no formal complaint lodged against Fatoyinbo with them except for media reports and social media posts which they had been reading, like other Nigerians.

Dakolo, in a video interview with one of Nigeria’s popular websites, said she was 16 when Fatoyinbo, then a young pastor, raped her in Ilorin, a town in northcentral Nigeria where they both grew up.

“When I was about to react, he covered my mouth and when he did he said, Busola, listen to me and you will be fine, just do what I want you to do. I didn’t struggle…” Busola said in the interview run on Friday that has now sparked outrage among Nigerians especially on the social media.

“He said, ‘be happy a man of God did this to you, disvirgined you’” said Busola who is a celebrity photographer and married to popular musician, Timi Dakolo, who himself had a few months ago accused Pastor Fatoyinbo of raping many female members of the church. “At this point he was already a pastor in Ilorin, his wife had given birth to their first child Shindara and I was in the choir.” The alleged victim said in the interview.

– Pastor denies allegations –

The Nigerian pastor who has had a growing ministry and is popular especially among youths has denied the allegations, threatening a law suit to protect the church and himself from constant harassments.

“I have never in my life raped anybody even as an unbeliever and I am absolutely innocent of this.” Fatoyinbo said in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

“Busola Dakolo, who has made this false allegation and her family, attended the church during the early start of the church in Ilorin in 1999. I never had any private interactions with her beyond my pastoral duties. Looking at her status and that of her husband, I am dumbfounded by why she would say such a thing.” The COZA pastor said in reply to the allegations.

The cleric promised that the “false criminal allegations made against me or the church” will not stand. He said “the leadership of the church and I have briefed our lawyers to commence criminal and civil actions against all individuals making such false allegations whether directly or by proxies.”

– Outrage among Nigerians –

But the revelation has got many Nigerians angry considering that a similar allegation had been made against the same pastor in 2013 by Ese Walter, another church member of COZA in the Nigerian capital.

Celebrities, bloggers, politicians and social media influencers have now joined hands with anti-rape activists calling on Pastor Fatoyinbo to step down as COZA senior pastor and allow for an independent investigation that would involve the Police. They accused church officials of “paying social media influencers millions of naira” to twist online narratives and refute the allegations on Fatoyinbo’s behalf.

Some protesters under the #ChurchTooMovement have now vowed to protest peacefully against the embattled cleric on Sunday in Abuja at the Guzape District church building of COZA.

“#PastorStepDown. Innocent or Not. Please” hashtag is also trending among those seeking an independent inquiry into the rape allegations which they have now accused Nigerian authorities of being too silent about instead of the government launching a probe to safeguard the rights of those women allegedly violated by pastor Fatoyinbo and for social good.

 “What can I say about your wife! A woman of strength, courage. We all, as women, must rise up and demand justice. I sponsored the violence against persons bill which prescribes life imprisonment for rape. Busola, you’ve got my back!” said Abike Dabiri, a former presidential adviser and Chief Executive of the, Nigerian Diaspora Commission in a message to Busola and her husband.

Despite Fatoyinbo’s denial of the rape accusations which the accused said happened twice first at her parents’ house and later at a secluded spot in Ilorin, several interest groups have vowed to mobilise a class action against the embattled cleric.

“We have more than 30 people who are ready to testify against him,” Segun Awosanya, a concerned Nigerian mobilizing for a class action suit told journalists in Lagos. “Busola’s case is just one out of the plethora of abuses that we have heard. We are ending rape culture and we are starting in the culture.” Awosanya said.

The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers and Advocates (COPA) in a media statement late Friday by its convener, Pelumi Olajengbesi said the Police “must begin a thorough independent investigation of the allegations against Pastor Fatoyinbo given that rape is a criminal matter squarely within their purview and mandate as the law enforcement arm of the people.”

“The Nigeria Police Force are to whereupon make its findings public and proceed to prosecute the culprit, without delay, where it’s investigations turn up sufficient material for a case of rape.” The group said while stating that 24 public interests lawyers and advocates had volunteered to pursue the case pro bono on Busola’s behalf.

Many Nigerians on social media have promised a showdown with the embattled pastor in the weeks ahead “to send a strong message to rapists,” especially the rich and powerful who are “using their positions to violate weak women.”

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Central Africa News

Ex-health minister arrested for embezzling Ebola funds in DR Congo

Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July, was detained while hiding in an apartment in Kinshasa

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DR Congo's health minister resigns after removal from key Ebola response role
Former DR Congo health minister Oly Ilunga. (AFP)

Former DR Congo health minister Oly Ilunga has been arrested over allegations he embezzled public funds to tackle the Ebola epidemic, police said on Saturday.

Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July after being removed as head of the country’s Ebola response team, was detained while hiding in an apartment in the capital Kinshasa ahead of a bid to flee the country, officers said.

He is in custody due to “misdemeanors of the mismanagement of funds allocated to the Ebola response,” police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP.

Ilunga will be referred to prosecutors on Monday, he added.

It comes after Ilunga was questioned in August as part of an inquiry into the management of funds to fight the outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives since August 2018.

Ilunga, 59, had already been banned from leaving the country.

He stepped down after criticising plans by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) to introduce a new, unlicensed vaccine to fight the epidemic.

His lawyer told AFP in September that some payments had been made to local chiefs after the killing of a WHO doctor in April.

More than 200,000 people have been vaccinated during DR Congo’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic.

It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

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Telemedicine revolution saving lives in Ivory Coast

The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.

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Telemedicine revolution in saving lives in Ivory Coast

Every time Catherine Coulibaly’s 19-year-old son had to make a routine appointment with the cardiologist for his heart condition, she gritted her teeth as she silently counted the financial cost.

It wasn’t just the hospital fee — there was the transport, food and accommodation, too, all of it amounting to a hefty burden for an Ivorian family on a modest income.

But thanks to telemedicine – consultations that doctors conduct through the internet or by phone – this cost is now a fading memory. 

Her son can book an appointment at a telemedicine facility in a nearby town in northern Ivory Coast.

There, he is attached to monitoring machines which send the data sent to Bouake University Hospital in the centre of the country, where it is scrutinised by a heart doctor.

The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.

Ivory Coast has become an African testbed for it, thanks to a project linking the Bouake hospital’s cardiac department with health centres in several northern towns, some of which are a four-hour drive away. 

Telemedicine “caused a sigh of relief for the population of Bouake, Boundiali, Korhogo, everyone,” says Auguste Dosso, president of the “Little Heart” association, which helps families with cardiac health issues.

Some 45 percent of the Ivorian population live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank’s latest estimate in 2017. And the minimum monthly wage — not always respected — is only around $100, or 90 euros. 

Heart disease surging

The pioneer behind the scheme is cardiologist Florent Diby, who set up an association called Wake Up Africa.

In Ivory Coast, heart disease, diabetes and other “lifestyle” ailments are surging, Diby explained. 

“Urbanisation is making people more sedentary, and there’s the rise in tobacco consumption, changes in diet, stress,” Diby said.

Three decades ago, only around one in eight of the Ivorian population had high blood pressure — now the figure is one in four, on a par with parts of Western Europe.

But in Ivory Coast — and across Africa — well-equipped cardiology units are rare.

“Ninety percent of heart attacks can be diagnosed by telemedicine, so for us cardiologists it’s a revolutionary technology,” said Diby.

The beauty of the telemedicine scheme is that neither the doctor nor the patient has to travel far. 

The cardiac patient is hooked up to the electrocardiogram (ECG) and other diagnostic machines with the help of a technician in a local health centre, which is connected to a computer in Bouake’s University Hospital. 

The cardiologist there can then see the results in real time, provide a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. 

The five-year-old project has already linked 10 health centres to the seven cardiologists at Bouake, enabling 4,800 patients in other towns to receive consultations by telemedicine each year. The goal is to expand this to 20 sites, doubling the intake.

Expertise France, the French public agency for international technical assistance, subsidises up to 185,000 euros of the network, which pays for equipment such as computers, artificial intelligence software and internet connections. 

Diby is now calling for telemedicine to be expanded in other medical fields such as neurology and psychiatry, not just in the Ivory Coast, but across West Africa too. 

That opinion is shared by other experts. Sixty per cent of Africans live in rural areas, where shortages of doctors are usually acute.

But numerous hurdles need to be overcome, especially investment in computers and access to the internet, according to a 2013 analysis published by the US National Library of Medicine. 

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Moroccan journalist arrested over “Illegal abortion”

Rights groups urged Moroccan authorities to release her, as her lawyers have firmly denied the “illegal abortion” charge.

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hajar raissouni
Hajar Raissouni. Photo credit - Amnesty.org

Hajar Raissouni writes for the Arabic-language daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, which has a history of run-ins with the authorities.

She was arrested as she left a clinic in Rabat where her lawyer Saad Sahli said she had been undergoing treatment for internal bleeding. 

But the 28-year-old was examined by a medic and the prosecution said she showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.

In a statement, it insisted her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.

On Friday, Rights groups urged Moroccan authorities to immediately release her, as her lawyers have firmly denied the “illegal abortion” charge.

Raissouni, who is religiously but not yet legally married, is also accused of having “sexual relations outside marriage” and faces a court hearing on Monday.

Her lawyers are lodging a complaint against police for forcing her to have a medical examination, her uncle Souleymane Raissouni told AFP.  

Also arrested were her fiancee, a doctor, a nurse and a secretary. 

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Friday joined social media users in calling for her release.

“Instead of intimidating Hajar Raissouni by prosecuting her on unjust charges, the authorities should immediately and unconditionally release her,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s regional director.

Ahmed Benchemsi, regional communications director at HRW, echoed Morayef’s call for all charges to be dropped.

The case had “a whiff of political manipulation since the defendant is a reporter from one of Morocco’s last newspapers,” he said.

Touafik Bouachrine, the owner of Raissouni’s newspaper, was sentenced in November to 12 years in prison on charges of rape and other offences.

He also denies all charges and his lawyers say his trial was politically motivated.

Raissouni’s arrest sparked heated debate online, and some 150 journalists signed a petition against “campaigns of defamation” against her.

Moroccan law punishes abortions with up to five years in prison, except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger.

However, NGOs say up to 800 women have clandestine abortions every day in the North African country.

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