Life sentence to Cameroon anglophone separatist leader

A military court in Cameroon on Tuesday handed a life sentence to the head of the country’s anglophone separatist movement, Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, in a move that analysts said could inflame the 22-month-old revolt.

Ayuk Tabe, a charismatic leader widely deemed as a moderate in the separatist movement, was convicted with nine others of charges including “terrorism and secession”, the state’s lawyer, Martin Luther Achet, told AFP. They were given life terms.

The sentences were confirmed by a lawyer for the separatists, Joseph Fru, who added the 10 had also been fined 250 billion CFA francs ($422 million, 381 million euros).

Fru condemned what he called a “parody of justice” and said the defendants refused to recognise the right of the military tribunal in Yaounde to try them. Their lawyers have yet to say whether they will file an appeal.

Ayuk Tabe, a 54-year-old computer engineer by training, is the first self-proclaimed president of “Ambazonia” a breakaway state declared in October 2017 in two English-speaking regions of the central African country.

The government responded with a military crackdown. Attacks by both sides have left 1,850 dead, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, while the UN says 530,000 people have fled their homes.

Colonial legacy

English-speakers account for about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 24 million, who are majority French-speaking.

Anglophones are mainly concentrated in two western areas, the Northwest Region and the Southwest Region, that were incorporated into the French-speaking state after the colonial era in Africa wound down six decades ago.

Anglophones have chafed for years at perceived discrimination in education, law and economic opportunities at the hands of the francophone majority.

Ayuk Tabe is part of the political branch of the separatist group that supports dialogue with 86-year-old President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 36 years.

But the influence of moderates waned in 2017 as Biya rejected demands for autonomy and radicals in the movement gained the ascendant.

‘Crisis to worsen’

In January 2018, Ayuk Tabe was arrested with 46 other separatists in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

They were then handed over to Cameroon, and the trial of Ayuk Tabe and the nine others began in late December. In March this year, the extradition was ruled illegal by a Nigerian court.

In late May, Ayuk Tabe said he was willing to take part in talks with the government, provided this took place abroad and the government released all people who had been detained since the start of the anglophone crisis.

But Tuesday’s sentencing could crush any chance of dialogue, analysts said.

A specialist at the ICG said the move “risks worsening the security situation in the anglophone zone in the coming weeks.”

“It could radicalise part of the separatists who had been seeing a sign of hope in the fact that the leaders had not yet been sentenced.”

Cameroon’s main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), which is opposed to anglophone secession, also said the sentence worsened the breakaway crisis.

“Ayuk Tabe has much clout among anglophones. His sentencing will make the resolution of this crisis more complicated,” its spokesman, Denis Nkenlemo, told AFP.

“This decision is an act of provocation which once more proves that the government isn’t ready for dialogue… and is driving us straight into the wall.”

The unrest has crippled the economy of the Northwest and Southwest Regions and had a knock-on effect across the country.

More than one in six people in Cameroon — 4.3 million need humanitarian aid, an increase of 30 percent from 2018, according to UN aid officials.

Somalians are under pressure as Islamic Militants shifts to Ethiopia

Islamic State militants in Somalia say they will release jihadist materials in Amharic — a step unmistakably aimed at winning recruits in restive, neighboring Ethiopia.

The announcement came in the form of a three-minute video released last month by pro-Islamic State sites and endorsed by the official IS media. The video posted the words to one of Islamic State’s best-known chants in Amharic and promised IS will release more materials in the language, one of the two most-spoken tongues in Ethiopia.

Matt Bryden, an Africa analyst with Kenya-based Sahan Research, believes Islamic State — also known as ISIS — is reaching out to Ethiopia’s Muslim community in an attempt to take advantage of ongoing ethnic and political unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation.

“I think ISIS sees in Ethiopia a potential opportunity. We know the group has been expanding its influences and its activities across Africa quite aggressively — so far with small results in much of the continent but they are persisting,” Bryden told VOA’s Somali service.

He says Ethiopia’s unrest may be worsening despite political reforms enacted by Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed, including the release of thousands of political prisoners and the signing of a peace treaty with longtime foe Eritrea.

“There are many groups that are disaffected and disgruntled by the way the transition is unfolding,” Bryden said. “Where there are communities with grievances, where violence is becoming increasingly the norm, there are opportunities for the extremist groups to recruit, to attract followers and perhaps to establish presence, and I would expect ISIS is trying to do all of those things.”

Pro-Islamic State militants emerged in Somalia in October 2015 after a small group of fighters from militant group al-Shabab broke away and pledged allegiance to IS emir Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Since then, the group has maintained a presence in northeast Somalia and around Mogadishu, even while facing a relentless offensive from both al-Shabab and the Somali government.

Experts say the Amharic video indicates that Islamic State in Somalia has members from Ethiopia. In December 2017, IS Somalia released a video featuring a jihadist from Ethiopia speaking in Amharic. IS identified the jihadist as Abu Zubayr Al-Habash. It was not clear what his position was.

This year, IS issued another video announcing that Al-Habash has died, without indicating the cause of death.

Ex-Vice-President of Zimbabwe Phelekezela Mphoko ‘on the run’

Zimbabwe’s former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko is being treated as a fugitive after fleeing from anti-corruption officials.

Mr Mphoko was due at a police station to make a statement on allegations being levelled against him but drove away when his car was approached by the officials, AFP news agency reports.

His lawyer said Mr Mphoko feared being detained and poisoned.

He also denied he was on the run, calling the phrase “sensationalist”.

Mr Mphoko was a co-vice-president under Robert Mugabe.

He served alongside current President Emmerson Mnangagwa when Mr Mugabe was ousted by the military in November 2017, but the two have fallen out.

‘Poison fears’

Mr Mphoko was part of a faction that wanted Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to succeed him rather than Mr Mnangagwa, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper reports.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) wants to talk to him about alleged abuse of office.

Mr Mphoko’s lawyer, Zibusiso Ncube, told AFP that his client was willing to answer questions, but left when he heard the police “had instructions to detain him”. 

Mr Ncube told the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka that his client feared for his life and was concerned that he would be “injected with a poison”.

‘Not a fugitive’

The former vice-president is prepared to stand trial and denies claims he abused his office after allegedly storming a police station demanding the release of an official, Mr Ncube said.

Mr Mphoko “is not a fugitive, and he hasn’t been charged with anything”, he added. 

“He would never run away. The allegations are sensationalist.”

Earlier this month, the president fired Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira “for conduct inappropriate for a minister of government” after her arrest over the disappearance of millions of dollars from the country’s pension fund.

ZACC alleges the money went missing during her time as minister of labour and social welfare. Ms Mupfumira denies the allegations.

Nigeria and South African Governments Publicly Approve Of GMOs, and Ghana Not Far Behind

Many smallholder farmers in Africa are wary of GMO technology compromising their traditions and the heirloom seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation. Photo by Mark Kucharski on Unsplash

The governments of Africa’s two biggest economies officially embrace genetically modified organisms for their potential to solve food security. 

While South Africa and Nigeria have embraced the benefits of GMO tech, governments in most of the rest of the continent have not publicly come out in favor of the widescale adoption of GMO crops. Ghana, however, is bucking this trend, according to Fastcompany.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 19: Anthony D. Mays

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Smallholder farmers trying to feed their families generally mistrust GMOs. They see global seed companies as threats to their traditions and heirloom seeds which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Africa is the world’s most food-insecure region. More than 250 million people went hungry in 2018 — 32 percent of the world’s total 821 million hungry people, NewTimes reports.

For years, scientists have been encouraging genetically modified organism, or GMO technology, as a potential solution to Africa’s food security issues.

GMOs in agriculture refer to crops whose genetic makeup has been engineered in the laboratory in order to favor desired traits or the production of desired biological products, according to Britannica. 

The U.S. produces around 40 percent of the world’s GM crops. 

Scientists say they have developed crop varieties are resistant to diseases, drought, predators or pests — issues that affect food production in Africa.

Ghana may become the third African country to embrace GMO tech, Fastcompany reports.

Sometime in 2019 or 2020, The West African country plans to release genetically modified cowpea, a staple crop consumed widely across Ghana. By doing so, the Ghanaian government would be approving the local production and sale of genetically modified food.

Cowpea is a staple in Ghana and other West African countries and is known as the poor people’s meat. 

Because the crop can be harvested within two months of sowing, it fills the hunger gap for poor families. But in recent years, pests have begun boring into the cowpea pods and destroying 20-to-80 percent of the crop each year, according to AllianceforScience.

Scientists have genetically modified cowpea plant lines to resist the pest, and the Ghanaian government is embracing this development.

Why is GMO technology controversial in Africa?

Critics say that expensive, patented GMO seeds will do nothing to solve the problem of agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of farms are small family businesses, according to Euractiv.

Instead, they say that large western seed companies will simply enrich themselves and become more powerful because of Africa’s dependence on them if GMO tech is widely adopted.

In addition, some argue that the effects on human health and biodiversity remain unknown and are a cause for concern.

Human remains found mummified in New Jersey

Robert Frank Williams Essex County PO 

New Jersey police raiding the house of a man accused of sexually assaulting a young girl made a horrifying discovery — mummified human remains and an “altar to an unknown deity,” according to officials. 

Officers searched the Newark house of Robert Frank Williams, 53, with a search warrant after he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl for several months last year, according to NJ.com. 

The cops, joined by members of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit, found the mummified remains in a bin in a closet and the bizarre altar in a bedroom, according to a complaint filed against Williams. 

So far, officials have not revealed if they have identified the remains, according to the report. 

Williams was charged with second-degree desecration of human remains, along with a slew of charges related to the child sex abuse, according to Patch. 

They included second-degree luring, first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and first-degree aggravated sexual assault for penetration of a child under 13, according to the report.

Egypt stands all forms of support for Sudan’: Madbouli

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Saturday that Egypt will always support its Sudanese brothers, stressed that the coming period will witness an unprecedented boom at all levels in cooperation between the two countries. 

He also added that Egypt will spare no effort to provide all forms of support for Sudan in the coming stage, including political support in the regional and international arenas, topped by the African Union. 

Madbouli conveyed greetings of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the Sudanese side on the signing of the constitutional document. 

He also expressed hope that this historic deal would represent a launch pad for stability, development and welfare in a way that helps achieve prosperity for the Sudanese people. 

Sudan is celebrating the signing of the landmark deal that has been reached between the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance to pave the way for civilian rule. 

On Sunday, the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council is to be announced.

Ethiopia migrants to Saudi subjected to indescribable violations

The migrants, mainly Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis, were taken to a separate detention centre

Ethiopian migrants to Saudi Arabia are suffering “indescribable hardships and abuses,” according to the latest report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which described the “exploitation and torture” they were subjected to in Yemen, before being held captive in Saudi Arabia under “abusive” conditions.

The report – which was released on Thursday – drew on testimonies given by Ethiopian migrants who were expelled from Saudi Arabia. It documented the vulnerability of these people to exploitation, violence and human trafficking, from the beginning of their journey across the Red Sea then through the Gulf of Aden to reach Saudi Arabia.

The human rights organisation pointed out that the Ethiopian, Yemeni and Saudi authorities “have taken no measures to reduce the violence migrants are subjected to […] or to monitor the violations their security forces are committing”. The report also indicated that the authorities did not help thousands of Ethiopians expelled from Saudi Arabia since 2017 to return.

“Ethiopians taking the dangerous boat trip across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are at the risk of exploitation and torture in Yemen by a network of human trafficking groups,” said Human Rights Watch.

“Many Ethiopians hoping to have a better life in Saudi Arabia face enormous risks during their journey, including drowning in the sea, torture, and all kinds of abuses,” said Felix Horn, a researcher at HRW specialising in African affairs.

“Saudi Arabia forcibly returned hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians to [the capital] Addis Ababa, without taking the necessary procedures. They acquired nothing but debt and trauma during their journey,” Horn added.

Many Ethiopians have long sought to go to Saudi Arabia in search of work, in a bid to escape poverty at home. In order to reach Saudi Arabia, they must cross the sea by boats loaded with migrants at high risk of sinking. They receive no food or water during the 24-hour journey.

One survivor told HRW that the smugglers threw more than 20 of them into the sea to lighten the boat’s load. “The boat was very dangerous and waves [were] overflowing. It was overcrowded and on the verge of sinking, but the smugglers caught some people, about 25, and threw them into the sea,” the witness said.

As soon as they arrive in Yemen, migrants risk becoming victims of “smuggling and human trafficking networks,” some of which are Ethiopian-run, “abusing or threatening to use violence to extort ransom from relatives or hostage contacts,” the report indicated.

As they move across the border to Saudi Arabia, Saudi border guards do not hesitate to shoot at migrants, according to the testimonies, which describe many being killed or injured.

“There were bodies rotting on the border, decomposing. It’s like a grave,” a 26-year-old Ethiopian immigrant told the organisation.

According to figures released by the International Organisation for Immigration, there were around 500,000 Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia when Riyadh launched a campaign against illegal immigration in 2017.

According to the group, Saudi authorities have since deported about 260,000 Ethiopians, an average of 10,000 per month between May 2017 and March 2019. The organisation pointed out that deportations are still ongoing.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia continues to receive assistance from the international community to handle migrants deported from Europe. However, those deported from Saudi Arabia received no support or assistance.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the contents

FBI warrant arrest for invictus obi on wired fraud

The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has apprehended a young Nigerian serial entrepreneur identified as Obinwanne (Invictus Obi) Okeke, for wire fraud.

Newswatch.ng reports that Obinwanne Okeke in 2016 appeared on Forbes’s 30, under 30 serial entrepreneur in Africa, and also owns Invictus Group, a company that operates in diverse sectors.

The FBI did a thorough investigation on the criminal activities of the Nigerian entrepreneur, and the Department of Justice submitted an affidavit in order to get an arrest warrant, which led to his arrest by the law enforcement agency. 

Social media has been agog with the report of the arrest, as some Nigerians condemned the fraudulent act of the entrepreneur, while others called on the Nigerian security agencies to learn from the FBI. 

Okeke was alongside three others, nominated for the most prestigious award for African businessmen/entrepreneurs, the All African Business Leaders Award for Young Business Leader (West Africa).

Robert Kelly refused leaving jail for court hearing

R. Kelly refused to leave his jail cell on Thursday, getting marked as a “no-show” for a scheduled court appearance and then drawing a rebuke from the judge.

The accused sex trafficker was scheduled to appear in the Cook County court for a pretrial hearing that would give an update on evidence for the trial and the singer’s bail situation, but NBC News reported that he “refused transport” and instead stayed in his cell. Jennifer Gonzalez, the Cook County assistant state’s attorney, told the court that sheriff’s deputies were all set to pick up Kelly from his jail cell and transport him to the court, but he simply said no.

“As I understand it, he refused transport and so that is why the defendant is not before your honor today,” Gonzales said.

R. Kelly’s defense lawyers said that her assessment was not completely true, but did not offer any more explanation as to why Kelly was not in the court room. But Steve Greenberg, Kelly’s defense attorney, did say there were some difficulties in moving him.

“I don’t want to discuss matters that I discussed with the U.S. Marshals Service in open court,” Greenberg said. “Suffice it to say, the Marshal Service says that moving Mr. Kelly is a large undertaking.”

R. Kelly’s absence appeared to draw a rebuke from Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood, who had demanded to know why the singer was not in the court and then issued a warning that he would have another court date in a few weeks.

Samuel L. Jackson became Gabonese after tracing route back to africa

Like many African Americans, actor Samuel L. Jackson wanted to discover his ancestry and he found them via the docu-series Finding Your Roots, which uses traditional genealogical research and genetics to unveil the family history of celebrities.

After finding his roots, Jackson visited Gabon, where he met with the president, Ali Bongo Ondimba and his wife, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba. Jackson was given Gabonese citizenship and passport. He also met with the king of Benga. On his Instagram, Jackson posted: “When you meet The King of The Benga, your ancestral tribe and he turns out to be your best friend Skeeter!!! When you’re on a journey of discovery and a life choice becomes clear!”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 33: Dr. Gina Paige Jamarlin talks to Dr. Gina Paige about African Ancestry, the company that used DNA to pioneer a new way of tracing African lineages and helped 500,000+ people reconnect with their roots.

Jackson is one of the highest all-time box office stars with over $6.9 billion total U.S. box office gross. He averages a box office gross of $87.5 million per film. 

Jackson is among a growing list of celebrities who have traced their genealogical backgrounds (using DNA analysis) back to Africa. Chris Rock (Cameroon), Whoopi Goldberg (Guinea-Bissau), Common (Cameroon), Chris Tucker (Cameroon, Angola), Oprah Winfrey (Liberia, Guinea) have also found their roots.