The mutilated body of an albino toddler has been found in Tanzania with his limbs hacked off, the latest such killing for body parts for witchcraft, the police said on Wednesday.
The United Nations condemned the attack, warning that with general elections looming – when people may turn to witchcraft to boost political campaigns – albinos in Tanzania were facing a “dangerous year.”
The one-year old boy, Yohana Bahati, was seized by men with machetes from his home in northern Tanzania’s Chato district overnight on Saturday, with police finding the body on Tuesday afternoon in a forest area close to his home.
“His arms and legs were hacked off,” regional police chief Joseph Konyo said.
The baby’s mother Ester Jonas, aged 30, is in a serious state in hospital with machete cuts to her face and arms after she tried to protect her baby.
The killing follows the kidnapping in December of a four-year-old albino girl also in northern Tanzania. Multiple arrests were made but the child has not been found.
UN country chief Alvaro Rodriguez said he was “deeply concerned by the abductions of these two young children,” saying that at least 74 albinos have been murdered in the east African country since 2000.
The UN repeated its fears that attacks against albinos could be linked to looming general and presidential elections in October 2015, leading political campaigners to turn to influential sorcerers for help.
“These attacks are accompanied by a high degree of impunity, and while Tanzania has made efforts to combat the problem, much more must be done to put an end to these heinous crimes and to protect this vulnerable segment of the population,” he added.
“This is the year of elections in Tanzania and, as some analysts have suggested, it could be a dangerous year for people living with albinism.”
Albino body parts sell for around $600 in Tanzania, with an entire corpse fetching $75 000, according to the UN.
Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. It affects one Tanzanian in 1 400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20 000.
The child’s father, who was nearby during the attack, is being questioned by police.
The leaders of the countries devastated by the West African Ebola outbreak vowed at a summit in Guinea on Sunday to eradicate the virus by mid-April.
The outbreak, which began 14 months ago, has killed more than 9 200 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and savaged their economies and government finances.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and his Liberian and Sierra Leone counterparts Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma made the pledge after day-long closed talks in the Guinean capital Conakry.
Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the secretary-general of the Mano River Union bloc grouping the countries, said their presidents “commit to achieving zero Ebola infections within 60 days, effective today”.
The summit came with infections having dropped rapidly across the countries, although the World Health Organisation says Guinea and Sierra Leone remain a huge concern as both have seen a recent spike in new confirmed cases.
Reading a joint declaration from the leaders, Kaba said they “recognised the efforts that have been made by the member states and the international community which have resulted in the decline of Ebola infections and death rates”.
The World Bank said in January the economic damage of the epidemic could run to $6.2 billion, trimming an earlier estimate of $25 billion.
However, the epidemic “will continue to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone even as transmission rates in the three countries show significant signs of slowing,” it said.
Worst case scenario ‘far away’
The International Monetary Fund announced 10 days ago $100 million in debt relief for the three countries and said it was preparing another $160 million in concessional loans.
The leaders agreed to formulate a joint economic recovery plan to present at a conference on Ebola to be held by the European Union in Brussels on March 3, the Guinean presidency said in a statement.
“This comprehensive plan covers topics that affect virtually all key areas of development: education, agriculture, industry, trade, health and social action that will focus on the issue of the management of Ebola orphans and impoverished families,” it added.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency response, said the dramatic drop in infections from the October peak showed that “the worst disaster scenario now seems far away”.
“The number of new cases per week declined from an alarming level of nearly 1,000 in the bad times of the crisis to 145 confirmed cases in the course of the last week in the three countries,” he said.
“However, despite the significant decrease of cases we must always remember that it all started with one case. We know how on the basis of experiences in the fight against polio, for example, that it is easier to go from 100 to 10 than from 10 to 0.”
In a sign of the fragility of the recovery, Sierra Leone was forced to place 700 homes in the capital under quarantine on Friday, less than a month after it had lifted all restrictions on movement.
The government said the properties had been locked down in Aberdeen, a fishing and tourist district of Freetown, after the death of a fisherman who tested positive for Ebola.
Since her university days, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, an openly gay woman and activist in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal, has been a victim of vicious tabloid gossip.
“They were writing about ‘secrets inside the lesbian’s den’,” Nabagesera (34) told AFP. She said she had been attacked and evicted “so many times” because of the media coverage.
Now Uganda’s gay community is fighting back with Bombastic, a new magazine published and distributed privately.
The free 72-page glossy publication features personal essays, commentaries and poems by “proud” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Ugandans, some using pseudonyms.
In the editor’s note Nabagesera said the magazine would “speak for the many voiceless”.
Uganda’s popular tabloid press has outed many of Nabagesera’s friends and colleagues, and regularly fills pages with invasive, prurient stories and lurid tales.
Politicians have stoked anti-gay sentiment by proposing new laws that appeal to the country’s conservative Christianity, the latest of which seeks to criminalise the “promotion” of homosexuality.
“They would target me a lot, they would cook up stories – how I’m getting married… I’m training people to become lesbians,” Nabagesera said.
“People have lost housing, jobs, families,” she said. “One colleague was beaten in broad daylight after appearing in the newspapers.”
Nabagesera said in the last four years, the local media had played a “big role” in the intimidation and harassment of LGBTI people, after naming and shaming them.
In 2011 gay activist David Kato – a close friend of Nabagesera – was beaten to death with a hammer a few months after a tabloid paper published his picture under the headline ‘Hang Them’.
Nabagesera came up with the idea for Bombastic in 2013. When she asked for stories on Facebook, she was flooded with over 500 contributions. Crowd-funding paid for its printing.
An editorial team of eight Ugandans worked on the inaugural issue and foreign volunteers also pitched in helping to build a related website, www.kuchutimes.com, which Nabagesera said attracts so many visitors that it is “almost crashing every two days”.
“We got a lot of support from around the world,” said Nabagesera.
Bombastic was launched in December as MPs were vowing to introduce a new anti-gay bill as a “Christmas present”, after an earlier statute was struck down on a technicality in August.
“So we said let’s give them a Christmas present,” said Nabagesera.
A total of 15 000 copies of Bombastic have been printed and distributed by hand to some unlikely potential readers.
“We took lots of copies to Parliament, government offices, everywhere,” said Nabagesera.
She personally delivered copies, concealed inside brown paper envelopes, to the pigeonholes of MPs such as David Bahati, the architect of an early anti-gay law that sought the death penalty for homosexuals, to the office of the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, a staunch supporter of anti-gay legislation, and to the office of President Yoweri Museveni.
Nabagesera said she had not yet received any feedback from the politicians but had heard that, “the president’s wife refused even to open it.” First Lady Janet Museveni is an high-profile born-again Christian.
Churches, media houses, motorbike taxi riders and others across the country have also been handed the magazine, courtesy of 138 enthusiastic volunteers, some from the mainstream media.
“People are willing to be part of the project,” said Nabagesera.
Red Pepper, a notorious Ugandan tabloid which published a list of the country’s “top homos” a day after Museveni signed the first anti-gay bill into law nearly a year ago, was the first media house to be given copies.
“They refused to write about it, they were angry of course, because when you read my introduction I’m bashing the media,” said Nabagesera.
She insisted Bombastic had mostly been a “big hit”, adding that the magazine’s two telephone hotlines have been inundated with interest.
But some people have burnt issues after finding them in shops in eastern Uganda, while in the country’s west some distributors were threatened. Nabagesera herself was threatened with legal action after a copy was taken to a church.
Others told her they wished “a car could knock you down” while Uganda’s ethics minister Simon Lokodo warned she could face arrest for “promoting homosexuality”.
Nabagesera is undaunted. She hopes to continue publishing the magazine and to “stand up and fight for others who don’t have the support.”
“It is our wish, our hope, that if people read just one story it changes their attitude,” said Nabagesera.
The first large-scale trials of two Ebola vaccines began in Liberia on Monday, the hospital hosting the research said.
The vaccines, which contain harmless elements of the killer virus that trigger an immune response, were administered to 12 volunteers at the start of a trial which will eventually involve up to 27 000 adults.
“We received 20 persons who came voluntarily to take the vaccine but we are taking only 12 per day,” said Melvin Johnson, head of the trial centre at the Redemption Hospital in the capital Monrovia.
“The first 12 were given the vaccine and the balance will receive theirs on Tuesday.”
The Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (Prevail), a collaboration between the United States and Liberia, said trials would begin at other hospitals around Monrovia after the first 600 participants join the study.
The candidate vaccines – GlaxoSmithKline’s Chad3-EBO-Z and rVSV-ZEBOV, manufactured by Merck and Newlink – have been determined as safe for use on humans in smaller trials in several countries.
Prevail said the drugs could cause pain, redness or swelling in the injected arm, as well as fever, headaches and tiredness, but added that the side-effects “typically have been mild to moderate and have gone away on their own”.
The study, led by the US National Institutes of Health, was launched at the Redemption Hospital on Sunday at an event attended by Liberian Vice-President Joseph Boaikai.
“We hope that this scientific undertaking we launch here today will get answers for the mystery surrounding this disease,” he said.
‘Need for speed’ There is currently no vaccine to guard against Ebola on the world market, and no specific drug approved to treat it, even though the virus first emerged in the 1970s.
Researchers have said that it remains unknown what level of immune response is needed to protect humans from Ebola, which causes often fatal haemorrhaging, organ failure and severe diarrhoea.
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have registered almost 9 000 deaths since the beginning of the worst outbreak on record in December 2013, although experts believe the real toll could be significantly higher.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week however that the countries reported fewer than 100 new lab-confirmed cases in the past week for the first time since last June.
“It’s fantastic that large-scale trials of the first candidate Ebola vaccine are getting underway in Liberia, a country that has suffered enormously at the hands of this disease,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.
“The WHO confirmed last week that infection rates there continue to fall, which emphasises the need to complete these crucial trials as quickly as possible,” Farrar said.
“The international response that has got us this point has been phenomenal and we must keep on course until the infection rate is brought down to, and remains at, zero.”
Wellcome is funding tests on the GSK candidate vaccine in Britain and Mali and parallel studies of other vaccines in Geneva, Gabon, Kenya and Guinea.
A “detoother” or a “dentist” is a gold-digger looking for a wealthy partner, while “spewing out buffalos” means you can’t speak proper English. And a “side-dish” isn’t served by a waiter.
Those and other terms are articles in Uganda’s strange, often funny locally-adapted English known as “Uglish,” which is now published for the first time in dictionary form.
“It is so entrenched right now that, even when you think you cannot use it, you actually find yourself speaking Uglish,” Bernard Sabiiti, the author of the first Uglish dictionary, told AFP.
“Even as I was researching, I was surprised that these words are not English because they were the only ones I knew. A word like a ‘campuser’ – a university student – I used to think was an English word.”
Uglish: A Dictionary of Ugandan English, which went on sale in bookshops across the east African country late last year, contains hundreds of popular Uglish terms, some coined by Ugandans as far back as the colonial period.
Sabiiti (32) said the informal patois was greatly influenced by the local Luganda language, and is a “symptom of a serious problem with our education system” that he claims has been deteriorating since the 1990s.
Uglish is largely dependent on sentences being literally translated, word for word, from local dialects with little regard for context, while vocabulary used is derived from standard English.
Meantime, Sabiiti says, influence from the Internet, local media and musicians have seen additional words and phrases created and slowly enter the lexicon.
The result is colourful but at times confounding expressions. If you haven’t seen someone for a while, for example, you’re “lost”, while if you “design well”, you are snappy dresser.
Today, Uglish is used by people from all walks of life, but particularly popular with youths.
English is the working language in Uganda, and it remains the only medium of instruction in schools and in official business.
But Sabiiti said everyone from the president to simple farmers speak at least some Uglish, which varies according to region, tribe and gender, and is regularly seen on signposts.
“MPs are almost notorious at using Uglish, you see it in parliamentary debates,” said Sabiiti.
Live-sex and side-dishes
But it wasn’t until 2011, a year after the term Uglish – pronounced “You-glish” – had been coined on social media, that Sabiiti began keeping newspaper cuttings, conducting interviews and searching online for material for his book.
“I knew that people talked a lot about this, and my friends used to laugh about it,” said the author, whose fulltime job with a think tank has taken him to different regions of Uganda, and exposed him to the different types of Uglish.
His book contains a brief history of Uglish, and a glossary of terms relating to education, telecommunications, society and lifestyle, food, transport, sex and relationships.
One phrase commonly used when discussing the latter is “live sex,” which means unprotected sex – a term thought to have derived from the live European football games Ugandans love to watch.
“When the ministry of health is doing campaigns to warn young people against unprotected sex, they use ‘live sex’, because everybody will understand it,” said Sabiiti.
On the same subject, if you’re a “side-dish”, you are someone’s mistress.
Sabiiti’s book has proven popular among the middle class, including academics, and with locals and foreigners alike. To date he’s sold about a thousand copies.
“I’ve had incredible feedback from professional linguists, ordinary readers – some even suggesting more phrases – so I’ll be doing another edition,” said Sabiiti.
“I don’t see it disappearing. I’m looking forward to seeing five years from now how many new words and phrases have joined the lexicon,” he said, adding some teachers, particularly in state schools, are passing Uglish on to their students.
But, as the author stresses in the final chapter of his book, there comes a point when Uglish stops being funny.
In 1997 Uganda introduced universal primary school education, which eliminated official school fees and made education accessible to millions more children.
But literacy rates remain low: more than a quarter of the population cannot read or write, according to the UN, and critics say standards remain low in many schools.
“Uglish is not something that should be encouraged, particularly for young, impressionable children. They really should learn what they call proper standard English.”