Newswire: West African leaders rush to save President of Mali from expulsion

Mali opposition leader M. Dicko

July 27, 2020 (GIN) – Presidents from five West African countries are stepping up efforts to end a crisis in Mali which threatens to topple the President of that troubled country.
The five regional leaders, Malian government officials and members of the opposition were meeting since the previous week following a month of street protests by tens of thousands of Malians that sparked clashes with police in which the United Nations says at least 14 protesters died.
Malians are said to be furious over government foot dragging on entrenched corruption, disputed local election results and army losses to jihadists.
Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger and current chair of ECOWAS, a 15-member regional, political and economic union, pledged that strong measures were being planned to resolve the crisis.
The opposition, called M5-RFP and headed by Mahmoud Dicko, a Muslim cleric, warned that protests would continue until Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stepped down. After a final meeting late last Thursday, Dicko told journalists there had been no progress, and nothing had been offered at the moment that was acceptable to them.
“M5-RFP demands the resignation of Keita or the satisfaction of our demands,” which include the establishment of a committee of inquiry into civilian deaths and a transitional government, the group’s spokesman Nouhoum Togo told Reuters news service.
Niger’s Issoufou rejected the call for President Keita’s resignation. “There will be no unconstitutional change of power in the ECOWAS region,” Issoufou declared.
This won’t be the first time that ECOWAS has intervened to settle problems in Mali. A coup by disgruntled military over the management of the Tuareg rebellion in 2012 and raging inter-ethnic conflicts, predominantly pitting the Fulani against the Dogon communities, brought harsh sanctions by ECOWAS leaders.
According to Human Rights Watch, Mali’s human rights situation deteriorated in 2019 as hundreds of civilians were killed in numerous attacks by armed Islamists in northern and central parts of the county allied to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Islamists targeted Malian security services, peacekeepers, international forces, and increasingly, civilians.
Malian security forces, in counterterrorism operations, also subjected numerous suspects to severe mistreatment and several died in custody or were forcibly disappeared.
A U.N. force, called MINUSMA, established by the U.N. Security Council in 2013, continues to work in the country with a total of more than 15,000 personnel and 15,209 military personnel, police and others.

Newswire : Cosby’s sentence highlights the nation’s aging prison population

 By Frederick H. Lowe

 Bill Cosby’s mug shot

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the NorthStarNewsToday.com (TriceEdneyWire.com) – Bill Cosby’s sentence of 3 to 10 years after being convicted on three counts of sexual assault spotlights the growing number of elderly housed in the nation’s state and federal prisons. Cosby, who is 81 and legally blind, was escorted by police on Monday from the Norristown, Pennsylvania, courthouse to begin serving his prison sentence at SCI Phoenix, a new state prison near Philadelphia, where the staff will assess his physical and medical needs. “The day has come,” Judge Steven O’Neill told Cosby before sentencing him. “Your time has come.” Cosby was convicted of the 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball coach, Cosby’s sentence spotlights the nation’s aging prison population. In 2013, there were 131, 500 prisoners aged 55 or older. The nation’s total state-prison population is approximately 1.57 million. Over the last 25 years, state corrections’ spending grew by 674% and the costs are mainly spent on incarcerating the elderly. Those costs are much higher than for younger inmates, according to several studies. “It costs $34, 135 per year to house an average prisoner but it costs $68, 270 per year to house a prisoner 50 and older. Elderly prisoners face several challenges including hearing loss, dementia, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and mobility issues. Prisons also must be retrofit spaces to accommodate the elderly, including installing ramps, shower handles and hiring nurses to care for the elderly. “Prisons were never designed to be geriatric facilities,” reports Human Rights Watch. “Yet US corrections officials now operate old age homes behind bars.”

Ethopian Marathon Silver Medalist fears death at home as representative of Oromo people

                                                      Feyisa Lilesa

Aug. 22, 2016 (GIN) – Using every fiber of his being, track star Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia made a dash across the finish line at the just-ended Olympic Games in Rio but it wasn’t to be the end of his run.

Lilesa used his high profile silver medal victory to make a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people who are locked in a decades-long struggle with the government of Ethiopia. In a photograph seen worldwide, 26-year-old Lilesa stands with his arms crossed over his head – a gesture of defiance used by Oromos in recent months.

The gesture recalled an earlier protest by Olympic athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who gave the Black Power salute on the medal podium after winning gold and bronze in the 200 meter sprint in the 1968 games.

Political statements are banned during the games, but Lilesa showed no fear of being sanctioned. “This was my feeling,” Lilesa said simply. “I have a big problem in my country. It is very dangerous to protest. The Ethiopian government is killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting and I support the protest as I am Oromo,” he said in an interview with USA Today.

Oromos, the largest of Ethiopia’s 80 ethnic groups making up at least a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, were once a sovereign people but lost ownership of their land and become both impoverished and aliens in their own country. In 1975, all rural land was declared State-owned, leaving the Oromos in a “colonized” status.

Last November, after the confiscation of a children’s playground and the selling off of an Oromo forest, a wave of mass protests began. Other issues – the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia, land grabbing and the eviction of farmers, and the brutal repression of protestors – fed the fire, according to Human Rights Watch and other independent monitors.

“If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me or put me in prison,” Lilesa said.

A government spokesman denied any threat to Lilesa or his family. Yet state-owned TV station EBC Channel 3 blacked out the clips of Lilesa, focusing instead on the Kenyan winner Eliud Kipchoge.

Meanwhile, a crowd-funding page was set up, saying the runner had become an “international symbol” for the Oromo protests. Initial pledges of $10,000 doubled within an hour.

A legal team hired by U.S.-based Ethiopians is helping Mr Feyisa, who has a wife and two children in Ethiopia, with a request to seek asylum in the US.