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DRC opposition leader wants Khama to intervene in crisis

President of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development (ECIDE), an opposition party in the embattled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Martin Fayulu has called on President Lt Gen Ian Khama to intervene in that country’s political crisis.   

Speaking exclusively to Weekend Post in a telephone interview facilitated by one of his associates currently in Botswana this week, Fayulu said it is imperative that Khama comes out publicly to condemn the violence and lead a process which would result in successful mediation.

“We want a facilitator, someone who is credible, has moral authority and is respected around the world to lead the negotiation process. We believe Botswana can play a role is searching for such a person,” he said.

“The United States and Europe have imposed sanctions. But nobody in Africa is doing anything about the DRC situation. We want Botswana to take a leadership role in resolving the matter by rallying other African countries to take action.”

Fayulu has revealed that the opposition in DRC has lost respect in the country’s elections commission and want its leader to leave office.

ECIDE has rejected a proposed dialogue as they insist that dialogue's current facilitator, Edem Kodjo; a former chairman of the African Union (AU) is not credible and is disposed towards President Kabila.

Other opposition parties have also joined hands with Fayulu’s ECIDE in setting pre-conditions for participating in the dialogue, including freeing political prisoners and lifting bans on several TV stations.

The troubled country saw a violent uprising recently, as multitudes thronged the streets to protest against President Joseph Kabila’s intention to stay in office beyond his constitutional term. The country’s electoral commission has failed to issue a writ for elections, which should be done 90 days before elections.

Kabila’s presidential term is scheduled to come to an end in November this year and Fayulu insists that Kabila should leave power at the end of his tenure and allow the mediation process to go on.

“He is playing games with delaying tactics because he knows he will be a loser in the end,” he said.

Fayulu also told this publication that other elective bodies such as the National Assembly and Senate should have representatives leaving office at the end of their terms on the 19th of December 2016. 

The ECIDE leader, who recently survived military attacks, has expressed confidence that Botswana can play a major role as a game changer in DRC. He lauded former President Sir Ketumile Masire’s involvement in the DRC political crisis as a facilitator between 2000 and 2003.

Masire, a worldwide respected statesman played a major role in calming a political situation in the DRC, which later helped the country draw up a new constitution which was accepted by all the country.

Fayulu is among those who have been harassed by Kabila’s security agents, and was arrested earlier this year following his involvement in a peaceful protest aimed at dissuading Kabila from attempting to stay beyond his constitutional term.

Over 100 people are reported to have been killed for protesting against Kabila’s refusal to leave power, while ECIDE’s office was destroyed in the process.

The dialogue process has been stalled amid opposition discontentment and the facilitator is making efforts to convince the opposition bloc to participate in the dialogue.

Government authorities have reportedly said the elections, scheduled for November, must be delayed until next year to allow time to register millions of new voters.

 

Recently, former President Festus Mogae was involved in South Sudan’s mediation talks, as the country was plunged in political crisis amid warring political opponents in the country.

Botswana is known to be a beacon of democracy, peace and stability in Africa and its foreign policy under the presidency of Khama took a major shift in dealing with leaders who refuse to leave power.

 

Botswana has condemned Burundi’s government which earlier this year was embroiled in political crisis as President Pierre Nkurunziza refused to leave power at the end of his term. A number of people died in the protest which ensued, but Nkurunziza remained in office with a political solution.

 

A few weeks ago, Khama called the ageing Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to leave power, because in his opinion, he (Mugabe) has become a burden to the entire SADC region.

 

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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