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The mothers on the front line of Colombia’s mass protests | Protests News



Bogota, Colombia – The “madres” arrive before evening falls.

Wearing construction helmets and bandanas over their faces, and clutching makeshift plywood shields, they join a boisterous crowd of protesters at Portal de Las Americas, a bus station in southwest Bogota and one of the epicentres of Colombia’s ongoing national strike.

The women, who have dubbed themselves Madres de Primera Linea (Mothers on the Front Line), are here to put their own bodies between police and protesters – and prevent escalations of violence.

“We came together as neighbours and friends because we saw how hard they (anti-riot police) were fighting against our young people, including underage kids,” Alias La Flaca, a 23-year-old mother of two and member of the group who did not want her real name used for fear of retribution, told Al Jazeera.

“We are all single mothers, heads of our households: If we don’t stand up for them, who is going to do it?”

During the afternoon, Portal de las Americas is relatively calm as protesters engage in performances and sit-ins [Julia Zulver/Al Jazeera]

Protest movement

Nationwide strikes since April 28 have paralysed Colombia, with demonstrators originally taking to the streets against a proposed tax reform.

While the tax plan was later withdrawn by the government, protesters are now demanding health, educational, and police reforms. The protests have shown no sign of stopping, and police and armed forces continue to respond with lethal violence.

The group of 10 mothers, friends from a nearby neighbourhood in south Bogota, stepped forward in mid-May to protect protesters expressing their discontent in the face of the ESMAD, Colombia’s anti-riot police.

The women are not biologically related to the young people on the front line. Rather, they see themselves in a symbolic role: “We all feel like we are family,” said La Flaca, who recently lost her job due to layoffs in the context of the national strike.

Every day, the mothers go to Portal de Las Americas, which protesters have renamed Portal de la Resistencia (“Resistance Portal”) and where they have established what they call a humanitarian zone.

In the early afternoon, the space has a festive feeling; protesters set up games and activities for children, engage in performances, and cook huge pots of soup.

“We are part of the first line of defence,” said La Flaca, her face covered with a white bandana and dark glasses to protect her identity. “We never attack; we wait until they attack us. We stand with the protesters to make sure that nothing happens to them, that they don’t take them away and disappear them.”

Police violence

Rights groups and the United Nations have raised concerns about the use of force to quell the continuing protests across Colombia.

Many have already been killed in the unrest. Human rights organisation Temblores said at least 43 people have been killed to date, and it has registered 2,905 total cases of police violence.

In an interview with The New York Times, Colombian President Ivan Duque said he did not consider police violence to be a “systemic” issue, although he did admit abuses of force by some officers. Duque also said he did not see the need for “significant” police reforms in Colombia.

Johana, a 36-year-old member of the Madres de Primera Linea who gave only her first name, said she has been tear-gassed during the protests. “The burning sensation of gas in your eyes, it’s unbearable,” she said. “The gas makes you feel like you’re drowning.”

The mothers have very few resources and rely on donations to keep themselves safe. Their shields, helmets and goggles were donated by a feminist human rights group and they have also received water, vinegar, and bicarbonate to offset the impact of the tear gas.

Rights groups and the United Nations have raised concerns about the use of force to quell the continuing protests across Colombia [Kiran Stallone/Al Jazeera]

Young protesters like Alias El Pantera said that they appreciate the presence of the mothers during confrontations with the police. “Every night at around 8pm, they attack us, and the mamitas are always with us,” said the 17-year-old, who told Al Jazeera that he dropped out of school because the fees were too high.

He has been at the forefront of the protests every day since they began, alongside other protesters and the mothers. “We protect the mothers and they protect us. We are all united here,” El Pantera said.

Political motherhood

By putting themselves at the forefront of the strikes, the Madres de Primera Linea have joined a tradition of Latin American women in social movements challenging the image of the passive mother.

The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, for instance, is another group of mothers that stood up to state repression.

Leaders of the Argentine military government, which was in power from 1976 to 1983, associated motherhood with political passivity and as a result, the women were able to successfully protest for information about their disappeared children for many weeks before the state cracked down on them. Decades later, the mothers are still marching for the return of their children.

Back in Bogota, Natalia Torres, a 26-year-old human rights activist stationed in Portal de las Americas who has observed the mothers at the protests, said their activism is part of a bigger “dispute about what it means to be a mother [in Colombia]”.

“In addition to giving birth and sustaining life from the kitchen and through love and affection”, Torres said the women protect life by actively standing on the front line with young protesters – their symbolic children.

Johana agreed. “We come out in defence of life,” she said. “We have always said that even if there is a policeman who is defenceless, we will put up our shields to protect him.”

Nationwide strikes since April 28 have paralysed Colombia, with demonstrators originally taking to the streets over a proposed tax reform [Kiran Stallone/Al Jazeera]

‘We know the risks’

In addition to the physical violence the mothers face on the front lines, they are running into additional security concerns at home.

La Flaca was concerned about keeping her identity anonymous when speaking to Al Jazeera, saying she had received a threatening phone call around 3am the night before.

“They said they knew where I lived, they knew my name, they knew that I had two children. They said that if at any point they saw me here in the Portal, there would be consequences. We registered the number, but we don’t know who it belongs to,” she said.

Despite these risks, neither La Flaca nor Johana said they planned to stop supporting the protests any time soon.

“We know the risks we face,” Johana said. “When we hug our children, we don’t know if it’s the last hug we’re going to give them. But if changing this country is going to cost me my life, I will happily give it up for them.”

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India eases COVID rules as new cases dip to two-month low | Coronavirus pandemic News




Many states, including capital New Delhi, ease restrictions as new infections drop to the lowest since March 31.

Many Indian states have eased coronavirus restrictions, including the capital New Delhi, where authorities allowed all shops and shopping centres to open, as the number of new infections dropped to the lowest in more than two months.

Experts have cautioned against a full reopening as India has vaccinated only about 5 percent of its estimated 950 million adults with the necessary two doses, leaving millions vulnerable.

Infections peaked in India in May with about 400,000 new cases a day but that dropped to 70,421 new infections reported on Monday, the lowest daily increase since March 31, health ministry data showed.

The number of deaths went up by 3,921, the data showed.

India has had the second-highest tally of COVID-19 infections in the world after the United States, with 29.51 million cases and 374,305 deaths, according to ministry data.

Authorities in Delhi allowed all shops and shopping centres to reopen although bars, gyms, salons, cinemas and parks remained shut.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said markets and restaurants would be carefully watched this week.

“If we see coronavirus cases are going up, we will have to reimpose strict restrictions,” Kejriwal said in a televised address on Sunday.

Hospitals in Delhi had struggled to provide oxygen cylinders and beds to patients last month as infections surged but, earlier this month, the city allowed businesses to bring back 50 percent of employees and partially resumed public transport.

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, known for automobile manufacturing, some businesses were allowed to bring back 50 percent of employees and salons and liquor shops re-opened. Bus services remained suspended until June 21.

In Bengaluru, the capital of neighbouring Karnataka state and a major tech hub, traffic returned to the streets as authorities allowed the partial re-opening of businesses though the strict night and weekend curfews remained in place.

The pressure to resume some economic activity has grown as millions depend on daily wages to pay for food and rent.

“India needs to reopen as the challenge of maintaining a fine balance between lives and livelihoods is very crucial,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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Eddie Mutwe, Nubian Li Released on Bail




The General Court Martial in Makindye has on Monday released on bail the remaining members of the National Unity Platform who have been on remand since December last year.

The released include Bobi Wine bodyguard Eddie Mutwe,Singer Nubian Li and Producer Dan Magic.

The released are facing charges related to possession of fire arms.

The group had made several attempts at bail but kept getting stonewalled by government prosecution, on different grounds.

In the last court sitting in which teh army court released 17 of the 35 NUP supporters, Chairman Gen Court Martial sent back Eddie Mutwe and his group on remand, on grounds that prosecution was still examining their affidavits.

The group was arrested on December 30th 2020 in Kalangala district, while on the campaign trail with their candidate Robert Kyagulanyi.

“All our comrades who were arrested last year from Kalangala have been released on bail. These have spent six months while under detention for no crime whatsoever. Thanks to our legal team and everyone who has worked tirelessly to ensure these comrades regain their freedom,” NUP said in a statement.

This story is being updated

The post Eddie Mutwe, Nubian Li Released on Bail first appeared on ChimpReports.

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Kanungu DHO Dr Sebudde Dies of Covid19




Dr Stephen Ssebudde the Kanungu District Health Officer has succumbed to COVID-19.

Dr Ssebudde passed away on Sunday evening at Entebbe hospital where he has been receiving treatment for Covid19 after he started feeling unwell early this week.

News of his death was confirmed by a family who told this reporter that Ssebudde died at around 6Pm after three days of admission in Entebbe Hospital.

“Kanungu District Health Officer Dr Ssebudde died at around 6pm today after 3 days of admission in Entebbe Hospital. As per family, RIP” message from a family member reads.

Hajji Shaffiq Ssekandi the Kanungu Resident District Commissioner who also heads the District COVID-19 taskforce described Ssebudde’s death as a big blow to the district health department since he has been working selflessly to ensure that all people in the community are equally served when it comes to health.

His death comes at a time when the country has already registered cumulative confirmed covid19 cases of 61,977 representing a test positivity rate of 18.7%.

The country has 884 Active cases on admission, 48,160 Cumulative recoveries, and 428 total deaths.

According to Ministerial statistics, 777,895 Persons have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The post Kanungu DHO Dr Sebudde Dies of Covid19 first appeared on ChimpReports.

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