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3 women of Bissau-Guinean descent become first black women in Portuguese parliament2 min read

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Black women of Guinea-Bissauan descent become members of parliament in Portugal
Portuguese MP Joacine Katar Moreira arrives to the swearing-in ceremony of the new government at Ajuda palace in Lisbon on October 26, 2019. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

Members of Portugal’s new parliament took up office on Friday, among them the country’s first black women lawmakers who campaigned on promises to fight racism and inequality.

The three women, who all trace their origins to Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa, won office in the October 6 general election when Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s Socialists were re-elected but without an absolute majority.

A total of 89 women were elected — an unprecedented number in the 230-seat parliament — following a new gender parity law requiring that 40 per cent of elected lawmakers are female. 

Portugal has a significant minority population from its former African colonies in Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea Bissau, and Cape Verde as well as Brazil.

Campaigners complain of discrimination in areas ranging from education to housing, employment to the justice system and of a shortage of black faces in business, the media and politics, although progress has been made in recent years.

General view of the Portuguese parliament building in Lisbon on October 25, 2019. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

After taking office in 2015, Costa, who is of Indian descent, nominated Portugal’s first black cabinet minister, appointing Francisca Van Dunem, who was born in Angola, as justice minister. 

She is keeping the post in Costa’s new cabinet which will be sworn in on Saturday.

The best known of the newcomers is Joacine Katar Moreira, 37, an anti-racism activist who moved to Portugal from Guinea-Bissau when she was just eight and headed a list of upstart eco-socialist party LIVRE, or “FREE”, winning the new formation’s first and only seat in parliament.

Read: Guinea Bissau president appoints Prime Minister

The others are Romualda Fernandes, a 65-year-old lawyer and migration expert who won a seat representing the Socialists and Beatriz Gomes Dias, 48, the president of anti-racism association Djass, who ran with the far-left Left Bloc party.

Djass has proposed a memorial honouring the millions of African slaves which Portuguese ships transported to the Americas. The project has become a lightning rod for debate about the country’s colonial past.

Portuguese Justice minister Francisca Van Dunem smiles during the swearing-in ceremony of the new government at Ajuda palace in Lisbon on October 26, 2019. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

Up until now the only black person to serve as a member of parliament since Portugal returned to democracy in 1974 was a man — Helder Amaral who represented the conservative CDS party between 2002 and 2019.

Moreira, who became a Portuguese national in 2003, vowed during her victory speech to become the voice of “anti-racism” and “leftwing radical feminism” in parliament.

Thousands of people have signed an online petition demanding that she not be allowed to take up her seat because, at her victory celebration, several people were seen waving flags from Guinea-Bissau instead of Portugal.

“This has always been a war for people like me,” Moreira tweeted in response to the petition.

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Nigerian forces release fire in the air to stop protest

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NIGERIA-POLITICS
People demonstrate to demand the release of activist and opposition politician Omoyele Sowore(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Nigerian security forces used tear gas and fired in the air on Tuesday to disperse protesters seeking the release of an opposition figure held since August after calling for a revolution.

Omoyele Sowore, the founder of local news site Sahara Reporters and a candidate in February’s presidential polls has been detained for “treason.”

At the end of September, the Nigerian judiciary ordered his release but the authorities have not complied. 

About 80 protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the capital Abuja, shouting slogans against President Muhammadu Buhari, a journalist said.

Nigerian forces release fire in the air to stop protest
(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Some 50 heavily armed DSS agents confronted the demonstrators on bikes and in armoured trucks firing tear gas and shooting in the air, the reporter said, adding that they also attacked one journalist. 

Some sustained injuries after being trampled by demonstrators fleeing the scene.

The government of Buhari — who was re-elected this year — has accused Sowore and his “Revolution Now” movement of “plotting to destabilise Nigeria.”

Sowore, who came tenth in the polls and has been a virulent critic of the government, has drawn the ire of Nigerian authorities.

In August, Sahara Reporters, which regularly reports on government corruption, had called for nationwide protests against misrule in Nigeria.  

Two days ahead of the planned protest, he was arrested on August 5 and has been in detention since.

Nigerian forces release fire in the air to stop protest
(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

The government’s handling of his case has sparked criticism from rights activists and prominent Nigerians, including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, as well as rights groups like Amnesty International.

Last week, according to local media reports, a spokesperson for the DSS admitted the agency had received a court order for Sowore’s release but said it was detaining him “because no person has turned up at the DSS to take delivery of him.”

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Politics

Alpha Conde approves February parliamentary elections in Guinea

The date for the vote was unveiled by the electoral commission on, but it had to be approved by the head of state

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President Alpha Conde of Guinea has confirmed that parliamentary elections will be held in February, despite violent protests over suspicions that he wants to prolong his rule.

“Guinean citizens of voting age and duly listed on the electoral roll of the present year are called to the ballot boxes for the legislative elections on February 16, 2020,” a presidential decree read out on state television said late Monday.

The date for the vote was unveiled by the electoral commission on Saturday, but it had to be approved by the head of state and political uncertainty still hangs over the poll after previous delays.

The nation has been shaken by violence during weeks of demonstrations over opposition suspicions that Conde is seeking a third term in office, banned by the constitution.

Elected for five years, Guinea’s current parliament began work in January 2014.

As a result, the next election is months overdue but has been delayed by political clashes and technical concerns.

The electoral commission previously suggested the voting date of December 28.

But this was rejected by the opposition as unrealistic and part of an alleged plot by Conde to alter the constitution enabling him to run for a third term in office. 

The International Organisation of Francophonie (OIF) – the French-speaking counterpart of the Commonwealth – also said the date should be “reconsidered”.

Electoral commission chairman Amadou Salif Kebe on Saturday said that Guinea had acquired the necessary voting materials, adding that a review of the electoral roll had begun.

Opposition parties, trade unions and representatives of civil society have urged citizens to oppose any bid for a third term by Conde, who has ruled since December 2010. A new demonstration has been called for Thursday.

At least 16 civilians and a paramilitary policeman have been killed since October 14. Dozens of people have been wounded and dozens more arrested.

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East Africa Politics News

Kenya, Lesotho Strengthen Bilateral Ties with Three Agreements

In an effort to boost bilateral ties and cooperation between the two African nations, Kenya and the Kingdom of Lesotho have today signed three key pacts; an agreement on the establishment of a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC), a Memorandum of Understanding for Bilateral consultations as well as a Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Sports.

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In an effort to boost bilateral ties and cooperation between the two African nations, Kenya and the Kingdom of Lesotho have today signed three key pacts; an agreement on the establishment of a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC), a Memorandum of Understanding for Bilateral consultations as well as a Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Sports.

The agreement on the establishment of a JCC will enable the two countries to identify and explore areas of cooperation while the MOU on sports will provide an opportunity for development of sports as an economic activity. The agreement on Bilateral Consultations on the other hand, will pave the way for the two countries to hold consultations on both bilateral and multilateral matters affecting the two countries at regional, continental and global levels.

The deals were signed at the end of talks held between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Right Hon. Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, at the State House, Nairobi.

Prime Minister Thabane arrived in Nairobi last evening for a three-day state visit and was formally received today morning by his host, President Kenyatta at a colourful ceremony that included a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Kenya Army and a 19-gun salute.

During his visit, Prime Minister Thabane will lay a wreath at the Mausoleum of Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as well as visit the United Nations complex in Gigiri among other engagements.

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