UN demands release of Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak jailed since 2001

The United Nations has called on the Eritrean government to release journalist, playwright and writer Dawit Isaak who was jailed since 2001 during a political crackdown.

The 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize winner was last sighted in 2005 since his arrest and his whereabouts are unknown.

“The case of Mr. Isaak is emblematic of all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearances by the Government of Eritrea and remain unaccounted for,” Special Rapporteur of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Government of Eritrea has an obligation to urgently provide information on the fate and whereabouts of all those deprived of physical liberty,” she said while calling on the Asmara authorities to release unconditionally Isaak and all others detained unlawfully.

52-year-old Dawit Isaak is one of the founders of the first independent newspaper in Eritrea – Setit – after his return to the country after independence in 1993.

He is a citizen of Sweden, where he lived since 1987.

On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested in his Asmara home and jailed together with other independent journalists of the so-called G-15 group that demanded democratic reforms in a series of letters to the then President Isayas Afeworki.

“The arrests of Dawit Isaak and his fellow journalists remain the most visible sign of repression of freedom of expression. The Eritrean authorities continue to stifle all forms of expression that could be perceived as critical of the Government and its policies,” Sheila B. Keetharuth said.

There have been numerous rumours of Dawit Isaak’s death since he was arrested.

On the occasion of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has called for an end to the crackdown on journalists who he described as a “voice of the voiceless.”

The international day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.

This article was first published by Ismail Akwei on africanews.com.

Desmond Tutu’s daughter gives up Anglican priesthood for gay marriage

The daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu has been forced to abandon her priesthood in the South African Anglican Church after she married a woman.

Reverend Mpho Tutu-van Furth, who is in her fifties, told AFP that according to the canon law of the Anglican Church in South Africa, marriage is a union between a man and a woman so she decided to quit.

“After my marriage, we told the Bishop of Saldanha Bay (in eastern South Africa) to revoke my license. I gave it up rather than impose it on myself,” she said.

Reverend Mpho Tutu-van Furth can no longer preside over communion, wedding celebrations, baptisms and funerals.

South Africa has legalized gay marriage since 2006 and her father, former archbishop of the church, Desmond Tutu, is well known for his support of gay marriage.

Mpho Tutu-van Furth told AFP that her father, who was active during the apartheid days, was “sad but not surprised by the news”.

“It is ironic that our similarity, the fact that we are both women, is the cause of our pain today, whereas in the past the differences were an instrument of division,” she said in reference to the South African apartheid regime, which officially ended in 1994.

An official of the Anglican Church in the Saldanha Diocese, Bruce Jenneker, told AFP that they received the licence of Mpho Tutu-van Furth with sadness. “It’s a shame that it happened,” he added.

Mpho Tutu and her wife Marceline van Furth, a professor in pediatric infections based in Amsterdam, both divorced from previous marriages with a child each, were officially married in December in the Netherlands. They organized a second ceremony in May near Cape Town which 84-year-old Desmond Tutu attended despite poor health.

They are currently on their honeymoon on the Indonesian island of Bali.

This article was first published by Ismail Akwei on africanews.com

The rise and exile of Gambia’s ex-President Yahya Jammeh [Photo Story]

Former Gambian President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh seized power from the country’s first President Dawda Jawara as a young army officer in a bloodless military coup in 1994.

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29-year-old Lieutenant Jammeh rose to the self-selected official title “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa” before his exile 22 years after his first election in 1996.

His defeat by opposition coalition leader and real estate developer Adama Barrow in the December 1 election came as a shock to many who witnessed his disputed election victories in 2001, 2006, and 2011.

The surprise stemmed from the fact that Jammeh had lost despite his very stern and controversial character feared by many in the country due to his influence and use of the military and state to execute his wishes.

The surprise waned when he backtracked on his acceptance of defeat to annul the election results and called for a rerun as a result of suspicions of electoral malpractice “realised after his investigation”.

The Gambian army quickly supported him while fearful citizens and officials fled the country to avoid any possible danger. Jammeh further proclaimed a state of emergency after the courts failed to hear his election petition and inauguration injunction cases due to unavailability of judges.

It took series of unsuccessful mediation by leaders of the ECOWAS bloc and threats of military intervention to come to an agreement brokered by Guinean President Alpha Conde and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Adama Barrow was strategically taken out of the country by ECOWAS leaders and later sworn-in as president at the Gambian embassy in Senegal when the agreement was at its peak.

The father of two children and husband of two wives, who came to power as a hero to many in the fight against corruption and lack of democracy, left the country as an exiled former head of state and a hero to a few who thronged the airport to see him leave alongside dozens of luxury vehicles and property.


He will be revered for the banning and criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2015 and subsequently child marriage in 2016.

Jammeh will be remembered for his claims that he could cure HIV/AIDS and asthma, and treat high blood pressure and infertility in women using natural herbs.

Gambian victims, families of victims and the world will however, never forget Jammeh’s strict laws and abuses against the media and press freedom, opposition figures, demonstrators, workers, officials and all those who go against him.

The new Gambian President Adama Barrow has pledged to launch a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate possible crimes committed by his predecessor Yahya Jammeh.

Below are some pictures showing the rise of Yahya Jammeh in power.

This article was first published by Ismail Akwei on africanews.com.

Africa’s first drone testing air corridor in Malawi

Malawi is now the first country in Africa and one of the first in the world to have an air corridor, to test drones for humanitarian and developmental use.

Also, More than one billion Yahoo accounts were hacked in August 2013. Yahoo said last week that the breach is different from the earlier theft of over 500 million accounts reported in September.

Watch this edition of Hi-Tech on The Morning Call with Ismail Akwei.

This article was first published by Ismail Akwei on africanews.com

Ghanaians condemn country’s ‘misrepresentation’ by American television

Ghanaians on Twitter have condemned a report by American television network Cable News Network (CNN) on the recently held elections, claiming Ghanaians were struggling to obtain food and services.

The article was first published on CNN website on Saturday and written by CNN reporters in Lagos and Atlanta with the headline – Ghana election: Incumbent concedes to Nana Akufo-Addo.

The main area of contention in the article, among others, was a paragraph that said Ghanaians (which was misspelled) were struggling to obtain food and services.

“Oil reserves were discovered off the coast of Ghana in 2007, but Ghanians (sic) struggle to obtain food and day-to-day services. Rolling blackouts are common and citizens often stand in long line to obtain products,” it said.

A cross section of Ghanaians including media personalities on Sunday morning began tweeting their displeasure with a screenshot of the paragraph in question and hashtag #CNNGetItRight.

A Ghanaian sports journalist, Gary Al-Smith, started the hashtag which is now the top trend in the West African country as hundreds of Ghanaians condemn the misrepresentation.

“Also, @CNN, Ghana and Venezuela are not twins. In fact, Ghana are North Korea are not even close. Lazy armchair reporting. #CNNGetItRight,” Al-Smith tweeted after he advised: “At least, spellchecker on the PC of whoever wrote this should have pointed out the word ‘Ghanaians’ and NOT ‘Ghanians’. #CNNGetItRight.”

The original article was later updated at 1255 GMT with the correct spelling of Ghanaians.

The entire paragraph was deleted at 1501 GMT with an Editor’s Note acknowledging the mistakes.

“An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the status of the retail economy in Ghana. Stores are generally well stocked, and food shortages are rare. The earlier version also erroneously said Nana Akufo-Addo ran for president in 1998. Ghana did not have presidential elections in 1998,” the note stated.

This article was first published by Ismail Akwei on africanews.com.