Senegal Demands Agreement with TikTok, Maintains Ban Pending Resolution

In Senegal, authorities have upheld the ban on popular social media app TikTok, insisting that the company must sign an agreement that establishes a mechanism for removing accounts. The country’s communications minister, Moussa Bocar Thiam, announced during a press conference that the restriction would remain in place until a comprehensive written agreement is reached. The government is currently engaged in discussions with TikTok to address their concerns.

The ban on TikTok was implemented in August following the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Authorities claimed that the platform was being used to disseminate “hateful and subversive messages” that posed a threat to the country’s stability. The political tension between Sonko, the leader of the Pastef party, and President Macky Sall had previously sparked violent demonstrations in June, tarnishing Senegal’s reputation as the most stable democracy in West Africa.

In their ongoing discussions with TikTok, the Senegalese government has emphasised the need for improved regulation of the platform. They have raised questions regarding the platform’s algorithm and data protection measures. Additionally, the government has called for fair remuneration for content creators, aiming to provide young people with the opportunity to earn a livelihood through social media.

As the discussions continue, the ban on TikTok will remain in effect, underscoring the government’s commitment to resolving the issues at hand and ensuring the platform’s compliance with their requirements.


Source: Reuters

Mauritius’ Highest Court Strikes Down Colonial-Era Ban on Gay Sex, Embracing Indigenous Values

Mauritius’ highest court has delivered a groundbreaking ruling, decriminalising gay sex and affirming that the ban stemmed from colonial-era influence rather than reflecting indigenous Mauritian values.

The origins of the ban can be traced back to 1898 when British colonialists first criminalised “sodomy.” However, the law has not been enforced in recent years. In response to the court’s decision, the gay man who initiated the case expressed his newfound freedom to love without fear, stating, “I am now free to love whoever I want to without fear.”

This landmark ruling arrives during a period of increasing homophobia and the implementation of stricter anti-gay laws in some African nations. Notably, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial Anti-Homosexuality law in May, which imposed the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” including sex with children or rape. Many individuals in Uganda and other African countries argue that homosexuality is “un-African” and contradicts their religious beliefs.

Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, the individual who brought the case in Mauritius, argued that the “offence of sodomy” violated his fundamental rights, including the right to liberty. The Supreme Court agreed, stating that the law did not reflect indigenous Mauritian values but was instead a vestige of the country’s colonial history imposed by British rule on Mauritius and other colonies.

While the ruling ensures that people can no longer be arrested for engaging in gay sex, parliamentary action is required to officially legalise it by repealing the law.

Mauritius gained independence in 1968, but the ban on gay sex remained intact, facing strong opposition from religious groups. Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek expressed hope that the ruling would empower future generations in Mauritius to embrace their sexuality freely without the fear of arrest.

The Human Dignity Trust (HDT), an organisation advocating for the rights of LGBT people, hailed the ruling as the end of over a century of state-sanctioned stigma against the LGBT community in Mauritius. The HDT further emphasised that the ruling should serve as a message to other African countries that still criminalise same-sex relations, urging them to abolish such laws.

Although the law in Mauritius currently imposes a prison sentence of up to five years for gay sex, it is considered largely obsolete in practice, according to the HDT.

Globally, there are 64 countries that criminalise homosexuality, with nearly half of them located in Africa.


Source: Reuters

Visa Uncertainty Casts Shadow on Educational Opportunities for West African Students in France

Alphonse Nikiema, a medical student from Burkina Faso, couldn’t contain his excitement upon receiving an email from his university. The message signalled a glimmer of hope, allowing him to resume visa paperwork for his upcoming training at a French hospital next year. This development comes after months of uncertainty caused by France’s suspension of consular services in Burkina Faso, leaving hundreds of students, researchers, and artists in limbo as they awaited their visas for professional trips to France.

The strained relations between France and several West African nations, including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, have been exacerbated by political coups over the past three years. The juntas that seized power have taken a hostile stance against France, resulting in the expulsion of French troops and ambassadors and a surge in anti-French sentiment.

Critics argue that France has maintained excessive economic and political influence over its former colonies long after they gained independence. While France claims to have moved away from this dynamic, the deteriorating relationship with some West African states has affected not only diplomatic ties but also longstanding cultural connections.

The visa predicament, along with the suspension of French development aid and cooperation, coincides with President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to reset relations with African nations that were once under French colonial rule. These efforts are motivated by increasing competition for influence from global powers like Russia and China.

According to a French diplomatic source, France issued 907 student and trainee visas to individuals from Burkina Faso, 689 to Malians, and 436 to Nigeriens last year. However, this year, students, doctors, artists, and business people from these three Sahel states, who have traditionally sought education and work opportunities in France, are being forced to reconsider their plans, risking a year’s delay in their aspirations.

For Nikiema, the possibility of spending a year in France for his mandatory psychiatry specialisation had almost faded away. He had resigned himself to doing his internship in a hospital in Burkina Faso instead. “Being able to go to another country and have a different experience is enriching,” he expressed wistfully.

Tondri Yara, an international law student, stood outside a French visa center in the capital city of Ouagadougou, hoping for positive news. Since October 2022, Yara had been preparing for his exchange program at a university campus in France. However, he now finds himself grappling with the last-minute visa hurdle. “Changing plans at this stage requires a significant amount of energy,” he lamented.

Yara has considered alternative options for his thesis, which was originally intended to be completed in France. Burkina Faso, Canada, Switzerland, and Belgium are all viable alternatives, albeit with the potential for delays in the process.

French authorities have reassured students, artists, and researchers already present in France that they are still welcome and can continue pursuing their activities. However, the uncertainty surrounding visa issuance casts a shadow over the educational opportunities and professional experiences that have long been accessible to West African students in France.

According to data from the French agency Campus France, which promotes French higher institutions abroad, there were over 3,100 students from Mali, 2,300 from Burkina Faso, and 1,100 from Niger studying in French public institutions during the 2021-22 academic year. These numbers highlight the significant impact of the visa challenges on the educational landscape for West African students in France.


Source: Reuters

Real Madrid Star Vinicius Junior Testifies in Racist Attacks Investigation

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior appeared before a judge in Valencia on Thursday as part of an investigation into racist attacks directed at him during a league match held in the city on May 21. The Brazilian player expressed feeling “offended” by the insults he received, emphasizing that they were targeted at his skin color. The Valencia club expressed surprise and demanded a public rectification from Vinicius, denying that the entire Valencian public should be stigmatized.

During the hearing, Vinicius, dressed in a white shirt and dark suit, provided his testimony via video-conference from a court in Madrid. Afterward, he left without speaking to the press. The player has been a frequent target of racist attacks throughout his career.

The incident occurred around the 70th minute of the match when Vinicius pointed out a fan who had allegedly called him a “monkey.” The players reported the incident to the referee, leading to a temporary interruption of the game and the activation of the racism protocol.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed hearing the racist slur, prompting the referee’s intervention. Following the match, Vinicius took to Instagram, expressing that racism had become the norm in La Liga and vowing to fight against it relentlessly.

In response to Vinicius’s statements, the Valencia club expressed “surprise” and “indignation,” urging the player to rectify his remarks publicly, as they believe he unfairly targeted the entire Mestalla stadium.

A day after the match, a court in Valencia initiated an investigation into a “hate crime” based on complaints filed by the Liga public prosecutor’s office. Three young men were subsequently arrested, with one of them directly named by the player and the other two identified through CCTV footage. While the suspects admitted to the offenses, they denied any hateful or racist intent towards Vinicius.

The investigation continues, and Vinicius’s testimony will play a crucial role in shedding light on the incident and determining the appropriate legal actions to be taken. The case serves as a stark reminder that racism has no place in football or society, emphasizing the need for continued efforts to combat discrimination in all its forms.

Legal Battle Over Controversial Deportation Scheme Puts British Government’s Immigration Agenda on the Line

Next week, the British government will make a concerted effort to convince the country’s top court to overturn a ruling that deemed its contentious plan to deport asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the Channel to Rwanda as unlawful. This setback for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government and its promise to “stop the boats” came after London’s Court of Appeal declared in June that the scheme, which involved transporting migrants more than 4,000 miles (6,400 km) to East Africa, was not legally permissible. The court stated that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country.

On Monday, government lawyers will argue at the Supreme Court that the previous ruling was incorrect, while lawyers representing migrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, and Sudan will present their case, aiming to demonstrate that the entire scheme is fundamentally flawed.

The stakes are high for Sunak, who has made addressing immigration one of his administration’s top priorities. Successfully tackling the issue could reinvigorate the fortunes of his Conservative Party, which currently lags behind by approximately 20 points in opinion polls ahead of the expected elections next year.

“A government that fails to deliver on its promises will always face consequences. We need to take control of this issue,” said Conservative lawmaker Brendan Clarke-Smith during the party’s annual conference this week, emphasising the political significance of the matter.

Sunak and his ministers argue that the Rwanda scheme, initiated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year, would dismantle the business model of human traffickers and dissuade individuals from undertaking perilous journeys across the Channel in inflatable boats and dinghies. In August, six people drowned, while in November 2021, 27 perished attempting the crossing.

Opponents of the scheme contend that it is unethical, costly, and ultimately ineffective. Their ranks include human rights organisations, lawmakers from various parties (including some Conservatives), the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even reports of private reservations from King Charles, as suggested by the media.

The fate of the deportation scheme now rests with five judges, including Supreme Court President Robert Reed, who will commence hearings focusing primarily on technical legal arguments over the course of three days, starting on Monday.

Like many European nations, Britain has grappled with how to address the influx of migrants, often fleeing war-torn regions in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan.

In a speech to Conservative Party members on Tuesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned of an impending “hurricane” of migrants and pledged to halt what she referred to as “bogus asylum seekers.”

Immigration played a significant role in the 2016 Brexit vote, with the promise that Britain would regain control of its borders.

Despite government commitments to reduce arrivals, overall net migration has continued to rise, reaching a record high of 606,000 last year. This year, over 25,000 people have arrived in Britain via small boats, while 2022 saw a record 45,755 detections.

The cost of Britain’s strained asylum system, with approximately 135,000 people awaiting decisions, surpasses £3 billion ($3.6 billion) annually. Housing some of these migrants in hotels costs around £6 million per day.

A new law, enacted in July, makes it a legal obligation for the Home Secretary to deport migrants who arrive without permission either to their home country or to a safe third country. Rwanda is the only country with which Britain has signed such an agreement.

The government estimates that the average cost of sending each asylum seeker to Rwanda would amount to £169,000. Other cost-saving measures, such as housing claimants on military bases, have faced strong opposition, often from local Conservative lawmakers. Additionally, a barge anchored off the south coast to accommodate hundreds of migrants was vacated after a few days due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

Opinion polls consistently show that high levels of immigration remain a major concern for voters, although they also reveal support for migrants filling labor shortages. What the surveys do indicate is that a clear majority believes the government is mishandling the issue.

“If we manage to reduce the level of illegal immigration, I believe people will support us in the next election,” remarked Clarke-Smith, highlighting the electoral implications of the government’s approach.

($1 = 0.8278 pounds)


Source: Reuters