Jan. 21, 2019 (GIN) – The Democratic Republic of Congo finally has a president. Opposition figure Felix Tshisekedi was declared winner of the presidential race by the DR Congo’s top court on Jan. 20. The Constitutional Court said Tshisekedi had won by a simple majority, paving the way for him to take over from the current president, Joseph Kabila. The outcome was challenged by runner-up Martin Fayulu who claimed that the election had been stolen and called on the international community to reject the results. Election data leaked to some news organizations suggested that he won the vote. "I ask the entire international community not to recognize a power that has neither legitimacy nor legal standing to represent the Congolese people," he said of Tshisekedi, declaring himself "the only legitimate president". On Sunday, the Constitutional Court dismissed Fayulu's claims as "unfounded" and said he had failed to prove any inaccuracies in the figures, describing his call for a recount as "absurd". The ruling was not unexpected, with the court made up of Kabila's allies. Meanwhile, hundreds of supporters of Tshisekedi gathered outside the court holding placards saying "No to interference" and "Independent country" as riot police stood nearby. Despite unconfirmed reports that members of Tshisekedi’s camp had strategized with Kabila before the votes were in, the greater part of Congolese seems happy with the "semi-victory," as their main fears have been allayed, according to Israel Mutala, an analyst and editor in chief of the online news site 7sur7. "Above all the Congolese feared a third term for outgoing President Joseph Kabila," Mutala told the German news agency DW. Observers from other international bodies, including the European Union and the United Nations Organization, complained of irregularities at the polls. The African Union, after initially expressing "serious doubts" about the outcome of the elections, seems more willing to go alone with the accepted candidate. Speaking early Sunday, Tshisekedi said the court’s decision to reject claims of electoral fraud and declare him president was a victory for the entire country. “It is Congo that won,” said Tshisekedi. “It is not the victory of one camp against another. I am engaged in a campaign to reconcile all Congolese. … The Congo that we are going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace and security.”
Derrick Johnson, NAACP President
Derrick Johnson, President of NAACP, issued the following statement on federal Judge Jesse M. Furman’s ruling to block of the Trump Administration’s plan to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 census:
“The ruling by Judge Jesse M. Furman is a step in the right direction to stopping xenophobic rhetoric and policy at all levels of government. The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census only increases the likelihood of a substantial undercount of immigrant communities, particularly immigrants of color including those from the African Diaspora who are essential todetermining U.S. elections, congressional seats and federal funding decisions for a decade.
“Any citizenship question compounds the already inadequate preparation for Census 2020 and further dilutes the votes of racial and ethnic minorities and deprive their communities of critical federal funds and undervalue their voices and interests in the political arena. We must continue to stay vigilant and not let this administration use yet another mechanism to devalue and stifle the voices of people of color.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas at www.naacp.org.
By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
Stating what has become even more of an issue for the GOP during the presidency of Donald Trump, Sen. Tim Scott, wrote, “We are often still struggling when it comes to civility and fairness. This was driven home once again Thursday as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wondered aloud: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”’
In a blistering op-ed in The Washington Post, the U.S. Senate’s only African American Republican, took the Republican Party to task on the issue of racism. Sen. Scott has been openly reluctant to support Donald Trump. He notably skipped the Republican National Convention in 2016.
On January 10, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa wondered out loud when the term “white supremacists” became a negative during an interview with The New York Times.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said during the interview.In a familiar pattern, Rep. King sought to “clarify” his comments a day later.But the U.S. Representative has a long history of comments that can easily be defined as racist.
“I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define. Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of 6 million innocent Jewish lives,” Rep. King said on January 11.
In July 2013, King said of Mexican immigrants that, “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Rep. King displayed the Confederate flag on his office desk in 2016 removing it later after a Confederate flag-waver shot two law enforcement officers in Iowa. In March 2017, he wrote “culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” and, “you need to teach your children your values” and “with the inter-marriage, I’d like to see an America that is just so homogenous that we look a lot the same.”
Rep. King’s words are familiar to that of the rhetoric of David Duke and Richard Spencer and other prominent white supremacists. Though he was been criticized by Speaker Paul Ryan for his past comments, many Republicans have remained silent during Rep. King’s racial controversies.
Sen. Scott has become tired of that practice.
Sen. Scott cataloged recent racist incidents in the U.S. saying, “Three months ago, a white supremacist killed two black people in a parking lot in Kentucky. We are only 18 months from Charlottesville, where white nationalists killed a white woman with a car and severely beat multiple black people. Almost four years ago, a white supremacist murdered nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, S.C. In 1998, white supremacists dragged James Byrd Jr., behind a pickup truck through Jasper, Tex., decapitating him in the process.”
“I will admit I am unsure who is offended by the term “Western civilization” on its own, but anyone who needs “white nationalist” or “white supremacist” defined, described and defended does lack some pretty common knowledge,” Sen. Scott continued.
“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Sen. Scott continued. “Silence is no longer acceptable,” Sen. Scott concluded.
The backdrop of Rep. King’s latest racially-motivated comments is President Trump’s insistence on building a wall at the border of Mexico. Trump ran on a platform that defined Mexican immigrants as violent and dangerous. Noteably, after white supremacists marched with torches in Charlottesville, Va., President Trump was not only slow in denouncing their message but declared that — “both sides” — were “violent.”s
On Tuesday, January 15, the Republican Party in the U. S. House of Representatives stripped Rep. Steve King of his committee assignments in the 116thCongress. He served on the House Agriculture and Judiciary Committee
By: Lorette Picciano, Executive Director, Rural Coalition
The Rural Coalition and its members applaud the completion of the House and Senate conference report to the 2018 Farm Bill. The conference report was passed in the U. S. Senate by a vote of 86 to 12 and the U. S. House of Representatives by 334 to 47 last week. The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law this week by President Donald J. Trump.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a strong indication of Congress’ legislative efforts to ensure that our nation’s African American, Asian Pacific, Latino, and Tribal Farmers and Ranchers and rural communities are well equipped to meet the growing demands for healthy foods and farm land preservation.
Rooted in the stronger Bipartisan Senate version of the bill crafted under the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts, and Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow, the package ensures food access for all communities, and retains funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It also increases support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiatives to strengthen local food systems.
Of great significance to our communities, it makes critical new investments in tribal farmers and food systems and programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers, improves transparency in credit programs and removes barriers to cultivation of industrial hemp, strengthens local food and organic programs and establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture.
Some Specific Sections of the 2018 Farm Bill, we highlight are:
· Extends SNAP funding as in Nutrition Title in the Senate Bill without the very stiff and bureaucratic workfare requirements in the current House bill. Those provisions would create hunger and deepen poverty for vulnerable Americans, including children and families, and burden States with implementation and costs of constructing an underfunded bureaucratic infrastructure.
· Provides Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers who attempt to farm on “heirs property”.
The conference report language ensures that more farmers — especially African-American farmers and farmers of color operating on land with undivided interests – can finally access USDA programs that enable them to protect the soil and water; and continue to operate viable farms that feed their communities.
This language, sponsored with thanks to Senators Doug Jones, Tim Scott and Tom Udall in the Senate, and Reps. Marcia Fudge, Sanford Bishop and Alma Adams in the House, was developed in cooperation with Rural Coalition with its members including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc., Land Loss Prevention Project, and Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, with critical support from the Uniform Laws Commission, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and support from the National Association of Conservation Districts.
· Expands and Improves Opportunities for all Farmers to Access USDA Programs – The Conference Report includes language that creates the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program. FOTO strengthens the historic Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program and also links it closely to the related Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. The improved program provides permanent authority and permanent funding of $50 million annually, shared equally between the two programs. We thank Senators Tina Smith, Chris Van Hollen, Tom Udall, Reps. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Ben Ray Lujan, Sanford Bishop and many others who led the effort to make these changes. And we especially credit the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for their diligent efforts to permanently secure and fund this landmark program.
· Legalizes and regulates cultivation of Industrial Hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.
· Provides critical improvements in USDA direct lending credit policy by including equitable relief servicing options in order to protect producers against errors or mistakes made within the USDA direct lending program.
· Authorizes the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network which supports mental health resources and services to farmers and farmworkers who need them;
· Creates a new Local Agricultural Market Program (LAMP) by merging authorities and providing baseline funding for a streamlined new program. Specifically the LAMP language links the previous Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grants Program.
· Establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture
“This bill turns the tide for African American and all other historically underserved farmers and ranchers,” said Rural Coalition Vice Chairperson Georgia Good, Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, which has worked since 1937 to improve the quality of life in rural communities in the South. We are grateful to Senators Tim Scott (SC) and Doug Jones (AL) for opening a critical new door to allow families of multiple generations operating on inherited land to be allowed in to the programs of USDA that all farmers need to thrive with their bill. We further thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI)for their patient and persistent leadership to work with us all to include these sections in a landmark package that values all rural communities and peoples.”
According to Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert of the Alabama Association of Cooperatives, “The Federation of Southern Cooperatives estimates more than 40% of black owned land is in heirs property status. Including the Fair Access Act in this bill enables people in states that have the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property laws to access USDA programs more directly with less red tape.”
“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” he continued.
“Particular thanks are due to the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for dedicated efforts to refine legislation and push it to the finish line, and to Rep. Conaway and Peterson’s staffs for working with them to make the important changes necessary to improve opportunities for all farmers. We also thank the many other Senators and members of Congress who led in developing key sections of this legislation.
“The Agricultural Improvement Act passed last week is a huge step forward,” said Rural Coalition Board Member Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association. “We are extremely happy that the Agriculture Committee leaders were able to stay focused on the essentials of as good a bipartisan farm bill as we can get in this political climate.”
Everyone in our nation who cares about a future for diverse farmers, ranchers and rural communities needs to call upon Congress and the President to assure swift passage and signing, and final enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill.
African maritime industry
Dec. 17, 2018 (GIN) – Six counties in Kenya’s coastal region have been tagged for technical training in the blue economy – what some have called “the new frontier of the African Renaissance.” The goal is to enable young people to find jobs in the maritime industry. Kevit Desai, a Kenyan vocational training principal, says institutions of higher learning must begin to focus on developing skills, nurturing innovations and enterprise creation for this “overlooked opportunity.” He suggested a post-Blue Economy Conference workshop to create awareness and enhance community participation in this vision for the future. The topic prompted the World Bank last year to release a report called “The Potential of the Blue Economy” on sustainable use of marine resources for small island and coastal least developed countries. “An important challenge of the blue economy is to understand and better manage oceanic sustainability,” the report began, “from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to pollution.” After years of neglect, the multilateral community is finally waking up,” writes David Thomas of African Business. “Policymakers are excitingly speaking of job creation, new sources of government revenue and the limitless potential of ocean entrepreneurship.” But the initiative is also worrying to those who see a ‘global ocean grab’ by the rich and powerful, deciding who shall benefit, who should decide how much to fish and where. A drive for maximum profit is underway and small-scale fisher people fear a “global ocean grab’ is in the works. Multinational corporations, states, NGOs, speculative investors and many others are behind a ‘power grab’ to gain control of aquatic - ‘blue’ - resources, critics charge. A recent report on “Ocean Prosperity” speaks optimistically of the potential for profit: “The transition to a blue economy is a tremendous economic and investment opportunity,” they write, “and this report will help investors understand the risks and opportunities for making money from ocean resources.” The rise of blue growth represents the latest stage in a move by powerful economic actors to control crucial decision-making – including the power to decide how and for what purposes marine resources are used, conserved and managed. Guided by the World Bank and similar institutions, an increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing needs – particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Fishing sits at the forefront of debates about how to make the most of the blue economy while preserving a fragile ecosystem, observes Jeremy Prince of Murdoch University’s Center for Fish and Fisheries Research in Perth, Australia. Support has been promised to the African Union from the Economic Commission for Africa to ensure that the untapped potentials of the blue economy are fully realized.
Montgomery, AL – SOS youth leaders along with other youth leaders from across the state and other leaders held a news conference at the Alabama State House at 10:30 a.m. today calling for continued protests and a boycott of ALL Hoover businesses until Hoover city officials release the complete videotape of the killing of Army Veteran E.J. Bradford and criminally charge the off-duty Hoover police officer with killing Bradford.
Alecha Irby, head of the Youth Committee for the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy and a student at Miles Law School, organized the Montgomery press conference to draw greater attention to the ongoing injustices taking place in Jefferson County. Irby said, “Twenty-one-year-old E.J. Bradford was shot and killed at the Galleria on November 22nd, and the Hoover police still have not released the full video of the killing. They have selectively chosen to release a 30-second snippet of the video, but their refusal to release the entire footage is more telling than the tiny segment they did release.”
An off-duty Hoover police officer shot and killed an innocent Army veteran. Hoover officials continue to refuse to release the full video and other critical information. Autopsy details revealed that Mr. Bradford was shot multiple times in the back and in the back of the head. “Officials in Hoover have not taken the first step to arrest the officer for this wrongful killing. Until they release the full tape and arrest the officer for the killing of Mr. Bradford, we are calling on everyone to boycott all businesses in Hoover.”
“Hoover officials have had the opportunity to do what is right and to seek justice for the family of Mr. Bradford. They continue to refuse to do so,” said Carlos Chaverst, Jr., who organized protests in Hoover in the aftermath of the brutal killing of E.J. Bradford. “Nineteen days have passed since the Hoover officer shot and killed Mr. Bradford, and the killer still walks free. We also do not have the full video footage of what took place at the Galleria, and officials have given no justifiable reason for not releasing that footage. We are here today to demand justice for E.J. Bradford, and we will not stop until justice is done,” he said.
“We are calling on a boycott of all Hoover businesses – not only those at the Galleria – until Hoover officials do what is right and just and release the entire video footage and other records related to the case and charge the officer with killing E.J. Bradford. Alabama has been witness to racial injustices throughout its history, and what is taking place in Hoover today is a new Civil Rights Movement,” said Frank Matthews of the Outcast Voters League.
“Some commentators have said just this week that these protests are taking place ‘before anybody really outside of witnesses and law enforcement knows what happened’ and have cited the 30-second video release as if it were a concrete action. If the police would release the full video and other necessary information including witness statements to the public, the police officer who killed Bradford would already be arrested and in custody and the protests and boycott could end. Observations like the one by an Alabama commentator I just referenced only serve to reinforce how little is being done to ensure the right actions are taken and justice is served.”
By Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Rep. Al Green (TX-09)
Congress-persons Al Green, Bennie Thompson and Shiela Jackson Lee
Historically, during times of national emergency, Americans unite to meet the challenge. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina altered the lives of thousands of Americans throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, damaging cities that have not been the same since. But, no matter our differences, we as a country have always come together in the face of tragedy. Now, it is time we act in unison once more.
Since August 25, the city of Houston along with Harris and Fort Bend counties, have felt the effects of Hurricane Harvey. The unprecedented storm dumped an estimated 11 trillion gallons of water on just Houston alone. First responders, emergency personnel and the U.S. National and Coast Guards along with hundreds of volunteers, were on the frontlines of the battle ensuring all those affected by Harvey were safe and dry.
As the natural disaster travels towards Louisiana and Mississippi, we ask for our great country to continue to stand with one another by volunteering, sending donations, and praying that for strength, hope and perseverance to weather this storm.
Hundreds of people of color have been affected by the storm already. If anyone would like to lend a helping hand to the relief effort through donations, we are asking you give to local organizations that focus on people of color such as: The Black Women’s Defense League, Raices, ICNA Relief, BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund or the South Texas Human Rights Center. Any contribution will be greatly received as we ask Congress and President Donald Trump to provide immediate emergency funding and resources to deal with the crisis at hand. We believe at least $150 billion will be needed just to aid Texas residents in reconstruction, with much more needed later as the storm continues to travel the Gulf Coast.
In addition, Southeast Texas needs funding for storm surge protection research, just as New York and New Jersey received following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Congress should pass an aid package not only to help the people of Texas, but to also provide an assurance to the American people that their government will be there for them in a time of crisis. This legislative package should not be weighed down in political rhetoric and partisanship. Instead, it should be aimed at helping as many people affected by Harvey as possible.
It is essential for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a full and complete assessment of the entire Gulf Coast region’s infrastructure capabilities when it comes to flooding. Time and time again, we have seen our region suffer from hurricanes, and we must take steps to prevent another city from struggling to rebuild.
Americans from around the country have offered themselves in service to help their fellow citizens. Now, we as Members of Congress must do the same. The best way for us to do so is with a comprehensive emergency funding package. Volunteers, first responders and so many others have stepped up to the plate, now it is up to us to hit the ball out of the park.
When Congress goes back into session, let’s pass this package without unnecessary political debates. The people of the Gulf Coast are depending on us.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) represent Gulf Coast residents. They are all members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Producer displays cocao harvested in Ivory Coast
May 15, 2017 (GIN) – Troubles in the Ivory Coast have pushed the price of cocoa to its highest level in five years.
Don’t blame the farmer. In the world’s largest producer of cocoa, farmers have been going hungry since government slashed the price it guarantees for farmers by 36 percent, then withheld payments due since October – even while the nation’s economy grew by close to 9 percent for each of the past four years.
Visitors to the capital, Abidjan, may see signs of new wealth and a surge in construction transforming the city. Investors have poured in from Mauritius to Morocco. But many ordinary Ivorians have yet to see the benefits of growth.
Daily broadcasts on state TV celebrate the nation’s so-called economic miracle, but an outburst of social unrest this year – the worst since 2011 – is a sign that people are running out of patience.
“There’s a colossal development gap between Abidjan and the interior,’’ Youssouf Carius, an economist with Pulsar Partners, a private investment fund, told Bloomberg News. “Even though some areas have a lot of potential, private investment won’t arrive as long as public services remain largely non-existent.’’
“People feel that inequality is growing, and it’s a feeling that’s fanned by symbols: in Abidjan, you won’t go a day without seeing a Porsche Cayenne,” Ranie Kone, an economist, told a reporter. “We’re in a culture where showing off is very important and people tend to live above their means.”
While farmers, rough diamond miners, and former rebel soldiers struggle to get a living wage, the number of dollar millionaires in Ivory Coast climbed 45 percent in the past decade to 2,500, more than the African growth average of 19 percent, AfrAsia Bank Ltd. said in a report. It’s likely to jump another 80 percent in the coming decade, according to the bank.
Meanwhile, over 8,000 former rebel soldiers who were promised bonuses for helping to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power in 2010 are taking up arms over the promise broken by the administration. Military violence has been reported in the nation’s two largest cities and witnesses on the ground describe empty streets, closed schools, banks and offices in the upscale Plateau district.
“The situation is dangerous in terms of what will happen if a full-blown confrontation erupts between loyal forces and mutineers, Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reported. “The civilian population will be caught in the crossfire.”
Elsewhere on the continent, Madagascar, the world’s largest grower of vanilla beans is predicting steep price hikes after a tropical cyclone in March destroyed over 30% of the crop.
By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
In a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress, the United States House of Representatives voted to establish a commission to examine 400 years of African American history.
House bill H.R. 1242 is designed “to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the House and Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it’s waiting to be passed.
According to Washington insiders, the bill will most likely pass by unanimous consent in the Senate.
Once the bill known as the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act,” or H.R. 1242 in the House, passes Congress, it will land on President Donald Trump’s desk.
If H.R. 1242 becomes law, the resulting commission would consist of 15 members, who would serve without pay. The legislation would authorize the commission to create grants to communities, nonprofits and other groups to hold events that would commemorate the anniversary of slaves arriving in the U.S. The commission could hire staff and also accept volunteers to perform its mission. The commission would be required to submit a report to Congress and terminate in July of 2020.
In a statement about the bill last year, Kaine said that he’s been lucky to be a part of federal commissions that have been formed to study and celebrate English and Hispanic history. “Well, if English lives matter, if Latino lives matter, then African American lives matter and they’ve mattered every day since the landing of those ‘20 and odd’ African Americans at Point Comfort, Virginia,” said Kaine.
Kaine continued: “The story has a lot of pain to it, but it’s a story that has to be told to commemorate that we as a nation—had it not been for 400 years of African American history—would be absolutely unrecognizable. What we hope to do with this bill is engage in something we should do to tell the story in a different way than it may have been told 50 to 100 years ago.”
In late March, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, “that implementing the bill would cost about $2 million a year—a total of $6 million over the 2018-2021 period.”
In a floor statement about the bill last summer, Rep. Bobby Scott said that African Americans have contributed greatly to the United States and their achievements deserve to be celebrated.
“The history of Virginia and our nation cannot be fully understood without recognizing the role played by the slave trade,” said Scott. “Slavery was an abhorrent institution; but for hundreds of years, it was the foundation of the colonial and early American agricultural system and was essential to its economic sustainability.”
Scott continued: “The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act will be instrumental in recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contributions of African Americans since 1619. From slavery, to fighting in the Civil War, to working against the oppression of Jim Crow segregation, to the civil rights movement, the rich history of African Americans and their contributions to our Nation began hundreds of years ago but obviously does not end there.”
Lauren Victoria Burke is a speaker, writer and political analyst. She appears on “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin every Monday. Lauren is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.
By PADDY DINHAM FOR MAILONLINE
Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls Abducted by Boko Haram
82 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram have been released after more than three years in captivity.
They are the largest group yet to be released after years of tense negotiations between the government and the terrorist group, a Nigerian government spokesman said. Later government statements indicated that the girls were released in exchange for the government release of five Boko Haram fighters.
The girls were among about 220 students abducted from a secondary school in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014, sparking a global campaign #bringbackourgirls supported by then-U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, and a host of other celebrities.
· Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, said he was told of the release by the Bring Back Our Girls pressure group and an official in Maiduguri. He added: ‘This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.’
Bring Back Our Girls said it was awaiting an official statement but added: ‘Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed.’
Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok on the evening of April 14, 2014 and kidnapped 276 girls. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed but the remaining 219 were held by the group.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed in a video message that they had converted to Islam. The kidnapping brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanized support across the globe.
21 Chibok girls were released in October in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, while a handful of others have escaped or been rescued. However, a large number of the girls are still missing.
Last month President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that the government was ‘in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed’.
The girls were taken from a school in Chibok in the remote northeastern Borno state where Boko Haram has waged an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state that has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people.