16 AFRICA Monday, February 26 2018 | NEW ERA Five issues that will dominate Sierra Leone’s election FREETOWN Sierra Leone goes to the polls on March 7 for a general election that will select a new president, parliament and local councils. With President Ernest Bai Koroma stepping down after a decade in power marred by corruption, an Ebola outbreak and deadly mudslides, what are the main issues facing the West African country’s 3.1 million voters? Sierra Leone is dominated by a two-party system comprising the ruling All Peoples Congress party (APC) and opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). A new party, the National Grand Coalition (NGC), was formed by its presidential candidate Kandeh Yumkella when he broke away from the SLPP. Although Yumkella is unlikely to win, his charisma and alternative voice could split the vote and cause a run-off. President Koroma personally anointed former foreign minister Samura Kamara as his chosen successor, presenting him as a continuity candidate. But Koroma has stated he will remain party chairman after leaving power, leading many to worry he will exert outsize influence over the APC. The SLPP’s candidate Julius Maada Bio, who briefly led a junta government in 1996, is running for a second time after losing to Koroma in 2012, and has hit out at corruption on the campaign trail. “A run-off between the APC and SLPP candidates is the most likely scenario,” said Jamie Hitchen, director at AREA Consulting. “But (NGC) may have a significant role to play in who wins the run-off.” In total 16 candidates are running for president and 132 MPs will be elected to parliament. Sierra Leone is sharply divided along regional lines that overlap with ethnicity, with the APC broadly reliant on the Temne and Limba people in its northern strongholds and the SLPP more popular in the south with the Mende ethnic group. “This is also reinforced by the perception, at least, that development is also driven by regional considerations,” noted Hitchen. However the capital city Freetown is more ethnically diverse than the rest of the country and is home to a third of voters, meaning candidates have to work harder there to demonstrate broad appeal. Though three presidential candidates are former APC members, and Yumkella split from the SLPP, their new parties therefore cannot hope for the automatic support the two big parties enjoy in the regions. Extremely high levels of corruption in Sierra Leone have long eroded faith in government, no more so following the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis which killed almost 4,000 people nationwide. Government auditors found in February 2015 that 30 percent of Ebola funds under parliament’s control could not be accounted for, amounting to .7 million (4.6 million euro). Several candidates have seized on this perceived failing of the APC, including former vice-president Samuel Sam-Sumana, who was sacked by Koroma in 2015 and has since founded his own Coalition for Change (C4C) party. “Meagre salaries for government workers are a recipe for corruption,” he said during a February 15 public debate, pledging to increase salaries for all government workers and enforce the law. Voters want concrete plans for reform and to rebuild trust, but the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has had a string of failed prosecutions and foreign donors have doubts over its efficacy. The situation of women in Sierra Leone, who already face economic marginalisation and one the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, is demonstrated by their dismal representation in the presidential race. Just two of the 16 candidates in the race are female and the three largest parties -- the APC, NGC and SLPP -- have no women on their presidential or vice-presidential tickets. Meanwhile police have banned female genital mutilation ceremonies during campaigning, in a country where close to 90 percent of women have been cut, accusing candidates of paying for the procedure in return for votes. Many women, who vastly outnumber men in their support of the procedure, have rejected the police’s actions. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, the founder of pro-FGM organisation Sierra Leone Women are Free to Choose, told local media: “that is what we women do in Sierra Leone”. She added that cutters had been “viciously disgraced by white women importing and imposing their own worldview on women they apparently feel are socially inferior”. A proposed abortion bill passed by parliament has been stalled at the president’s office since 2016. Two major Chinese projects, a toll road and a new airport, also provided fuel for the presidential candidates’ debate as the country reconsiders years of free rein for foreign developers. Mohamed Kamarimba of the left-wing Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) said he would scrap the initiatives while Yumkella called for a review of the road, which is seen as unaffordable. Bio of the SLPP went further and told the audience “most of the Chinese infrastructural projects in Sierra Leone are a sham with no economic and development benefits to the people”. Nampa / Afp 1758 IT DOESN’T TAKE 2 HOURS 30 MINUTES TO PERFORM SWAN LAKE IT TAKES 20 YEARS Margot Fonteyn is regarded as one of the greatest ballerinas of all time. By the time she was twenty years old, she had performed Swan Lake as the prima ballerina. For her it was a lifetime of sore feet, straight backs and lifted chins. Sticking to a goal, day in and day out. At Allan Gray we value this kind of commitment. 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Monday, February 26 2018| NEW ERA WORLD 17 Suzauddin Rubel in Cox’s Bazar and Shafiqul Alam in Dhaka TEKNAF Hundreds of desperate Rohingya Muslims are still pouring over the Myanmar border into Bangladesh every week, bringing harrowing accounts of torture and murder, six months after a military crackdown sparked the massive refugee crisis. One of the recent arrivals, Nur Mohammad, said his village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state was surrounded by Buddhist vigilantes for days before they were allowed to leave. “The Moghs (Buddhists) torched our houses, kept us confined and starving,” Mohammad said. “Villages are razed to the ground. We walked for days through mountains to reach here.” Thirty-year-old Enayetullah was among the 200 Rohingya who crossed the Naf river into Bangladesh on Friday. Most of his neighbours had left earlier, part of a 700,000-strong Rohingya exodus since August 25, leaving behind desolate and burned-out villages. “We stayed all these months hoping the situation will be fine. But in recent weeks, security forces have taken away our young men. If they abduct 10, only one returns,” Enayetullah told AFP. Enayetullah also accused Myanmar security forces of torching his shop, prompting him Rohingya exodus still growing, six months into crisis Critical… In this file photo taken on November 11, 2017 Rohingya refugees pull a makeshift raft made from jerry cans and bamboo across the Naf River into Bangladesh at Sabrang in Teknaf district. and his three brothers to flee their home in Mognapara village near the town of Buthidaung. The military crackdown in the north of Rakhine has been termed “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations and the United States. While Bangladesh and Myanmar talk of repatriating the refugees, the influx continues. Some days 200 people cross the border, on others a few dozen make the perilous journey. More than 2,500 have entered the overflowing camps in Bangladesh so far in February. Hundreds of Rohingya villages have been torched in the crackdown, according to refugees and monitoring groups. Human Rights Watch said Friday that another 55 villages have been razed since November. The Rohingya have been systematically stripped of their legal rights in mainly Buddhist Myanmar in recent decades and face rampant discrimination. Myanmar denies seeking to eradicate the minority but refuses to give UN investigators access to an area where thousands of Rohingya are believed to have been killed. In November Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate some 750,000 Rohingya over two years. Last week Dhaka sent a list of 8,000 names to Myanmar for verification. But Rohingya leaders bluntly refuse to return. The UN says anyone who goes back must be a volunteer, while Myanmar shows no sign of accepting the Rohingya as full citizens. “If they send us back, we’ll be tortured or killed. We would rather be killed here in Bangladesh. Here, at least I’ll get a Muslim burial,” said Mohammad Elias, whose group has staged protests against repatriation in recent weeks. According to the UN, since the repatriation deal was signed on November 23, nearly 70,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh through different routes in and near Cox’s Bazar district. “Those who came in recent days said they were tortured,” Mainuddin Khan, Teknaf town police chief, told AFP. Some Rohingya who remained in Rakhine’s three main Muslim districts said the situation has improved in parts of the region, but life in the empty villages was unbearable. Maun Maung Tin, a Rohingya from Maungdaw, said it was impossible to buy or sell goods and they were afraid to complain to authorities. “The new refugees say that they feel unsafe, threatened and harassed at home, in villages that are often abandoned,” said Kate Nolan, coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Bangladesh. Aid agencies say there is still a critical risk of life-threatening diseases in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, where most refugees live in flimsy tarpaulinand-bamboo huts. A new threat looms with the cyclone season that starts in April. The massive storms have killed hundreds of thousands along the coast in the past five decades. “We are concerned about the nature of the shelters, how robust they are and if they are really prepared and equipped for the heavy rains,” said MSF’s Nolan. Despite the cyclone risk, the Rohingya say they are unwilling to go back. “At least there is adequate food here and there is no one to kill or torture you,” said Enayetullah. – Nampa/Afp Republic Of Namibia MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY Erongo Regional Office MICT is mandated to lay the foundation for the accelerated use and development of ICT in Namibia. It is also our duty to keep the community informed through: Information Sharing Sessions, School Quizzes and Debates. We hereby introduce you to, “The community debate with MICT Erongo”. A platform that gives a voice to the ordinary men and women. The aim of the project is to encourage locals to apply critical thinking and also facilitate the culture of writing and reading and respecting different opinions amongst our people. Today we confront the notion: Is gender equality a key to development? Please subscribe to our YouTube channel and tune in for the audiovisual version of the debate, simply search for MICT Erongo. Mict Erongo “The community debate with MICT Erongo” Is gender equality a key to development? Max Leonard : No. Development requires strength, intelligence and the ability to put emotions aside and I believe that gender equality can’t help reach that based on the fact that women are sensitive individuals. Which can easily put the economy in a cage. Remember, the economy gave birth to development and if it is to be in a cage, development will be as a man living deep in the bushes just hoping that tomorrow would be a better day. Better days are made possible, and they don’t come by themselves. Alloys Veseevete : Yes. We need women leaders and for women to be fully involved in decision making. Unfortunately, to achieve that we need to challenge gender nuances in everyday life. Strong and intelligent women are referred to as bossy, feisty and sometimes emotional. Language permeates our thinking and our culture. Let’s challenge that, by rather using words like: inspirational, driven and committed. Those participating would be wise to remember that inclusive sustainable development can be realized only when all human rights – including gender equality are protected, respected and fulfilled. Susan Kamati-Salom: Yes. Can you imagine a country in which women are not allowed to vote, or even worse not allowed to attend tertiary education? Can such a nation aim for economic growth and sustainable development? Can it succeed without the contribution of a woman? Gender equality is one of the global goals which has to be attained in search for sustainable development. It is not just a human rights issue; it is the gateway to the successful utilization of the world’s human potential. By allowing equal rights of women and men, we give every person a chance to live life to the fullest. Marchell Minnie: Yes. If a girl in the village can look after the herds of cattle and sheep in the bush without losing any one of them or without being killed by a lion, she might as well become a veterinarian and do her part to lift this country from the depths of debt and out of the current low credit rating. What we need to concentrate on is to explore, cultivate and expose the potential buried deep within the Namibian woman to assist us into making this country a better place to live in and by strengthening the existing foundation. Marcella Katjijova: Yes. Gender sensitivity could ideally be what could lead to being the key to development. Accepting our own moral compass and to accept that there would be differences and how best to work with what is different to achieve optimal goals and results. We need more training on emotional Intelligence and behavioral models to the average citizen, this will help to look into various challenges, norms and behaviors that could be potentially leading to or society’s breakdown. Kangala Matheus : Yes. Government is one of the sectors that lowers the percentage of unemployment in Namibia. We talk of the Namibian police force and military force. We consider that the protection is not to be kept by men only but by the women as well. The government has more than 100 000 people in the defense and police force who are also now contributing to the GDP through tax. We all know that the tax money has a big role in our country. Gender equality must be the first concern before we talk about development. How are we going to develop the country if we only focus on one specific gender? Gender equality must be implemented so that each and every person regardless of gender can do his or her best to contribute to development of country.