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Hundreds of Somali students protest exam cancellation

The cancellation of exams affects some 31,000 students in country.

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Somali high school students take to the streets of Mogadishu to protest the cancellation of national exams after the papers were leaked on social media.

Hundreds of Somali high school pupils took to the streets of Mogadishu on Tuesday to protest the cancellation of national exams after the papers were leaked on social media.

Education Minister Abdullahi Godah Bare on Monday announced that the six exams that had already been taken were cancelled, and that the whole process would begin again at the end of May.

“The ministry will take further steps to ensure that the exam is not leaked next time and there is the possibility of disabling online social media platforms in the country during the five days of the exams,” he said.

He did not elaborate on how the papers were distributed via social media but said they had been leaked from one of 90 examination centres, and that parents had participated in the sale of the tests.

“It was unfortunate that a hard-working student was sitting by the side of another one who relied on examinations he bought,” Bare said.

Students took to the street in anger.

“We stayed late at night to prepare these exams for three nights… and after all we went through, the minister says we have cancelled the exams to start afresh. We will not accept that,” said protester Hussein Iftiin.

“We will not accept to redo this exam and we don’t want that. This is corruption which we have nothing to do with, it is them (the government) who have sold the exam and they have failed their responsibilities,” said Fadumo Hassan, a parent of one of the students.

The cancellation of exams affects some 31,000 students in country.

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Kenyan police arrests finance minister, 27 top officials for graft

Henry Rotich and 27 other top officials are being investigated for abuse of office and graft related charges

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Kenyan police arrests finance minister, 27 top officials for graft
Kenya's embattled Finance Minister, Henry Rotich. (Photo by ZACH GIBSON / AFP)

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials were arrested Monday on corruption and fraud charges over a multi-million dollar project to build two mega-dams, police said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji had ordered the arrest and prosecution of Rotich and 27 other top officials on charges of fraud, abuse of office and financial misconduct in the latest scandal to rock Kenya.

Rotich, his principal secretary and the chief executive of Kenya’s environmental authority then presented themselves to the police.

“They are in custody now awaiting to be taken to court,” police chief George Kinoti told reporters.

“We are looking for (the) others and they will all go to court.”

Haji said the conception, procurement and payment processes for the dam project — part of a bid to improve water supply in the country — was “riddled with irregularities”.

“Investigations established that government officials flouted all procurement rules and abused their oath of office to ensure the scheme went through,” said Haji.

He pointed to the awarding of the contract to Italian firm CMC di Ravenna in a manner that he said flouted proper procurement procedures, and despite financial woes that forced the company into liquidation and had led to it failing complete three other mega-dam projects.

According to the contract, the project was to cost a total of $450 million, but the treasury had increased this amount by $164 million “without regard to performance or works,” said Haji.

Some $180 million has already been paid out, with little construction to show for it.

Another $6 million was paid out for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, the chief prosecutor said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” said Haji.

‘Well-choreographed scheme’ –

“The persons we are charging today were mandated with safeguarding our public interest and deliberately breached this trust.

“Under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions.”

Rotich has previously denied any wrongdoing in the scandal.

The dams scandal is one of several in the country that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of public money disappear due to fraud.

In 2017, Kenya fell to 143rd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption index.

In March 2018, a damning report from the auditor general showed the government could not account for $400 million in public funds.

A string of top officials have been charged since last year as President Uhuru Kenyatta vows to combat corruption — a refrain weary Kenyans have heard from multiple presidents.

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East Africa News & Stories

Al Shabaab-linked car bombing kills at least 5 in Mogadishu

Monday’s attack was the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Al Shabaab terrorist group

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Al Shabaab-linked car bombing kills at least 5 in Mogadishu
(File photo)

At least five people were killed and several wounded when a car bomb was detonated Monday outside a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, a security officer and witnesses said.

The explosion near a checkpoint outside the Afrik Hotel reverberated throughout the city, and sent a massive plume of black smoke into the air.

Abdullahi Ahmed, a security officer who witnessed the blast, said at least five people were killed in the attack, which appeared to be targeting the hotel.

“I can confirm the death of five people: three civilians and two government security officers at the checkpoint,” he told reporters.

“The area was relatively dense with bystanders and some were killed and wounded in the blast, but we don’t have the exact number of casualties.”

Other witnesses describing being knocked to the ground by the force of the blast, which damaged nearby buildings.

“I was not very far away from where the blast occurred, and I could see several people lying (on the ground), some of them dead with a pool of blood,” said one, Abdikarim Mohamed.

“The blast was huge. It did damage to several nearby buildings.”

Suado Ali was walking out of a travel agency when the shockwave knocked her flat.

“I was forced to the ground by the shockwave. I saw nearly ten people lying on the ground, some motionless and others screaming for help”, he told reporters.

The attack comes just over a week after 26 people were killed and 56 injured in a 12-hour attack by Al-Shabaab jihadists on a popular hotel in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo.

A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina hotel on Friday before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went.

The attack was the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Shabaab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.

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The battle for women’s rights in ‘new’ Sudan is not yet over

We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” – Amani Osmane

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She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against President Omar al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.

Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.

Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge”, a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.

“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.

The fridge is part of a detention centre run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.

Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel”.

Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws… because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights”.

Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicentre of the anti-Bashir revolt.

Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want”.

Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.

Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka”, or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.

‘We will no longer wait’

The unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.

Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.

On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.

The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.

A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.

“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.

Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”

For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.

“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.

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