Kenya strengthen policy responses to sexual exploitation and abuse of children

Kenya has taken commendable action to tackle increases in child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) by introducing a robust legal framework for protecting children. Following on, the government needs to focus its efforts on improving implementation, says TRACE Kenya and Equality Now in a new advocacy brief that identifies how a lack of awareness about laws and policies, weak enforcement, low reporting rates, and inadequate data collection is enabling perpetrators to avoid punishment.

Enhancing Policy Responses to Addressing Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) in Kenyprovides a series of recommendations for the Kenyan government on how to  enhance responses to CSEA. These recommendations are the culmination of discussions between government officials and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including Equality Now, TRACE Kenya, and others, sharing expertise on how best to build upon the findings in the 2022 Out of the Shadows Index

The OOSI serves as a “government report card” on CSEA prevention and response efforts by 60 countries. Kenya ranked 21st overall and second in Africa in how effective its laws, programs, and policies are in averting and dealing with CSEA.

The index highlights successes and shortfalls in CSEA laws and policies, and outlines five areas that influence access to justice for children who have been sexually abused, namely – legislation, national capacity and commitment, policies and programs, justice processes, and support service and recovery.

Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Kenya

Evidence indicates that CSEA is becoming more prevalent in Kenya, with poverty and socio-economic inequalities playing a significant role. The scale of the problem has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has also coincided with a rise in cases involving younger children. The Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Network found that the average age of victims has dropped to 12-years-old (, compared to 16 pre-pandemic (

Kenya has no national database for recording CSEA cases. While there has been some progress in data collection, inadequate and inaccurate information capture is making it harder to get to grips with the problem and is hindering effective resource allocation.

CSOs report that CSEA in Kenya is most commonly perpetrated by family members or others already known to their victims, and many crimes go unreported as survivors fear being blamed, stigmatized, or disbelieved. Coordinated efforts by the state and other duty-bearers are needed to reduce stigma and victim-blaming. Evidence shows this can significantly improve the legal and psychological outcomes for survivors.

For those who report violations, it is common to be sent back to the home or community where their abuser lives, putting them at risk of further harm. Awareness raising about existing protection mechanisms and how to support at-risk children would be extremely beneficial, notably amongst people working with vulnerable groups.

To confront the proliferation of child sexual exploitation and abuse in Kenya, particularly in the digital realm, more funding and awareness-raising is urgently needed

Government departments and CSOs that deliver shelter, and medical and psychosocial care, are frequently hampered by underfunding and understaffing that impairs service delivery. CSEA survivors often require long-term psychological and emotional support, but CSOs aren’t always equipped to help large numbers of children in need, and this limits the availability of assistance. Furthermore, a lack of coordination means survivors may be re-traumatized by having to repeatedly recount their abuse to different service providers.

To reduce CSEA, national strategies have to address underlying social and economic conditions that render children vulnerable. But programs are not reaching marginalized and grassroots communities nor the organizations supporting them. This means much-needed insights on how to prevent and respond to CSEA aren’t being utilized.

Online sexual abuse is increasing

Fueled partly by Kenya’s position as a technology hub in East Africa, the country has experienced a surge in CSEA involving the use of digital technologies, and abuse is happening increasingly in the digital realm. This includes the production and distribution of CSEA material and transnational organized crimes such as sex trafficking.

The online dissemination of CSEA content is especially difficult for law enforcement to handle because of its multijurisdictional nature. CSEA material may be stored on servers in different countries and subject to various laws, with crimes often conducted via encrypted networks and on the Dark Web.

Legal and policy responses to CSEA

In response to international and regional laws that oblige governments to address CSEA, Kenya should be congratulated for strengthening its national child protection framework by fast-tracking the introduction of various national laws and policies. This has created opportunities for the state and other stakeholders to collaborate on pooling resources, coordinating enforcement, and making legal information more accessible to survivors, first responders, caregivers, and the public. In addition, access to government funding has been opened up for institutions legally mandated to protect children.

Law enforcement officials, people working in the justice sectors and civil society, and all those involved in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting CSEA – including legal, medical, and support staff – would benefit from tailored legal training and accessible guides that explain new laws and policies.

In Kenya, CSEA survivors are entitled to various legal protections outlined in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This incorporates the right for children to give evidence on camera, in a safe space, under a protective cover, and through an intermediary. Many courts are making efforts to create more child-friendly environments, and children’s courts have been established in some counties.

The Department of Criminal Investigations has implemented measures to improve case detection and evidence gathering. But collecting, storing, and presenting evidence in criminal proceedings needs to be enhanced, and the police, public prosecutors, and judiciary, should be more assertive, especially in prosecuting online CSEA.

Paul Adhoch, Executive Director of TRACE Kenya, says, “Kenya has no doubt made progress in policy and legislative frameworks to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. This is commendable. Much work still remains in implementation of these laws, and addressing the emerging new frontier for child abuse and exploitation, the digital platform.”

Tsitsi Matekaire, Global Lead for Equality Now’s End Sexual Exploitation program, explains: “To confront the proliferation of child sexual exploitation and abuse in Kenya, particularly in the digital realm, more funding and awareness-raising is urgently needed. Success also requires the government, policymakers, civil society, and the private sector to adopt a multi-sectoral approach rooted in collaboration that complements each other’s efforts.

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Women Peacekeepers Play a Unique and Critical Role in DRC- MONUSCO

Veiled by the heated sun and surrounded by the lush green landscape of Kiwanja Valley in North-Kivu, thirty-one Moroccan peacekeepers stood to attention in a seamless line, as they awaited to receive their Medals of Honor. As birdsong entwined with the chorus of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national anthem, a sentiment of pride, courage and honor filled the air of that day in September 2022.

Amongst the line of young and well-experienced men, two women’s salutes gathered the attention of onlookers, for they reflected hope in a relentless joint pursuit of men and women across the world to ensure women’s representation in peace and security.

As of December 2021, women constitute 7.8 percent of all uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in United Nations field missions: an increase of 6.8 percent since 1993. Despite the progress, the UN is still far behind the targets of 20 percent women for individual police officer positions and 30 percent for justice and corrections government‐provided personnel.


Major Soumia Badi, Head of the Female Engagement Team (FET) of the Moroccan Rapid Deployment Base (MORRDB), shared a bright smile as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MONUSCO, Ms Bintou Keita, placed a medal of honor on her apparel: one which recognized her bravery and sacrifice.

It’s very important for women to serve in the UN, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

“It was a great honor and a proud moment for me and my country when I was awarded an appreciation certificate [and medal] from the SRSG,” Major Badi stated. Previously a social worker in Agadir, Morocco, and an Assistant Officer in the Hassan II Foundation for Retirees, Major Badi brought with her a significant knowledge, experience and skills in social issues and working with people.

“As a social worker, I must assist vulnerable people regardless of their origin, color, religion or nationality. Serving outside my country has been a great experience,” she continued.

Women are essential to the effectiveness of peacekeeping: they have greater access to communities through women and children, they help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians and encourage women to become a part of peace and political processes. Through women’s diverse sets of skills in decision-making and planning and results, as well as their ability to build trust and confidence within communities, women are paramount to successful peacekeeping.

However, there are indeed obstacles to overcome to ensure the effectiveness of women’s expertise in peacekeeping, particularly in the Congolese context: “Communication with the local population can be difficult, especially with those who do not speak French. In such cases, a male linguistic assistant provides help, as we don’t have a female translator. However, when it comes to sensitive subjects such as cases of sexual violence, for example, the victim [often] feels uncomfortable speaking to a man. In addition, during the anti-MONUSCO protests, most of our activities were haltered due to the deteriorating security situation in the region” she added.

With much support being provided to Major Soumia and the FET in their work, a sense of empowerment filtered through the Moroccan Base. “I have been able to succeed in my mission because of the advice and directive of the Colonel and the close collaboration I’ve shared with the members of the contingent,” Major Badi explained; “My greatest achievement is winning the trust of the population and encouraging women to break the silence and talk about their problems and dreams. It’s very important for women to serve in the UN, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

The UN is working to ensure the deployment of more women in uniformed functions through the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325), which advocates for the equal participation of women in all sectors of peacekeeping operations, and the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) Declaration of Shared Commitments, through which the UN has called for an expansion of the role and contribution of women in its operations. However, the responsibility for the deployment of women in the police and military ultimately lies with the willingness and proactivity of Member States.

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COP27: Wind power can deliver a sustainable future for Africa- Report

We are in the middle of a global energy crisis and a climate change emergency. It is, therefore, more pressing than ever to seriously commit to action plans that will avoid the long-term lock-in of fossil fuel-based energy generation. Instead, greater focus should be placed on increasing renewable contributions within the global energy mix.

This is particularly important for Africa has been more severely hit by climate-change-related events than other regions, and where 43% of the total population lack access to electricity, most of them in sub‐Saharan Africa. The continent is rich in renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind, and decreasing costs are bringing renewables increasingly within reach, making energy independence achievable.

To attain a successful and just energy transition there needs to be an acceleration of the implementation process. This can happen if partnerships between public stakeholders, and public and private together, are further strengthened, and if steps are taken to safeguard the wind industry supply chain, among other proactive actions. If this is prioritized, then there should be sufficient capacity to help the continent achieve its climate pledges through the implementation of sustainable, renewable green energy.

Climate change is putting Africa’s energy systems at risk of disruption

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Africa Energy Outlook 2022, “three-fifths of the continent’s thermal power plants are at high, or very high risk of disruption by water stress, and one-sixth of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity is vulnerable to coastal flooding.” To ensure greater resilience there will need to be a significant investment in climate adaptation.

To mitigate the ongoing volatility in the supply and cost of fossil-fuel energy, and the dangers of accelerating climate change, African governments must focus on scaling up higher volumes of renewable energy – in particular wind power — as part of their sustainable energy mixes.

The photo-shoot shows different wind farms: KFW, JICA, FIEM, and BOO Ras Ghareb
The photo-shoot shows different wind farms: KFW, JICA, FIEM, and BOO Ras Ghareb

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) energy progress report of 2021 estimates that 75% of the world’s population without access to electricity is based in Sub-Saharan Africa. It states that to achieve sustainable development goal (SDG) 7.1 — universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy services — Sub-Saharan Africa alone will need to connect approximately 85 million people each year through 2030.

Africa currently accounts for less than 3% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and it experiences a disproportionate number of negative effects of climate change. According to the IEA, by 2050, North Africa is facing a rise in median temperature of 2.7 degrees Celsius in comparison with the global average rise of 2 degrees Celsius. If not addressed, this could result is a reduction of African gross domestic product (GDP) by around 8 percent in 2050. In East Africa, this figure would be closer to 15 percent.

Wind power as a driver of socio-economic growth in Africa

By increasing renewable energy production targets, national economies stand to benefit from the growing demand for people to work in the green sectors thereby addressing the continent’s unemployment challenges. Nations can also expect augmented investment because of a more stable energy grid and due to cost savings realised by a more competitive energy mix.

The wind industry is of strategic importance. It can provide the world with energy security and independence through domestic, clean, and competitive sources. As different countries consider increasing the percentage of renewable energy in their energy mix, they can take insights from the lessons already learned in Africa and Europe. They can also see the tangible positive impact the wind industry has already had across both continents. These can be studied, and relevant insights applied within their specific environment.

The wind industry started in Northern Europe and Spain in the 1980s, and since then, has burgeoned across the continent. Today, the European Union’s wind energy sector has a significant impact on the EU’s economy, supporting more than 300,000 jobs, contributing €37 billion to the EU’s GDP, and generating €5 billion in local taxes every year. In fact, with each new wind turbine installed in Europe, a further €10 million of economic activity is added.

Progress is also being made across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, recording in 2021 its best year ever in wind power installations. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, over the next five years (2022 – 2026), MEA is expected to add a total of 14 GW of new wind capacity, primarily driven by growth from South Africa (5.4 GW), Egypt (2.2 GW), Morocco (1.8 GW), and Saudi Arabia (1.3 GW).

IRENA’s modeling reveals that when accompanied by the right policies, shifting towards a renewable energy system could lead to a 6.4% higher GDP, 3.5% more economy-wide jobs, and a 25.4% higher welfare index throughout the outlook period of 2020 to 2050.

Partnerships must drive Africa’s energy transition

Although blessed with abundant renewable sources, like wind and solar, as well as land availability, Africa is only tapping into 0.01% of its wind power potential. Unlocking the potential of wind and solar will also trigger the development of green hydrogen projects in the continent. This will enable the transferring of the benefits of renewables beyond the electricity sector, to achieve a fully decarbonized economy, while enabling energy export capacities.

Uncertainty on wind-enabling frameworks is jeopardizing the full potential that wind can play in accelerating the energy transition while providing clean and competitive energy security. Partnerships, both among public stakeholders as well as between the public and the private sector, can create stability and strengthen the wind energy sector and allow it to contribute to climate crisis mitigation efforts, continue innovating, and provide energy security across the continent.

According to the IEA Africa Energy Outlook report, “Achieving full access to modern energy in Africa by 2030 would require an investment of USD 25 billion per year – equal to around a quarter of total energy investment in Africa prior to the pandemic – but just slightly above 1% of total energy investment globally and comparable to the cost of just one large LNG terminal investment. Almost half of this investment would be in just five countries – DRC, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.”

When you consider that 46 of Africa’s 54 countries are classed as low-income or lower-middle-income according to the World Bank, it makes sense that for a successful transition to renewable energy to occur, partnerships are the most feasible way forward, as it would be difficult for governments, or the private sector to bear these costs alone.  The role of power pools in Africa and, thus, the collaboration between countries and regions, is essential to unleashing the full potential that wind can bring to combat climate change and bring prosperity based on a decarbonized economy. These partnerships can pave the way for a just energy transition enabling people coming from fossil-fuel-based energy sectors to be re-skilled and secure their rights and livelihoods in the shift to sustainable energy production.

While ambitious global political targets have been set, there is a significant mismatch between stated targets and actual wind capacity installation figures which are substantially lower. By accelerating the approval of wind power plant permits, governments could close the gap between the targets and actual production, improving energy independence and geopolitical stability, while alleviating the pressure that the wind supply chain suffers from due to a lack of projects.

Partnerships between governments and the wind industry are crucial in our fight against the climate crisis. To succeed in a just energy transition, governments must continue to attract international investment, and for that, they need to deliver visible project pipelines for wind energy installations, especially in the MEA region. This means investors require stable and predictable frameworks and a clear implementation pace so that manufacturers and suppliers can load existing factories and plan in advance for new capacities.

This would create greater stability in the industry and increase its ability to hire and upskill teams. While there will be challenges to overcome to ensure a just energy transition, wind power has the distinct ability to deliver sustainably for both people and the planet. By focusing on the development of cohesive and inclusive policies, streamlining permitting schemes, fostering multilateral renewable energy partnerships and trade agreements, and investing in the acceleration of renewable electricity grid construction, African governments can move closer to achieving more than just SDG7. In doing so, they could reap the socio-economic benefits that wind energy offers, while increasing their country’s energy security, and contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

The COP27 Climate Change Conference taking place in Egypt in November 2022 provides a golden opportunity for global leaders to collaborate on workable solutions that will drive important climate change mitigation. The time to act is now.


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UNHCR warns as millions face harm from flooding across West and Central Africa

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning of surging needs for more than 3.4 million displaced people and their hosts in the face of recent destructive flooding in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cameroon.

Nigeria is facing the worst floods in a decade. Hundreds of lives have been lost, over 1.3 million people have been displaced, and more than 2.8 million have been impacted, according to UN estimates, as farmlands and infrastructure have been submerged.

Floodwaters in northeast Nigeria have swept through sites for internally displaced people and host community villages in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States, forcing people to higher ground.

UNHCR and partners have been providing shelter and essential aid to thousands of families, including 14,900 tarpaulin sheets and 550 kits with basic household items. In Taraba State, heavy rain has cut off affected communities in Baissa town from humanitarian assistance.

Chad’s Government has declared a state of emergency after floods affected more than 1 million people. In the south, heavy rains have caused the Chari and Logone rivers to burst their banks, submerging fields, killing livestock, and forcing more than 90,000 people to flee their homes and seek refuge in N’Djamena. In Cameroon, more than 63,000 people were affected by the flooding from the two rivers in the districts of Kousseri, Zina, Makari, Blangoua and Logone Birni.

Countries and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis need urgent support and financing to build defenses, to adapt, and to minimize the most harmful consequences

UNHCR, local authorities, and other partners are rushing to provide humanitarian assistance in N’Djamena and have identified two sites to shelter disaster survivors.

In the countries of the Central Sahel – Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso – above-average rains and flooding have killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and decimated over one million hectares of cropland.

Some 379,500 internally displaced people live in Burkina Faso’s flood-affected areas – in the Sahel, Central North and Northern regions. Over 32,000 people have been affected by flooding in the Diffa region of Niger, and more than 13,000 have been displaced. This year, more than 41,000 people have been affected by flooding throughout Mali, compared to 10,511 in 2021.

The climate crisis is happening now – destroying livelihoods, disrupting food security, aggravating conflicts over scarce resources and driving displacement. The link between climate shocks and displacement is clear and growing.  Worsening climate shocks in the Sahel in particular have fueled drought and flooding, lowered crop yields and contributed to a general deterioration in public services for one of the world’s worst displacement crises. Temperatures in the Sahel are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. This is exacerbating underlying challenges States face to manage rapidly growing populations, a reversal of development gains and encroachment by non-state armed actors.

Beyond the Sahel, we are witnessing the worst drought in 40 years and the threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, a devastating cyclone season in Mozambique and historic floods for a fourth consecutive year in South Sudan and Sudan. Extreme weather across the African continent in 2022 has killed hundreds and forced millions to flee their homes.

Countries and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis need urgent support and financing to build defenses, to adapt, and to minimize the most harmful consequences.

Meantime, humanitarian operations in West and Central Africa are dangerously and chronically underfunded. In Chad, only 43 per cent of the funds UNHCR needs in 2022 have been received. Our 2022 operations in Burkina Faso are just 42 per cent funded. With less than two months left, we have received 39 per cent of the funds needed in Nigeria and 53 percent in Niger.

UNHCR is appealing to all donors for urgent support to our life-saving work in West and Central Africa

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UNGA77: Mali army-appointed PM slams France, praises Russia ties

Mali’s military-appointed prime minister has lashed out at France and the United Nations in a grievance-filled address over his nation’s deteriorating security situation while praising the “exemplary” cooperation with Russia.

Addressing the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Abdoulaye Maiga slammed what he called France’s “unilateral decision” to relocate its remaining troops to neighbouring Niger amid deteriorating relations with Mali’s two-time coup leader Assimi Goita.

While it was Goita and his allies who overthrew a democratically elected president by military force two years ago, Mali’s prime minister repeatedly referred to a “French junta” throughout his 30-minute speech.

“Move on from the colonial past and hear the anger, the frustration, the rejection that is coming up from the African cities and countryside, and understand that this movement is inexorable,” Maiga, who was appointed prime minister last month, said.

“Your intimidations and subversive actions have only swelled the ranks of Africans concerned with preserving their dignity,” he added.

The Malian prime minister also offered a grim assessment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, while openly praising the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia” and the influence of mercenaries from the Wagner Group.

“We must recognize that nearly 10 years after its establishment, the objectives for which MINUSMA was deployed in Mali have not been achieved,” Maiga said. “This is despite numerous Security Council resolutions.”

France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013, leading an effort to remove armed groups from the control of the northern Malian towns they had overtaken. Over the past nine years, Paris had continued its presence in a bid to stabilize the country amid repeated attacks by armed groups.

The French departure in August raised new concerns about whether those fighters will regain territory with security responsibilities now falling to the Malian military and UN peacekeepers.

The Wagner Group, a Russian network providing fighters for hire, has been allowed to operate in Mali despite evidence collected by the UN pointing to their involvement in mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances in the Central African Republic.

The Malian prime minister also criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his recent comments on the standoff between Mali and Ivory Coast over 46 detained Ivorian soldiers.

“Since friendship is based on sincerity, I would like to express my deep disagreement with your recent media appearance, in which you took a position and expressed yourself on the case of the 46 Ivorian mercenaries,” he said in comments aimed at Guterres.

The nature of the offenses in the case “does not fall within the remit of the secretary-general of the United Nations”, he added.

Maiga reiterated claims that the soldiers were sent to Mali as mercenaries, which the Ivorian government has vigorously denied. Ivory Coast says the soldiers were to provide security for a company contracted by the UN, but Maiga maintained on Saturday that there is “no link between the 46 and the United Nations”.

Three female Ivorian soldiers have been released as a “humanitarian gesture”, but there have been no updates about the others.


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AFRICA: Tanzania, Mozambique reach deal to fight terrorism

The leaders of Mozambique and Tanzania have signed defense and security agreements aimed at fighting terrorism and crime along their shared border.

No details were released on the content of the agreements signed during a visit to Maputo by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Wednesday (September 21).

A deadly insurgency broke out in northern Mozambique near the Tanzanian border five years ago, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands.

“The enemy is now operating in small groups trying to come down to the southern districts,” Nyusi said in their talks.

President Hassan said that because the two neighbors share a “very long” border, “we need a good security system that allows us to protect our border.”

“We have seen … cross-border crimes (and) terrorism,” he said.

Nyusi visited the recovered port of Mocimboa da Praia, a former de facto jihadist headquarters, on Tuesday.

In October 2017, about 30 gunmen launched a dawn raid on three police stations in Mocimboa da Praia, marking the beginning of the insurgency.

Since then, more than 4,258 people have been killed, according to ACLED, and 820,000 have fled their homes.

Mozambican forces, backed by Rwandan troops, claimed in August 2021 to have driven out the militants occupying the port.


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Nigeria’s public debt rises to $103 billion in second quarter

Nigeria’s total public debt rose 3% to $103.3 billion in the second quarter of this year, largely driven by local borrowing to finance the budget deficit, the Debt Management Office (DMO)said.

Nigeria’s deficit has grown this year due to the high cost of a fuel subsidy at a time when oil revenue has fallen due to crude theft and vandalism of pipelines.

The DMO said in its latest data, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, that public debt increased from $100.07 billion as of March this year to $103.3 billion by the end of June.

Although the debt constitutes 23% of the country’s gross domestic product – within the government’s self-imposed limit of 40% – Nigeria’s debt repayment costs are rising while revenues are shrinking.

Between January and April, Nigeria spent more money to service its debt than it raised as revenue.

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Ivory Coast: Heavy rain could damage main cocoa crop -farmers

Above-average rain across most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions last week could cause disease and damage the first beans of the October-to-March main crop in some areas, farmers said on Monday.

The world’s top cocoa producer is in the midst of a rainy season that runs from April to mid-November when rains are abundant and often heavy.

Several farmers said timid main crop harvests had started and would pick up next month.

Most were reluctant to sell right away as they were expecting the government to announce a higher market price in October.

Buyers were currently offering around 750 CFA francs ($1.15) per kilogram of cocoa beans, lower than the current market price of 850 CFA francs ($1.30) per kilogramme, they said.

In the western regions of Soubre and Man, and in the southern region of Divo, farmers feared heavy rain and high soil moisture content could trigger black pod disease.

The rain was also making it difficult to properly dry beans.

“It has rained too much. We do not need this amount of water now. It can bring black pod disease,” said Alfred Koua, who farms near Soubre where 276.4 millimetres of rain fell last week, 258.7 mm above the five-year average.

But farmers in the southern region of Agboville and in the eastern region of Abengourou said growing conditions were good despite above-average rainfall.

Similar observations were made in the central regions of Daloa, Bongouanou, and Yamoussoukro, where farmers said they expected abundant harvests from October to January.

The weather would helps crops be significant by February, they added.

“Rains are good and there will be many harvests between November and January,” said Paul N’Guessan, who farms near Daloa, where 37.7 mm of rain fell last week, 8.2 mm above the average.

Average weekly temperatures ranged between 23.7 and 25.7 degrees Celsius.

($1 = 654.2500 CFA francs)

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UN Concerned About Minority Group Discrimination in Benin, Zimbabwe

A U.N. monitoring committee is urging Benin and Zimbabwe to address alleged discrimination against minority and marginalized groups in their countries. The committee released findings this week on progress in seven countries whose records were under review.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed regret that Benin’s national plan of action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance has been only partially implemented since it was adopted in 2014.

While discrimination and hate speech remains prevalent, mainly against albinos, the committee said few people have formally complained about the crimes.

Committee member Pansy Tlakula surmised it might be due to a lack of awareness of available judicial remedies, lack of confidence in the justice system or fear of reprisals on the part of victims.

She said people with albinism are most victimized by the discrimination that pervades society. “In our interactive dialogue with Benin, the committee raised concerns about reports that people with albinism are often subjected to extreme physical attacks, stigmatization, and discrimination based on beliefs related to witchcraft and skin color.”

The committee urged Benin to take effective measures to protect people with albinism from such vicious behavior and to ensure they have equal access to education, health, and employment.

Regarding Zimbabwe, the committee said it was pleased with the positive measures taken by the government to implement the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

However, Tlakula said the committee was disturbed by reports that atrocities committed during the Gukurahundi violence of the 1980s continue to be a source of ethnic tension. Around 20,000 Ndebele-speaking people were killed in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces by government forces in the 1980s.

Tlakula said many victims remain traumatized. She said the committee is concerned that state agents bar them from participating in mourning and commemorative activities.

“It urged Zimbabwe to take measures to ensure that mourning and commemorative activities can be conducted without restrictions or threats. It also called on the state party to ensure that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission fulfills its responsibilities to provide a platform for post-conflict public truth-telling,” she noted.

The committee also criticized the widespread discrimination against people who work in the informal sector or as domestic laborers, noting most are Black women who face low wages and work in dehumanizing conditions.

The U.N. experts requested Zimbabwe amend its labor laws to end discrimination based on race, class, and gender.



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Culture & Tourism

Culture & Tourism: The scared Osun river becoming increasingly toxic

Yeyerisa Abimbola has dedicated most of her 58 years on Earth to the Osun, a waterway in deeply religious Nigeria named for the river goddess of fertility. As the deity’s chief priestess, she leads other women known as servants of Osun in daily worship and sacrificial offerings along the riverbank.

But with each passing day, she worries more and more about the river. Once sparkling and clear and home to a variety of fish, today it runs mucky and brown as reported by AP

“The problem we face now are those that mine by the river,” Abimbola said. “As you can see, the water has changed color.”

The river, which flows through the dense forest of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove — designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 — is revered for its cultural and religious significance among the Yoruba-speaking people predominant in southwestern Nigeria, where Osun is widely worshipped.

But it’s under constant threat from pollution from waste disposal and other human activity — especially the dozens of illegal gold miners across Osun state whose runoff is filling the sacred river with toxic metals. Amid lax enforcement of environmental laws in the region, there are also some who use the river as a dumping ground, further contributing to its contamination.

Devotees of the Osun River goddess pray in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Devotees of the Osun River goddess pray in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.

The servants of Osun, made up of women mostly between the ages of 30 and 60, live in a line of one-room apartments along the side of the Osogbo palace, the royal house of the Osogbo monarch about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) north of the grove and river.

They leave behind everything from their secular lives, including marriages, to serve both the goddess and the king. They have little interaction with outsiders, allowing them to devote themselves fully to the goddess, whom they worship daily at a shrine tucked deep inside the grove.

Often seen in flowing white gowns symbolizing the purity the river represents, the women carry out various tasks for the goddess from dawn to dusk, from overseeing sacrificial offerings, mostly live animals and drinks, to carrying out cultural activities in the Osun’s waters. Some say the goddess heals them of afflictions when they drink or bathe in the river; others say she can provide wealth or fertility.

Devotees of the Osun River goddess prepare to perform sacrifices for a woman draped in a white cloth in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Devotees of the Osun River goddess prepare to perform sacrifices for a woman draped in a white cloth in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Devotees of the Osun River goddess prepare to perform sacrifices for a woman draped in a white cloth in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.

One servant of Osun, who goes by the name Oluwatosin, said the river brought her a child when she was having difficulties with childbirth. Now the mother of two children, she intends to remain forever devoted to the river and the goddess.

“It is my belief, and Osun answers my prayers,” Oluwatosin said.

The river also serves as an important “pilgrimage point” for Yoruba people in Nigeria, said Ayo Adams, a Yoruba scholar — especially during the Osun-Osogbo festival, a colorful annual celebration that draws thousands of Osun worshippers and tourists “to celebrate the essence of the Yoruba race.” Some attendees say it offers the chance for a personal encounter with the goddess.

But this year, as the two-week August festival neared, palace authorities announced they had been forced to take the unusual step of telling people to stop drinking the water.

Osunyemi Ifarinu Ifabode, the Osun River chief priest, speaks during an interview in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.
Osunyemi Ifarinu Ifabode, the Osun River chief priest, speaks during an interview in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.

“We have written to the state government, the museum on the activities of the illegal miners and for them to take actions to stop them,” said Osunyemi Ifarinu Ifabode, the Osun chief priest.

Osun state is home to some of Nigeria’s largest gold deposits, and miners in search of gold and other minerals — many of them operating illegally — are scattered across swampy areas in remote villages where there is scant law enforcement presence. While community leaders in Osogbo have been able to keep miners out of the immediate area, they’re essentially free to operate with impunity upstream and to the north.

Men take a break at an illegal mining site in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 31, 2022.
Men take a break at an illegal mining site in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 31, 2022.

The miners take water from the river to use in exploration and exploitation, and the runoff flows back into it and other waterways, polluting the drinking water sources of thousands of people.

“It is more or less like 50% of the water bodies in Osun state, so the major water bodies here have been polluted,” said Anthony Adejuwon, head Urban Alert, a nonprofit leading advocacy efforts to protect the Osun River.

Urban Alert conducted a series of tests on the Osun in 2021 and found it to be “heavily contaminated.” The report, which was shared with The Associated Press, found lead and mercury levels in the water at the grove that were, respectively, 1,000% and 2,000% above what’s permissible under the Nigerian Industrial Standard. Urban Alert attributes it to many years of mining activity, some of it within 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the river.

Despite the drinking ban issued by the palace, during a recent visit AP witnessed residents trooping to the river daily to fill up gallon containers for domestic use.

The Osun River flows through the forest of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.
The Osun River flows through the forest of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.

Dr. Emmanuel Folami, a physician based in Osogbo, the state capital, said drinking the toxic water or otherwise using it for purposes that risk human exposure is a “big health concern” that could cause lead poisoning.

In March, the Osun state government announced the arrest of “several individuals for illicit mining, seizures and site closures,” and promised it was studying the level of pollution of the river and ways to address it.

But activists question the sincerity and commitment behind such efforts: “If we cannot see the state government taking action within its own jurisdiction as a (mining) license holder, what are we going to say about the other people?” said Adejuwon of Urban Alert, which is running a social media campaign with the hashtag #SaveOsunRiver.

Priestess Yeyerisa Abimbola speaks during an interview at the sacred Osun River in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Priestess Yeyerisa Abimbola speaks during an interview at the sacred Osun River in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.

Abimbola, a servant of Osun since she was just 17 years old, said the goddess is tolerant and giving. She thanks Osun for her blessings — a home, children, good health.

“Every good thing that God does for people, Osun does the same,” she said.

Yet she and others warn that even Osun has her limits.


Fishermen cast a net near a dam that sources the sacred Osun River in Esa-Odo, Nigeria, on May 28, 2022.
Fishermen cast a net near a dam that sources the sacred Osun River in Esa-Odo, Nigeria, on May 28, 2022.

There may be problems if the river remains contaminated and Osun “gets angry or is not properly appeased,” said Abiodun Fasoyin, a village chief in Esa-Odo, where much of the mining takes place, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Osogbo.

“The riverbank will overflow and sweep people away when it is angry,” Abimbola said. “Don’t do whatever she doesn’t want.”


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