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Buhari has 99 problems, but Twitter is not one of them | Social Media



When on October 14, 2020, I saw Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s tweet “Donate via #Bitcoin to help #EndSARS”, I knew that he would eventually run into trouble with the Nigerian authorities. No government in the world would have offered him a pat on the back for inviting donations to a movement that shook the foundations of its power.

From the Nigerian government’s perspective, the tech giant founder had helped increase the country’s internal crisis by leveraging his huge global reach to appeal for funds for protesters, who were chanting not only “EndSARS” but also “Buhari must go” in the streets of Lagos. There are a million and one respectable ways for a government to react, but the current Nigerian government did not find one.

So when on June 2, Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari referring to the 1960s civil war in southeast Nigeria and threatening violence, the response from the Nigerian authorities was swift. On June 4, the information ministry announced that it was suspending the social media platform in the country.

Make no mistake: Buhari’s deleted tweet was the climax – not the trigger – of the Nigerian government’s anger with Twitter. Its real problem with the platform is its status as the most prominent tool for civic slating of Buhari’s underwhelming government. This reached a head during the #EndSARS protest, probably Nigeria’s most organic protest in its recent history.

Surely, that protest could not have happened without Twitter. It was the platform on which victims of police brutality shared their sufferings at the hands of the men in black from the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Having spent days in a police cell and in prison undercover myself, I knew the majority of these stories were true.

In early October 2020, news of SARS officers harassing Nigerian youth and in one case, killing a young man, trended on Twitter and caused outrage across the country. This triggered a continuous outpouring of similar experiences shared by victims, which inflamed public anger and pushed many to take to the streets to demand the disbanding of SARS.

The biggest open secret in Nigeria about the protest was that the government hired thugs to attack protesters and infiltrate and discredit their movement. It is on record that state agents invested a lot of effort in covering up the deaths and injuries from the October 20 military raid that brought the protest movement down.

Eight months after the end of the demonstrations, Twitter remains the only platform where these events are sporadically revisited, sometimes on the 20th day of the month but many times without any specific reason. Twitter remains a thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian government, the one lasting remembrance ground for the blood that was shed at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos on October 20, 2020.

Speaking shortly after Twitter removed Buhari’s tweet, Minister of Information Lai Mohammed accused the social media platform of “funding #EndSARS protesters”. He also criticised Twitter for its failure to delete incendiary tweets by Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who is calling for the creation of an independent state (Biafra) in southeast Nigeria.

But Mohammed ignored the fact that Buhari’s tweet was massively reported by the public. Furthermore, Kanu’s secession-inciting tweets are nothing compared with the weight of a president threatening citizens with the treatment dished out during a civil war remembered for the genocide suffered by people in Nigeria’s southeast.

Buhari’s government exists – supposedly – on the mandate of the people; Kanu exists because of the failures of the government. Therefore, the two parties cannot be charged with the same levels of responsibility to the public. That this government cannot see the divisiveness of Buhari’s tweet is quite disturbing.

As far as IPOB is concerned, it is a self-made problem. Twitter merely serves as the amplifier of growing grievances. Many of those who reported Buhari’s offensive tweet have no sympathy for IPOB, but they are worried about the government’s obsession with Kanu and his people at the expense of more glaring and devastating threats to Nigeria’s existence.

In 2017, the Buhari government had the army declare IPOB a “militant terrorist group” in violation of the country’s Terrorism Act, which stipulates that only a judge can make that declaration, before subsequently acting in accordance with the law. Four years later, it still has not mustered the courage to so declare militants from herder communities as terrorist groups, despite their designation in 2015 by the Global Terrorism Index as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world after Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Shabab.

Just a few days ago, militants killed at least 25 and razed houses, shops and a palace in a town in Nigeria’s southwest, but they are not yet terrorists because of Buhari’s apparent bias for herders, being one himself. Bandits are terrorising Nigeria’s North; since December, they have abducted close to a thousand people and their unofficial spokesman Sheikh Abubakar Gumi often burnishes their image in the media. Still, to the Nigerian government, killers and kidnappers are no terrorists.

Minister Mohammed’s claim that Twitter has become a platform for “activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” is implausible. The biggest threat to Nigeria is the lack of inspirational governance.

Nigerians are hungry. The naira continues to weaken. People’s purchasing power is decreasing. Unemployment is biting. Quality healthcare is lacking. Herdsmen, bandits and militants are killing people with impunity.

Solve these problems and watch Kanu disappear into obscurity. Nobody will listen to him if they have food on their table. Nobody will join the June 12 demonstrations, which some activist groups are calling for to protest the Twitter ban, if they were healthy and gainfully employed. June 12 is a significant day in Nigeria’s history because it was the date of Nigeria’s freest and fairest election, held in 1993. The result was annulled by the then dictatorial regime of Ibrahim Babangida.

Good governance is the ultimate secret to securing Nigeria’s corporate existence. Twitter, which Buhari used in 2015 to call on Nigerians to condemn the failure of the Jonathan government, cannot suddenly be the problem in 2021. It should not be taken away from the people currently using it to criticise his failings – unless, of course, he is saying we can count the remaining two years of his tenure an accelerated waste.

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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Nic Dlamini is set to be first black South African at Tour de France




South African cyclist Nic Dlamini
Nic Dlamini is set to become the first black South African to ride the Tour de France

Nic Dlamini will make history at this year’s Tour de France by being the first black South African to compete in cycling’s most famous race.

The 25-year-old will be one of the eight riders for Africa’s only top-flight professional cycling team Qhubeka-Assos at the Tour, which runs from 26 June until 18 July.

He will be the only African on the team that will be jointly led by Australia’s Simon Clarke and Austrian Michael Gogl as well as including the Italian 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru.

“Being selected to ride in my first Tour de France is an absolute dream come true for me,” Dlimani said.external-link

“It’s always been an childhood dream and now that I’m about to live it makes it feel surreal.

“I think it speaks to what the team is about, the Ubuntu spirit [I am because we are], and how we change people’s lives because it is honestly a very special moment: to come from a small township and then to go to the Tour de France.”

He becomes the latest rider to progress from the South African-registered team’s development squad and onto the UCI WorldTour.

Humble beginnings

South African cyclist Nic Dlamini

The 25-year-old, who grew up in an informal settlement in Cape Town, first caught the eye as a runner before moving into cycling where his talents saw him move to the UCI’s World Cycling Centre Africa in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

“Considering where I come from it would simply have been impossible for me to have the opportunity to ride at the Tour de France if it wasn’t for Team Qhubeka-Assos,” he explained.

“The platform that they’ve provided me, and other riders from Africa, to compete at the highest level in cycling has been critical.

“I really hope that this will serve as a reference of hope and inspiration to many young South Africans, and people around the world, who have been working really hard to reach their dreams. My hope is that they take from this that anything is possible.

“I want to race the Tour to inspire more kids on Qhubeka bikes to follow in my footsteps and to experience the world like I have, for more kids in communities to put their hands up for bikes to work hard like I did, to dream big.”

According to the team “Dlamini’s style of racing will likely see his talents deployed in the offensive strategy the team will look to pursue during the race, while also playing a key supporting role in the flatter stages.”

The team is completed by Belgium’s Victor Campenaerts, Max Walscheid of Germany, debutant Sean Bennett of the USA and Colombian Sergio Henao.

Qhubeka-Assos’ team principal Douglas Ryder also hopes that Dlamini’s inclusion is a special moment.

“For Nic, what a moment though; his story is simply an incredible one and for him to have earned this opportunity shows that dreams really do come true, and for the team to have provided that opportunity makes me incredibly proud,” he said.

“He’s always been an individual that has stepped up and taken the opportunities that he’s fought for; and he does so again as he lines up at the startline in Brest on the sport’s biggest stage in front of the world.

“This will culminate in an incredible moment for him, South Africa and especially for our team.

“His selection speaks to everything about what we’ve created and built with this team through providing hope, an opportunity and then ultimately the platform to be on the biggest stage of all, the Tour de France.”

The only African rider to have worn the Tour de France leader’s famous ‘yellow jersey’ is Dlamini’s compatriot Darryl Impey, who wore it for two stages in 2013.

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In COVID hit Asia, mixed messages on refugee vaccinations | Coronavirus pandemic News




Medan, Indonesia – Earlier this month, dozens of Rohingya refugees landed on a deserted island off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh Province.

The refugees had been at sea for more than 100 days, having left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in a rickety wooden fishing boat, and were spotted huddling on uninhabited Idaman Island by local fishermen who used the island as a rest stop between fishing trips.

By June 5, just a day after their arrival, all 81 refugees, including children, had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The refugees were vaccinated in conjunction with the local government,” Nasruddin, the humanitarian coordinator of Geutanyoe Foundation, an NGO which provides education and psychosocial support to refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia, told Al Jazeera.

“When we found them, they were in a crisis situation on the island with no food, water or electricity, so local residents brought them food and we also brought them 50 tanks of water,” he added. “The feeling on the ground was that we needed to share our vaccines with the refugees in order to protect them as well. No one complained that the vaccines were being given to refugees.”

Aceh Province has been widely praised by humanitarian groups, NGOs and the general public for vaccinating Rohingya refugees, but elsewhere in Southeast Asia, asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers have not been so lucky.

Hard line

When Nasruddin assessed the 81 refugees on Idaman Island, they told him that they had wanted to go to Malaysia. Some had family members who were already living there, while others were under the impression that the country had a more liberal policy towards refugees than its neighbours.

Some of the Rohingya refugees who arrived in Aceh earlier this month. They told NGOs that they had wanted to go to Malaysia because they had family there or thought it would be more welcoming to refugees than other countries in Southeast Asia [Cek Mad/AFP]

But like most countries in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention and while the government has said it will vaccinate everyone living in the country, it has also taken a hard line on undocumented migrants and refugees, including Rohingya.

“In February, the cabinet decided that in the interest of pandemic recovery all foreigners would receive vaccination free of charge, including refugees and undocumented migrants,” Lilianne Fan, the co-founder and international director of Geutanyoe Foundation who is based in Kuala Lumpur, told Al Jazeera.

“The COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force and Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as coordinator of the vaccination programme, have been vocal advocates of this approach.

“However, the recent statement of the minister of home affairs that those without valid documents should not be vaccinated, combined with renewed crackdown on undocumented migrants, contradicts the government’s earlier position and will simply drive more people into hiding and slow down Malaysia’s pandemic recovery.”

Malaysia went into its second strict lockdown at the beginning of June after cases of coronavirus surged – stretching hospitals and intensive care units to the limit. The health ministry announced 6,440 new cases on Friday.

The government has indicated that it will ease the lockdown as more people are vaccinated, and Khairy has consistently stressed that the programme will include everyone living in the country.

But as it did during last year’s first lockdown, Malaysia has once again stepped up operations against undocumented migrants.

Malaysia’s Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has declared that PATI – the acronym for undocumented people in the Malay language – will be detained and sent to immigration detention centres.

This month, he stressed that undocumented migrants had to “surrender” before they would be vaccinated.

In early June, a video from state news agency Bernama showed 156 undocumented migrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar being sprayed with disinfectant in Cyberjaya, near Malaysia’s international airport, after they had been detained.

Last week the immigration department shared a post on its Facebook page – styled like a poster for an action movie – with the headline “Ethnic Rohingya migrants are not welcome”. After an outcry, but not before it had been widely shared among refugee communities, it was deleted.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia on Monday expressed concern at “recent statements portraying migrants, undocumented or irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as a threat to the safety and security of the country and a risk to the health of Malaysians” and urged the government to rethink its approach.

“Instilling fear through threats of arrests and detention of undocumented foreigners is counterproductive in light of ongoing efforts to overcome the pandemic and achieve herd immunity,” it said, stressing the clear differences in the situations of migrant workers, and refugees and asylum seekers.

Malaysia closed its borders during the first strict lockdown last year when immigration officers carried out a number of raids on areas under ‘enhanced’ lockdown. Rights groups fear more raids will deter people from coming forward for the vaccine that is crucial to Malaysia ending the COVID pandemic [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Rohingya made up about 57 percent of the 179,570 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia at the end of May.

Unofficial estimates suggest the country may have as many as three million undocumented migrants, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Widespread problem

The mixed messaging on vaccinations for refugees is not exclusive to Malaysia.

In a statement released in early June, the UN refugee agency warned that a shortage of vaccines in the Asia Pacific region was putting the lives of refugees and asylum seekers at risk.

“Refugees remain especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Overcrowded settings, coupled with limited water and sanitation facilities, can contribute to increased infection rates and an exponential spread of the virus,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said in the statement.

There are almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, making it the single largest and most densely populated cluster of refugee camps in the world. According to Mahecic, the number of COVID-19 cases in the camps has increased dramatically in the last two months.

As of 31 May, there had been more than 1,188 confirmed cases among the refugee population, with more than half of these cases recorded in May alone.

None of the refugees in Cox’s Bazar has yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Mahecic added that, in many countries in the Asia Pacific region, there were not enough vaccines to go around, leading to groups such as migrant workers and asylum seekers being sidelined.

The UNHCR had observed a “worrying increase” in the number of coronavirus cases among refugees and asylum seekers in countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.

Indonesia, at least, appears to be starting to do more to address the problem.

The UNHCR says COVID-19 has begun to accelerate in the crowded refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, but no Rohingya living there have been vaccinated [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Other parts of the country have started to follow Aceh’s lead, according to the IOM, which vaccinated more than 900 refugees in the Indonesian city of Pekanbaru in Riau Province in early June in collaboration with the local government.

“IOM applauds the response of the City Government of Pekanbaru for making vaccines available to the refugee community in the city,” Ariani Hasanah Soejoeti, the national media and communications officer of IOM Indonesia told Al Jazeera, adding that all refugees in the city over the age of 18 have now received vaccines.

“Vaccines are one of our most critical and cost-effective tools to prevent outbreaks and keep individuals and therefore entire communities safe and healthy,” she said.

“The virus knows no borders or nationality; and neither should our solidarity.”

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Why Ethiopia’s 'alphabet generation' feel betrayed by Abiy




PM Abiy Ahmed swept to power after mass protests, but his Oromo community still feel like outsiders.

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