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Boko Haram leader Shekau says he is ‘still in charge’

A screengrab taken on October 2, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram

Lagos (AFP) – The leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram denied he had been killed or ousted as chief of the jihadist group in an audio recording released Sunday attributed to him by security experts.

In the eight-minute Hausa-language message, Abubakar Shekau rebuffed claims by Chadian leader Idriss Deby that he had been replaced and called the president a "hypocrite" and a "tyrant".

"It is indeed all over the global media of infidels that I am dead or that I am sick and incapacitated and have lost influence in the affairs of religion," he said in the recording released on social media.

"It should be understood that this is false. This is indeed a lie. If it were true, my voice wouldn't have been heard, now that I am speaking."

Deby declared on August 12 that efforts to combat neighbouring Nigeria's Boko Haram jihadists had succeeded in "decapitating" the group and would be wrapped up "by the end of the year".

Deby told reporters in the capital N'Djamena Boko Haram was no longer led by the fearsome Shekau and that his successor, whom he named as Mahamat Daoud, was open to talks.

"Gratitude be to Allah and with his help, I have not disappeared. I am still alive and I am not dead. And I will not die until my time appointed by Allah is up," Shekau said in the message.

The SITE Intelligence Group verified the authenticity of the message, and an AFP correspondent with extensive experience of reporting Boko Haram said it exactly resembled Shekau's voice in previous recordings.

Shekau's absence from Boko Haram videos in recent months has fuelled speculation that he might have been killed or wounded.

He has not spoken publicly since he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in an audio recording released on March 7.

The jihadist commander refers to himself in the new recording for the first time as "leader of the west Africa wing" of IS and pays homage to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, referring to him as the "Caliph of Muslims".

He taunted Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power on May 29 vowing to crush Boko Haram and ordered his military chiefs last week to end the insurgency within three months.

"This ostentatious person, a liar — I mean Buhari, who raised arms to crush us in three months. You Buhari, why didn't you say in three years?" Shekau demanded.

"We will certainly fight you by the grace of Allah until we establish Allah's law everywhere on Earth."

Boko Haram has been waging a six-year uprising against the Nigerian state, which has claimed more than 15,000 lives.

The jihadists have repeatedly extended their northeastern insurgency into border areas of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

In recent weeks suicide bombers, many of them women, have staged several attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

The four countries, plus Benin, have pledged troops towards a regional 8,700-strong force aimed at ending the insurgency and due to deploy within days.

– 'Global terrorist' –

Speculation about Shekau's condition — and even his true identity — has been rampant in Nigeria for years.

The wanted Islamist leader's whereabouts are unknown, but he has in the past made himself heard whenever he has been proclaimed dead.

Some experts and Nigerian security officials insist "Shekau" is a composite character, with different militant fighters stepping into the role at different times.

The original Abubakar Shekau — the son of poor farmers who became radicalised in a series of theological schools before taking over Boko Haram in 2010 — actually died months, or possibly several years ago, according to the security services.

But the United States and other experts have questioned the credibility of that claim.

"Here I am, alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath," the insurgent leader, who has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council and declared a "global terrorist" by the United States, said in a video released in October last year.

He issued a similarly boastful denial in 2013 after the military claimed he may have died from a gunshot wound.

AFP

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.

 

 

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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.

 

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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.

 

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