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Search for missing Niger soldiers continues after ambush

Four American and five Niger soldiers were killed in a 2017 jihadist attack in same region.

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Search for missing Niger soldiers continues after ambush
(File photo)

A search was underway Wednesday for several Niger soldiers missing since an ambush by armed men, the day before, left several of their colleagues injured, security sources said.

A military patrol was ambushed Tuesday afternoon near the village of Tongo Tongo in the western Tillaberi region near the border with Mali. One of the military vehicles had set off an explosive device.

Several troops were injured and evacuated to the capital Niamey, a security source told reporters.

By Wednesday, “several soldiers were still not responding to calls,” said another, adding that “search operations are ongoing.”

According to the news site Actuniger, a patrol of 52 Niger soldiers stumbled upon a group of heavily-armed men at Baley Beri, near Tongo Tongo. Heavy fighting, which lasted more than two hours, ensued.

Twenty soldiers made it back to their base at Ouallam on three vehicles, while the rest went missing, it said, citing local and security sources.

This is the same region where four American and five Niger soldiers were killed in a jihadist attack in October 2017.

Niger, along with Chad and Cameroon, is suffering the spillover of jihadist group, Boko Haram’s decade-long uprising to establish a hardline Islamic state in Nigeria’s northeast.

The conflict has killed more than 27,000 people and left 1.8 million homeless.

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Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely

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Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban
African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana), around a water hole, Nxai pan national park, Bostwana. Biosphoto / Sylvain Cordier

Botswana on Wednesday lifted its ban on elephant hunting, saying the population had increased and farmers’ livelihoods were being impacted, in a move set to trigger outrage from conservationists.

A prohibition on elephant hunting was introduced in the country in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, a keen environmentalist.

But lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) have been lobbying to overturn the ban, saying numbers have become unmanageably large in some areas.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi took over from Khama last year and a public review began five months later, with reports suggesting growing political friction between Masisi and his predecessor.

“Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” the environment ministry said in a statement.

It said a cabinet committee review that found that “the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing”.

“The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted,” it added, vowing that hunting would be re-started “in an orderly and ethical manner”.

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its unfenced parks and wide open spaces.

Some experts say the number of elephants in the country, renowned as a luxury safari destination, has almost tripled over the last 30 years, and that the population could now be over 160,000.

Crops destroyed –

Farmers struggle to keep elephants out of their fields where they eat crops and can kill people.

Lifting the hunting ban could be a popular move with rural voters ahead of an election due in October.

Many of Botswana’s elephants roam across borders into Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

All four countries have called for a global ban on elephant ivory trade to be relaxed due to the growing number of the animals in some regions.

“We cannot continue to be spectators while others debate and take decisions about our elephants,” Masisi told a meeting of the countries’ presidents this month in Botswana.

“Conflict between elephants and people is on the rise as the demand for land for agriculture and settlements is growing,” he said.

While elephant numbers have increased in some areas, over the past decade, the population of elephants across Africa has fallen by about 111,000 to 415,000, largely due to poaching for ivory, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Zimbabwe said this month it had sold nearly 100 elephants to China and Dubai for a total price of $2.7 million over six years due to overpopulation.

Botswana last year rejected claims by a leading conservation charity that there had been a surge of elephant poaching.

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Kenyan High Court due to pass rule on homosexuality

Activists believe Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa.

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Kenyan High Court due to pass rule on homosexuality | News Central TV
Kenyan court. (File photo)

Kenya’s High Court is on Friday expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to scrap colonial-era laws which criminalise homosexuality in the country.

However, the LGBT community fears yet another postponement. In February, the three-judge bench pushed back its decision, citing a heavy workload, prompting dismay from a persecuted community who have fought for years to be accepted.

“There are a lot of mixed emotions around this because people are just wary of the fact that it could be postponed yet again,” Brian Macharia of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), one of the petitioners, told AFP.

“Everyone is just hopeful and we recognise that things could go either way.”

Gay rights organisations are asking the court to scrap two sections of the penal code that criminalises homosexuality.

One section states that anyone who has “carnal knowledge… against the order of nature” can be imprisoned for 14 years. Another provides for a five-year jail term for “indecent practices between males”.

Activists believe Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa where homophobia is virulent in many communities, with similar laws in over half the countries on the continent.

While convictions under the decades-old laws are rare, gay activists say the legislation is unconstitutional and fuels homophobia.

The National Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission says it dealt with 15 prosecutions under the laws in 2018, with no convictions recorded.

‘Unimaginable harm’ –

The petitioners argue that under Kenya’s 2010 constitution, every person is said to be equal before the law.

However, members of the LGBT community are blackmailed, evicted, fired, expelled from school, or assaulted over their sexual orientation, but are unable to access justice without effectively confessing to a crime.

“LGBTQ people in Kenya for years and years have faced and suffered violence and harm in unimaginable ways, but justice has not been afforded to them because of the penal code,” said Macharia.

Activists are optimistic of an eventual ruling in their favour, given recent decisions by the court.

In March, the High Court banned forced anal testing of men suspected of being gay.

And in September, a court ruled that “Rafiki” (“Friend”), a film about a lesbian love affair which was the first Kenyan movie to be shown at the Cannes film festival, could be screened domestically for seven days after its initial banning.

Macharia said Kenya’s powerful churches had been holding special events in the leadup to the ruling to fight what they term “the LGBT agenda”.

“The church is spreading a lot of hatred, a lot of misinformation,” he said.

The petition is being fought by an association of Catholics, Protestants and evangelicals.

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Neela Ghoshal, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

The death penalty is on the books, under Islamic sharia law, in Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, although there have been no known executions in recent times. In southern Somalia, gay men are believed to have been put to death in territory ruled by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group.

Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles have scrapped anti-gay laws in recent years.

On the other hand, Chad and Uganda have introduced or toughened legislation.

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Kenyan writer and rights activist, Binyavanga Wainaina dies aged 48

He died just days before Kenya’s High Court was expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to abolish colonial-era anti-gay laws.

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Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina dies aged 48 | News Central TV
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina looks on during an interview with the AFP, in Nairobi. - Internationally-renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has died aged 48, his publishing house said on May 22, 2019. (Photo by Simon MAINA / AFP)

Internationally-renowned Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, whose high-profile coming out in a country that criminalises homosexuality made him a revered figure for gay rights in Africa, has died aged 48, his publishing house said Wednesday.

The celebrated author came to world prominence with the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002.

He died just days before Kenya’s High Court was expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to abolish colonial-era anti-gay laws.

“He passed on some time last night,” Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust, a Nairobi-based publishing house founded by Wainaina, told AFP.

Wainaina had suffered a stroke in 2015 and was living with HIV.

His brother, James told Capital News that condolences were pouring in from around the globe.

“We lost Ken last night. We are grieving the loss… but Ken was an incredible person, with an incredible wit,” he said.

“The wound is still fresh, but we have received an outpouring of messages, from the people across the world, we are greatly comforted by them.”

At times faced with opposition in his native Kenya, where same-sex relationships are outlawed, Wainaina sparked huge debate in 2014 with his bombshell short story entitled “I am a Homosexual, Mum”. 

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