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‘Don’t come back, they’ll kill you for being gay’

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Young men embracing

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For years Mohamed’s family tried to make him more like other boys – tougher, more “masculine”. They even sent him to have a female spirit driven out with hallucinogenic drugs. Eventually, writes Layla Mahmood, they decided to kill him.

The heat enveloped 20-year-old Mohamed, as he zig-zagged through the alleyways of Hargeisa. It was around noon, during the summer of 2019. The city was asleep for the daily siesta – shops, restaurants and offices were all closed – so it was a perfect time for anyone who needed to move around under the radar. Mohamed was secretly visiting his boyfriend, Ahmed, an act punishable by imprisonment and sometimes death in Somaliland.

Hargeisa is the capital of the self-declared state of Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia nearly 30 years ago. The courts enforce Islamic law, Sharia, which deems homosexuality illegal, so LGBT+ Somalis must conceal their sexuality. They live in fear of being exposed. For Mohamed, who says he is quite feminine, it was harder to pass as straight than for some others.

Mohamed and Ahmed began their usual romantic encounter behind closed doors, when, to their surprise, Ahmed’s sister unexpectedly entered the room. She began yelling, waking up the whole house. Within minutes Mohamed was out of the door and hiding at a friend’s home, where he received a chilling phone call from a well-wisher: “Don’t come back home, they are preparing to kill you.”

“The first time I realised there was something confusing about my sexuality, the desire, the genders that I like and don’t like was when I was four or five years old,” Mohamed says.

When he was young he shared a room with his older brothers and male cousins. They would discuss girls at night during pillow talk, and then pointedly ask him, “So what’s your favourite part of a girl’s body?”

“It was then that I knew I was different,” he says.

Mohamed gravitated towards makeup and beauty, preferring to spend time with his sisters rather than his brothers. He would often try on their dresses, and after being caught for the third time, his mother felt that she had to do something.

His oldest brother was instructed to teach him certain passages of the Koran and its companion scripture, made up of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, the Hadith. Every night Mohamed would be forced to recite: “God punishes men who make themselves look like women. And also women who make themselves look like men.”

“He told me that I am making God angry. He’s cursing you. He’s planning for you to go to hell in the afterlife,” Mohamed says.

“I was 10 years old, I couldn’t take it. I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat screaming: ‘Oh help me! Help me from God, he’s burning me in hell!'”

For a while Mohamed attempted to satisfy his family’s wish to behave more like other boys.

“But at the end of the day, I cannot stop something that I like,” Mohamed says. “And I was young. When people are young they forget things quickly.”

Finally, when Mohamed was 12, his mother sent him to a “rehabilitation centre”.

Institutions designed to reform children, teenagers and young adults who are judged to have strayed from Somali values are scattered throughout Hargeisa, and the rest of Somaliland and Somalia. People are often held in them against their will in harsh and abusive conditions. According to Mohamed, in many cases they are run by scammers,who distort Islamic scripture for financial gain.

Mohamed’s family believed that his effeminate behaviour was a result of being possessed by a female jinn, or evil spirit, so the staff claimed they would drive it out. They called themselves “life savers”, arguing that they were saving their patients from hell.

“I think it’s the worst place that ever existed,” Mohamed says.

Mohamed was schooled every day on how to behave like a traditional man. They taught him how to walk and talk, and forced him to play football with the other patients – something he would always avoid if he could.

This was accompanied by daily readings of Islamic texts.

On the fourth day, the “life savers” started sexually abusing Mohamed.

“They used to rape me at midnight, and sometimes came in groups,” Mohamed remembers.

Rape was common in the centre, and was committed both by patients and by staff, he says.

Everyone was crammed together in a large hall with sleeping bags, with ages ranging from 10 to 30. There was no protection. The staff preached one thing during the day and did the complete opposite at night.

“They are doing these things because they know that we will never tell anyone,” he says.

To drive out the jinn, patients were sometimes given a herbal drug called harmala. Similar to ayahuasca, it induces hallucinations and vomiting with the promise of spiritual enlightenment and cleansing. But it has been reported that the quantities given in rehabilitation centres often far exceed safe doses, making them lethal – particularly for children.

“The only thing that I remember is that I was flying in some place that is full of stars… I don’t know what happened during those days. I don’t know if I got raped. I just don’t know anything,” Mohamed says.

The last time he was given harmala, he came round in hospital. He says he has had stomach pains ever since.

After being released from the centre, Mohamed learned to hide his sexual orientation for most of his teenage years. But that changed when he met Ahmed on a secret online chat group for gay Somalis. They found solace with each other behind closed doors.

After Mohamed fled from Ahmed’s house and learned that his family was preparing to kill him, he made urgent plans to flee.

Most countries will not grant Somalis visas unless they fulfil a set of almost impossible standards, for example having tens of thousands of dollars in a bank account. For those who live in Somaliland it is even more difficult, as only Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and South Africa recognise it as an independent state.

There is little option but to spend thousands of dollars on the black market buying counterfeit passports, fake yellow fever vaccination certificates and often visas too.

This was how Mohamed escaped. A helper obtained the necessary documents within a couple of days, giving him instructions to meet a fixer in front of Hargeisa airport. He collected them on the day of departure – three days after Ahmed’s sister had burst in and raised the alarm – and then he was off. It was his first time flying in a plane. “It was surreal. I couldn’t stop looking out the window,” he remembers.

His destination was Malaysia, because tourist visas are free on arrival.

But life as a Somali asylum seeker in Malaysia is tough – and there too homosexuality is illegal.

While most asylum seekers live in limbo for years before being recognised as a refugee, Mohamed’s case was fast-tracked and he has been accepted for resettlement. It could be another year before this happens, though. In the meantime, Mohamed’s financial situation is insecure; as Malaysia is not a signatory of the Geneva Convention he does not have the right to support himself by working.

There is also the worry that his family might find him, force him to return to Hargeisa, and murder him. He cannot fully trust other Somali refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, in case they give him away.

“There is a hope in me that someday I can go somewhere else – maybe Europe, maybe America,” Mohamed says.

“Until then, I try to keep a low profile, and pray my family does not find me.”

What happened to Ahmed, he doesn’t know. All his attempts to make contact have failed.

All names have been changed

Illustrations by Sarah Elsa Pinon

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Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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