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Belarus’s quest for democracy has a female face | Belarus



The woman in a black dress with a piercing stare folds her arms in defiance. “Eva”, the painting by Franco-Belarusian artist Chaim Soutine, once proudly hung in the gallery of Belarus’s Belgazprombank until its head Viktar Babaryka announced his candidacy for president.

Shortly after, Babaryka was detained on trumped-up charges, thrown in jail and the bank’s artworks, Eva included, seized and removed from public view. Far from being forgotten, Eva’s captivity has become a powerful emblem for the women driving the popular uprising against President Alexander Lukashenko’s tyrannical reign.

Memes of Eva behind bars and being manhandled by riot police have spread across social media channels and the spirit of “Evalution” underlined the distinctly feminist flavour of the ongoing protests.

The emergence of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the main opposition candidate in the August 9 presidential election represented a new kind of challenge to the Lukashenko regime. A former teacher and a stay-at-home mother, she was pushed into the spotlight after her husband tried to run in the elections but was imprisoned. Eventually, Tikhanovskaya was joined by Maria Kolesnikova, the manager of Babyrka’s campaign, and Veronika Tsepkalo, wife of Valery Tsepkalo, another disqualified presidential candidate who was forced into exile. 

Thus, by banishing and imprisoning his male rivals, Lukashenko allowed for a much more powerful alliance to take shape. The image of three strong, independent and charismatic women galvanised the Belarusian public which came out en masse to vote on August 9. The official results were, without a doubt, falsified and although we do not know the real ballot count, it is most likely that Tikhanovskaya – a woman with no prior political experience – defeated Lukashenko.

Ever since he stole the election, the beleaguered strongman has never looked weaker, despite his aggressive posturing. On August 23, the presidential press team released footage of him clad in a bulletproof vest, carrying a rifle and being applauded by riot police. He said that the protesters had “run away like rats”, although in reality, 200,000 people had gathered in central Minsk that day to denounce him. 

The Belarusian authorities have stepped up their distinctly misogynistic crackdown. Female activists have been intimidated with threats of their children being taken away and put into orphanages. Female detainees have been harassed, threatened with, and in some cases, allegedly suffered rape.

The regime expected that this wave of terror would silence the masses, but instead, it acted as a catalyst for more demonstrations, mobilising even apolitical citizens who were so horrified by what they saw that they decided to take to the streets. Protesters have been singing, playing music, clapping, walking, biking, holding flowers and forming chains of solidarity in towns and cities across the country. The Evalution continues to be nonviolent, reflecting the protesters’ insistence that the rule of law, which the government has trampled all over, must be restored by the people.

Lukashenko has a long record of sexist remarks, most recently claiming that society is “not mature enough to vote for a woman”, and that a female leader would struggle to cope. Many Belarusian women would probably not identify themselves as feminists but they certainly reject the president’s primitive views on the place of women in society.

They do not want to remain subjugated by a system that is increasingly alien to them. They refuse to “stay at home and cook borscht”, as Lidia Yermoshina, head of the farcical Central Election Commission, infamously advised female political activists to do in 2011. They live in a globalised, increasingly connected world and have grander visions for their lives and personal freedom than what the regime wants them to have.

The fallout from the fraudulent election has also underscored how an analogue dictatorship struggles to contain a digital revolution. The arrival of new communication tools has severely undermined the patriarchal stranglehold on public life and the tech-savviness of the protesters has enabled them to skirt internet blackouts by organising on Telegram channels.

While the country is illegitimately governed by a Luddite, 80 percent of Belarusian women are active users of social media. During the electoral campaign, Tikhanovskaya, Kolesnkova and Tsepkalo relied heavily on social media platforms to organise meetings in different towns and cities, to raise visibility of their platform, to coordinate different social groups and to disclose evidence of electoral fraud.

The ongoing resistance has considerably undermined the patriarchal norms that prevented women from active participation in political life throughout Lukashenko’s rule

In a pre-election speech, Lukashenko spoke of his “beloved Belarus” and how he would not let his beloved go away. For millions of Belarusian women, it sounded less like a declaration of love and more like an abuser’s threat to his victim. Indeed, the Belarusian people have been held hostage by the man for 26 years but now, finally, they are standing up to their captor and demanding freedom.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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



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




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.

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




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”.

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