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Popular television show divides Senegalese over sexual taboo-breaking claims

The show has also already been cautioned by the state’s media watchdog for being too racy.

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Popular television show divides Senegalese over sexual taboo-breaking claims
A child watches an episode of the TV serie "Maitresse d'un homme marie" (Mistress of a Married Man) in Dakar. (Photo by Seyllou / AFP)

Cheikh hoists his second wife Mareme onto his shoulder and carries her to their rose petal-covered bed, where he lays her down. 

The frolicking couple embrace and….what happens next is left to the viewer’s imagination as the camera suddenly switches to a pair of white slippers, the bedroom door closes and the scene ends.

In soap operas in other parts of the world, such coy depictions of sex would be considered unremarkable, even dreary.

But in conservative Senegal, where even an on-screen kiss is rare, the self-described monitors of public morality are in uproar.

The show — “Maitresse d’un homme marie” (“Mistress of a married man”) — has also already been cautioned by the state’s media watchdog for being too racy.

But defenders say the soap takes a desperately-needed look at relationship issues such as male abuse, the pain experienced by abandoned spouses and a woman’s right to sexual pleasure.

Popular television show divides Senegalese over sexual taboo-breaking claims
The “Maitresse d’un homme marie” (Mistress of a Married Man) serie’s director, Baye Moussa Seck, looks on during the recording of an episode in Dakar on May 25, 2019. -(Photo by Seyllou / AFP)

“Maitresse d’un homme marie” follows five young women characters, all strong-minded, freewheeling city dwellers.

Some start affairs with married men and — as in the case of Mareme — end up marrying them.

‘Cast judgement’  –

In Dakar’s Sicap Liberte 3 district, the Sene family is glued to its TV for the twice-a-week show.

In between adverts blaring out the virtues of a brand of local rice, bubbly single mother Rose condemns the threat of censorship hanging over her favourite programme.

“Maitresse”, she says, holds up a mirror to hypocrisy and inequality in Senegal.

“Men who criticise the series are the same ones who have mistresses and what they do to them is far worse than what you see on the screen,” she said.

“They cast judgement on the women (in the show) because they are single, because they are in charge of their lives,” said Rose.

“In Senegal, if you are not married by the time you are 30, you are not a good woman. In this country, it doesn’t matter even if you’re a huge success, if you’re not a man, you’re nothing.”

Slapped –

Launched in January, the show goes out at prime time on the commercial channel 2STV and is also avidly followed on YouTube, where each episode is watched between one and two million times.

Devotion to the series is such that one actor was slapped by an elderly woman while exercising.

“She told him, ‘Stop drinking and look after your family’,” the show’s executive producer, Kalista Sy, recounted, with a giggle.

Senegal is predominantly Muslim — mostly following the Sufi strain — where public displays of affection or sex outside marriage are frowned upon.

Within weeks of the series’ launch, a powerful Muslim NGO, Jamra, asked the country’s audiovisual watchdog, the CNRA, to crack down.

After deliberation, the CNRA on March 29 allowed the series to continue provided there were “corrective measures” to the script. Without these changes, the show would have to be screened late at night, or face being banned altogether.

Everything seemed to be going fine until the 34th episode — the scene of Cheikh and Mareme canoodling on the marital bed.

“They crossed the red line. They offended a large proportion of Senegalese by broadcasting virtually pornographic content during the blessed month of Ramadan,” Jamra’s Mactar Gueye told reporters.

“It is unthinkable that this apology for fornication and adultery continues in this form,” he said, in an interview at his home where a giant TV screen was turned on to a telenovela channel showing soap operas.

Sexual emancipation –

The female characters on “Maitresse” often bear the brunt of the moral messages — on-screen marriage-breakers, for instance, are verbally lashed by friends and family for their behaviour.

Popular television show divides Senegalese over sexual taboo-breaking claims
Halimatou Gadji (C), who plays Marieme in the Senegalese television serie “Maitresse d’un homme marie” (Mistress of a Married Man), speaks with Ndiaye Cire Ba (L), who plays Djalika and the script-girl, Adama Diallo (R) during the recording of an episode in Dakar on May 25, 2019. -Mareme. (Photo by Seyllou / AFP)

But for Senegalese feminist activist Fatou Kine Diouf, this finger wagging has had less impact on viewers than the theme of sexual emancipation.

“The series shows women who are in charge of their sexuality. It will never get directly shown on screen but everyone is talking about it. In that respect, the series is really powerful.”

The soap opera’s set is a joyful buzz of actors, technicians and makeup artists, working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

In a tired voice, Sy, the executive producer, says that male hostility, religious objections and technical hitches are her daily challenges.

“But when young women watch the show and identify with characters that are like them, they are deeply touched,” she said.

“And nobody can take that away from us.”

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Feature News

Triple Zimbabwean National Heroes Burial for SB Moyo, JB Matiza, Zimondi

The passing of the senior government officials after testing Covid-19 positive sparked national outrage following accusations by information ministry secretary Nick Mangwana that ‘some medical assassins’ were responsible for the deaths.

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Zimbabwe will have a historic triple national hero burial for the first time ever to bury three senior government officials who died from Covid-19 last week.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to preside over the burials of Foreign Affairs Minister retired Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Busi  Moyo, former Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) boss, retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi and the late Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Joel Biggie Matiza set for interment at the National Heroes Acre in Harare Wednesday.

The burial of the three men, who succumbed to Covid-19 last week, will be the first of burying more than two national heroes at the same time.

Last week, Mnangagwa also presided over the double burial of Manicaland provincial minister and Ellen Gwaradzimba and former deputy minister Morton Malianga.

Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe announced the triple burial of Moyo, the Foreign Minister who died last Wednesday, Transport Minister Matiza and former Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Commissioner General, Zimondi who both died last Friday.

“They will all be buried on Wednesday at the National Heroes Acre. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and all the containment measures will be adhered to. These include limited numbers at the Heroes Acre to curtail the spread of the pandemic,” Kazembe said.

The passing of the senior government officials after testing Covid-19 positive sparked national outrage following accusations by information ministry secretary Nick Mangwana that ‘some medical assassins’ were responsible for the deaths.

The triple national hero burial comes just six days after the double national hero burial of the late Minister of State For Manicaland Province Ellen Gwaradzimba and late nationalist and former deputy finance minister Morton Dizzy Paul Malianga.  

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Business News

Nigeria Commences Assessment on First Made-in-Nigeria Helicopter

NASENI through reverse engineering, is leading Nigeria’s first manufacturing of non-commercial helicopter.

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The Nigerian government through its Ministry of Environment and the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) have started Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the first ever Made-in-Nigeria helicopter.

NASENI through reverse engineering is leading Nigeria’s first manufacturing of non-commercial helicopter.  

Minister of Environment, Muhammad Abubakar said the EIA projects will be conducted to identify possible mitigation in the insulation of equipment on the project be it noise, solid and liquid pollutions.

Abubakar said this yesterday in Abuja when he received the management team from NASENI, led by the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive, Mohammed Haruna.

He said, “Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is part of every endeavour on the planet but especially when you talk of aviation, there is a lot of impact on the environment from accidents in aviation, birds strike, noise, vibration, wastes that will be created etc.

“The EIA projects entail a number of things like project registration, site verification for project categorisation and screening environmental data collection and a lot more. It will identify possible mitigation in the insulation of abetment equipment whether noise, pollution both solid and liquid pollutants are all the EIA project will look at. Let me implore you to ensure that EIA is conducted on all your projects to enhance their sustainability.”

The EVC NASENI, Haruna explained that NASENI is trying the launch the first made-in-Nigeria aircraft and there are environmental regulations that the agency must adhere to.

He said, “… we must be accessed and permitted to test any engine in the environment. We have designed, developed and fabricated jet engines that EIA is being conducted by the Ministry of Environment and we want it to be fast tracked, we also want the Ministry to collaborate with us but supporting larger and mass production of our solar products which contributes to the reduction of emission. He further expressed optimism that Nigeria should have its first made-in-Nigeria aircraft by the end of 2021.

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East Africa News

Somali Government Intercept Smuggled Weapons, Ammunitions

The ministry did not, however, identify the entities and quantity of ammunition intercepted nor did he provide any proof to back up the report either.

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The Somali government has commenced investigations into the source and origin of certain sophisticated weapons and ammunition which it intercepted while they were being smuggled into the country.

The country’s minister of information said there had been an attempt by Somali and foreign entities, to illegally import high caliber weapons and ammunition into the country without government knowledge and permission.

In a statement issued in the capita Mogadishu, the minister said “the federal government of Somali has a robust system in the supply chain of weapons and ammunition from the point of procurement to post distribution, and it is these existing frameworks that have enabled the government to respond timely and block the deliveries.”

The ministry did not, however, identify the entities and quantity of ammunition intercepted nor did he provide any proof to back up the report either.

The ministry said the Somali government takes very seriously, violations of territorial sovereignty and integrity as well as any actions that can have potential destabilizing effects.

“The government is investigating the origin and motives of the weapons and ammunition it has blocked intended for Somalia,” the report said.

Shortly after Somali plunged into civil war 25 years ago, The United Nations imposed a blanket arms embargo on the nation.

The statement followed hours of fighting in the southern town of Beled Hawo between the security forces of Jubaland and and government forces as the two sides battled to take control of the strategic town which is a key entry of the Gedo region.

The Somali government did however say its forces managed to repel the militia group, and managed to recover illegally imported arms and ammunition, also flushing out Jubaland security forces.

Bothe sides have reportedly suffered casualties, even though the local authorities have not established the number involved.

This is not the first time that The Somali government and Jubaland forces will battle over that land. In March 2020, both forces were engaged in a similar battle to take control of the town.

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