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Prison chief sacked after Zefzafi complains of torture in Moroccan prison1 min read

Zefzafi was convicted on charges of threatening state security last year

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Zefzafi complains of torture in Moroccan prison, prison chief sacked

Morocco’s penitentiary administration Friday sacked a prison director after Nasser Zefzafi, the detained leader of a protest movement, complained of being “tortured” and “raped” in jail.

Nasser Zefzafi — who earlier this year lost an appeal against a 20-year prison term — said in a taped message that he “suffered the worst forms of torture” following his arrest in June 2017.

In the message from jail shared widely on social media this week, Zefzafi said he was “beaten up… raped with a stick… forced to undress”.

His father, Ahmed Zefzafi told AFP the audiotape was authentic.

On Thursday the penitentiary administration said it had opened an “administrative investigation” into the details on the audiotape.

And on Friday it announced the sacking of the director of the Fez prison where Zefzafi is detained.

Zefzafi was convicted on charges of threatening state security in June last year, along with three other members of the Hirak protest movement which rocked Morocco in 2016 and 2017.

Their sentences were upheld in April by a court of appeal in Casablanca. 

In December last year, Amnesty International said the trial of Hirak members exposed “serious flaws” with some confessing under torture.

The protests took hold in the country’s marginalised Rif region in October 2016.

The social unrest was sparked by the death of a fisherman and escalated into a wave of demonstrations demanding more development in the neglected region and railing against corruption and unemployment.

Authorities accused the activists of having separatist aims.

Zefzafi, who is now 40, emerged as the face of the movement as a result of his rallying speeches, accusing authorities of corruption.

In August he and five other activists issued a statement accusing authorities of torturing them during investigations.

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Triggered by MP’s disgrace, Tunisia’s #MeToo breaks taboos

Tunisian politician allegedly masturbating outside a high school has sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

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Viral images of a Tunisian lawmaker allegedly masturbating outside a high school have sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

Read Also: Newly sworn-in Tunisia President vows to reunite the country

Discussion of sexual harassment had previously been limited to a few edgy TV shows, but now thousands of women in the North African nation are sharing their experiences from lecherous remarks to paedophilia.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a student who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.

The newly elected lawmaker denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition, even threatening his accuser when pursued by prosecutors.

#EnaZeda — Tunisian Arabic for #MeToo, was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

It has given some in Tunisia the confidence to confront their harassers face-to-face.

“Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react,” wrote one internet user Lina Kaboudi.

But “unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard.

“I stopped, and I held him to account”.

Breaking taboos 

Tunisia is considered a pioneer on women’s rights in the Arab world and was the first predominantly Muslim country to abolish polygamy in 1956.

But the taboo on confronting sexual misconduct remains strong, especially within the family.

It is rare for victims to pursue formal complaints, despite sexual harassment in public places being punishable by law with a one-year prison term and a fine of 3,000 dinar (around 1,000 euros) since July 2017.

To catalogue the avalanche of testimony, Tunisian activists have set up private Facebook groups including one simply named #EnaZeda, which has more than 20,000 members.

Poignant accounts, some anonymous, are shared daily in the group — ranging from rape and incest to inappropriate behaviour by teachers or celebrities and molestation on public transport.

Activists say they have been surprised by the volume and variety of the stories, and NGO Aswat Nissa (Voice of Women) says it has collected more than 70,000 testimonies.

“At first, we created a group to defend the young girl who filmed the lawmaker, because she had suffered a lot of criticism and pressure,” said Myriam Bouattour, who heads Aswat Nissa.

“Then women, and sometimes men too, shared their stories, so now we are trying to organise workshops with psychologists.”

Bouattour said she has received messages from parents who have “broken the family taboo by talking about sexual harassment with their children, after reading testimonies about paedophilia”.

‘Didn’t lift a finger’ 

Traditional attitudes and apathy among some in power mean the nascent #EnaZeda initiative faces an uphill battle.

Kaboudi — the woman who called out street harassment — laments the passivity of the police, who “were a few feet away” and did not “lift a little finger” to help her when she was harassed.

She also despairs of witnesses who similarly “did nothing”.

In an attempt to break the silence, in October the Centre for Research, Study, Documentation and Information on Women (Credif) launched an awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transport.

Dubbed “the harasser #MaYerkebch (does not ride) with us”, the initiative includes an app that uses a chatbot to speak to a harasser on behalf of a victim or witness and remind them of the law.

Najla Allani, director of Credit, emp the app states out loud the type of sexual misdemeanour and location, in a voice that speaks firmly in local dialect to “intimidate and scare the harasser”.

“People dare not speak (themselves) out of fear, but with this voice app, they will be better able to react”, Allani said.

An evaluation of the experimental initiative later this month will decide if it continues, so long as “the financial means allow it”, she added.

It remains to be seen how big a contribution #EnaZeda will make to Tunisia’s battle against sexual harassment, but one thing is sure — the shroud of silence is no longer so suffocating.

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Sudan launches first-ever satellite in partnership with China

Sudan has been involved in a national space programme for decades covering activities such as remote sensing and geoinformatics

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Sudan launches first-ever satellite in partnership with China

Sudan’s first-ever satellite for conducting research in military, economic and space technology has been launched by China, the country’s ruling body said Tuesday.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads Sudan’s sovereign council, announced the launch of the satellite at a meeting of his top security officials held in Khartoum.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, reported that the satellite was launched on Sunday from north China’s Shanxi Province.

“The satellite aims to develop research in space technology, acquire data as well as discover natural resources for the country’s military needs,” a statement issued by the council said.

The spokesman of the ruling body Mohamed al-Fakhi Sulaiman told reporters that “in a few months the satellite would be monitored from Sudan”.

“China launched the satellite as it is a partner in this project.”

Sudan has been involved in a national space programme for decades covering activities such as remote sensing and geoinformatics.

In 2013, the then Sudanese government of now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir established the Institute of Space Research and Aerospace (ISRA) as part of an overall plan to develop space technologies.

Bashir was ousted by the army in April following a nationwide protest movement against his rule of three decades.

The protests were triggered by the economic crisis led by an acute shortage of foreign currency and high inflation.

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East Africa News

10 Young African authors making Africa proud

Take a look at 10 young African authors doing our continent proud

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10 Young African authors making Africa proud
One of Africa's most promising writers, Warsan Shire at the Girl Rising and International Rescue Committee's special screening of Documentary Film "Brave Girl Rising" for International Women's Day

For more than a century, Africans have employed writing as a means to tell their stories. Be it stories of our daily lives, our societies, or our displeasure with their governments and their policies. Writing particularly took shape and form in Africa during the colonial era. Young African elite found writing to be a great tool in challenging the ideals of colonialism and the subsequent fight for independence.

African Nationalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere and Sédar Senghor all fought colonialism through writings and newspaper publications. 

Later colonial and post-colonial era-authors such as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Kenneth Kaunda, Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Chinua Achebe and Ayikwei Ama reinforced literature in telling the African story. With these literary icons setting the pace, African literature took shape and form and has improved immensely over the years.

Let’s take a look at the new generation of African writers that have taken the mantle and are doing it big on the continent and beyond: 

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Biyi Bandele

Bandele is a Nigerian novelist, playwright and filmmaker. He grew up in the Northern part of Nigeria from where he started writing at a tender age. He writes for journals, theatre, television and radio. Bandele‘s works include plays such as Rain; Marching For Fausa, Two Horsemen, Death Catches The Hunter and Me And The Boys. His novels include The Man Who Came In From The Back Of Beyond, The Street, and Burma Boy which was reviewed on The Independent.

Biyi Bandele, Nigerian writer in 2009
Biyi Bandele, Nigerian writer in 2009. Credit: Ulf Andersen / Aurimages.

Bandele’s works are notable for their mixture of surrealism and phantasm. He has won awards like the International Students Playscript Competition (1989), London New Play Festival Award (1994), and the Wingate Scholarship Award (1995) amongst others. 

Maaza Mengiste

Mengiste is an Ethiopian writer whose published works focus on migration, the Ethiopian revolution and the plight of sub-Saharan immigrants in Europe. Her works are inspired by her personal experience. Her family migrated from Ethiopia during the Ethiopian revolution when she was only 4 years old. She completed her childhood in Nigeria, the United States and Kenya.

Maaza Mengiste - 1 author making Africa proud

Her first novel, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze, was named one of the 10 best contemporary African books by The Guardian. Her awards, honours and nominations include the Creative Capital Award for Literary Fiction in 2019. Beneath The Lion’s Gazewas named one of The Best Books of 2010. She was a Puterbaugh Fellow in 2013, received a literature fellowship in 3028 and has been recognized by the National Empowerment for the Arts aside from others.  

Warsan Shire – African author and teacher

10 Young African authors making Africa proud
Writer Warsan Shire attends Girl Rising and International Rescue Committee’s special screening of Documentary Film “Brave Girl Rising” for International Women’s Day at West Hollywood City Council Chamber on March 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images/AFP

Shire is a Somali writer, poet and teacher. Her poetry centres on journey and trauma. In 2013, Shire won the first Brunei University African Poetry Prize. In the same year, she also won the Young Poet Laureate for London. The American singer, Beyonce employed Shire’s poetry in her film Lemonade produced in 2016.

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Uwem Akpan – author of ‘Say you are one of them’

He became popular after his work ‘Say You Are One Of Them’ won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her 65th book club selection. The book also won the PEN Open Book Award. ‘Say You Are One Of Them’ is a collection of 5 stories which is set in different African countries. The New Yorker has published two of his stories. One was about a family living in Nairobi and the other was “The Communion.” 

Writer Uwem Akpan, also making Africa proud

Dinaw Mengetsu – novelist and writer from Ethiopia

Dinaw is an Ethiopian writer and novelist. He has written 3 novels and at one time wrote for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur. He also wrote for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda. His works have been published in Harper’s, The Wallstreet Journal and other publications. His first book The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears was published in 2007.

Dinaw Mengetsu - an African writer

He was selected to be a McArthur Fellow in 2012. His works have won the following awards: New York Times Notable  Book, 2007; Guardian First Book Award, 2007; Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature, 2011; Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2008 and Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, 2012. He has many other awards, honours and nominations to his name. 

Nii Ayikwei Parkies – African author and publisher

Nii Ayikwei Parkies is a Ghanian poet, writer and publisher. Parkies made the list of the 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who in April 2014 were named as part of Hay Festival’s Africa39 project. He has performed his poetry works in Ghana, England and America.

He was among the three youngest writers featured in the Poems On The Underground Programme in London. He was featured for his poem Tin Roof. Parkies is loved much in his country for his devotion to helping young writers grow. To this end, he set up a writers’ fund to help promote writing among Ghanian youths.

Nii Ayikwei Parkies - African & Ghanian writer

He has been nominated and won awards both in Ghana and beyond. His awards include the Farrago Best Performance Poetry Award, 2003 in and 2004. He also won Ghana’s National ACRAG Award for Poetry and Literary Advocacy.

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Chimamanda Adichie – World-renowned African author

Adichie is a celebrated Nigerian writer whose works range from novels and short stories to non-fiction. She has written 3 well-received novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. She also has a collection of short stories titled “The Thing Around Your Neck” among other literary works. Adichie has won many awards and received several nominations for her works.

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie poses prior to the start of the Christian Dior Women's Fall-Winter
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie poses prior to the start of the Christian Dior Women’s Fall-Winter 2019/2020 Haute Couture collection fashion show in Paris, on July 1, 2019. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The awards include The Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book (Africa and Overall), 2005; MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, 2008, and the PEN Beyond Margins Award. She has also received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the International Nonino Prize, 2008, the O. Henry Prize in 2003 among others. 

Chika Unigwe – African author of On Black Sisters’ Street

Unigwe is an award-winning Nigerian Writer. She is the author of On Black Sisters’ Street. The novel was first published in Dutch in 2008 with the title Fata Morgana before it was translated to English, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian and other languages. The highly successful novel tells the stories of African prostitutes living in Belgium.

Writer Chika Unigwe during the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 at Diggi Palac
Writer Chika Unigwe and Abeer Y. Hoque during the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 at Diggi Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on 29 Jan 2018. (Photo by Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto)

She has won many awards including the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and the 2012 NLNG Prize for Literature. In 2012, she was rated by Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian as one of the “top five African writers”. Her short story Happiness won a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. 

Ahmed Alaidy – Scriptwriter, poet and novelist

Portrait Ahmed Alaidy, egyptian novelist
Portrait Ahmed Alaidy, Egyptian novelist, May 2009 ©Effigie/Leemage

Alaidy is an Egyptian poet, novelist, scriptwriter and editor. He is the author of the novel Being Abbas El Abd. In 2006, the novel was awarded the Sawiris Foundation’s 2nd Prize in Egyptian Literature. He writes as a freelancer for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has also authored a political comic strip. He has written for the Egyptian opposition newspaper al-Dostour.

Mohale Mashigo – African Author and Songwriter

Mohale Mashigo

Mashingo is a South African novelist and songwriter. She is the writer of the widely acclaimed novel The Yearning, which is her debut novel. In 2016, The Yearning won the University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Debut Writing. It was also listed for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2016. She recently published a collection of short stories titled Intruders. She also writes comic books and has won awards in songwriting.

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