Mali militants block schooling for 2,000 children

A picture take on October 30, 2018 shows Burkinabe gendarmes sitting on their vehicle in the city of Ouhigouya in the north of the country. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2018
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Mali militants block schooling for 2,000 children

  • Mali is struggling with a militant insurgency that began with an uprising by Tuareg separatists in the north of the country in 2012

BAMAKO: Nearly 2,000 children in Mali have stopped going to school after suspected Islamists warned they would only allow religious education, teachers and local officials said Tuesday.
“Armed jihadists arrived in our village last week by motorcycle,” said a teacher in the village of Toubakoro, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.
“They told everyone to gather in a mosque. They told us to close all schools where French is taught, and to teach only the Qur’an instead,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They threatened to punish anyone who broke the new rule.”
Mali is struggling with a militant insurgency that began with an uprising by Tuareg separatists in the north of the country in 2012.
The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
But large stretches of Mali remain out of the control of Malian, French and UN forces, which are frequent targets of attacks.
Violence began to spread out of the north three years ago, reviving tensions among ethnic groups in the center of the country.
Concurring sources said the group behind the threats at Toubakaro claims affiliation to a radical preacher from the Fulani ethnic group named Amadou Koufa.
The men made similar threats last week in the nearby villages of Dandougou, Balala and Ngounado, they said.
“More than 20 schools have been closed in five locations — almost 2,000 children are not going to school at the moment,” said local official Aboubacar Ndiaye, who said he had fled to Bamako “as a precaution.”
In his latest quarterly report on Mali, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that 1,108 schools had had to close “at least once” — defined as a closure of at least 20 days in one stretch — during the 2017-18 school year. Closures affected a total of 332,400 children.
Security Minister Salif Traore said on Tuesday that a “wide-scale” military operation to tackle threats against schools had begun on Saturday, and “suspects” had been arrested.


Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

Updated 11 min 7 sec ago
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Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

  • Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition
  • A series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections alleged that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade

MANILA: Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed shock and outrage on Friday at police moves to charge dozens of them with sedition, calling it persecution aimed at stamping out scrutiny of his increasingly powerful rule.
Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition for orchestrating a series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections. The videos feature a hooded man alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade, which they deny.
The man, who had said he was a witness, later surrendered and appeared with police on television to say his claims were false and that he was cajoled into making the videos by opposition members. They included the vice president, lawyers, Catholic priests, a former attorney general, and incumbent and former lawmakers, the man said.
The justice department is looking into the complaint, which is the latest move against Duterte’s detractors who say the aim is to create a power monopoly for a president who already enjoys a legislative super-majority and a public approval rating of about 80 percent.
Duterte insists he is open to challenges but has shown no qualms about threatening high-profile critics, several of whom he said last month he would jail if they tried to impeach him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had no involvement in the police sedition complaint.
“We have nothing to do with this case, not at all, absolutely nothing,” he told news channel ANC. “Let the judicial process do its work.”
Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and Duterte’s strongest critic, described the complaint as “political persecution and harassment” intended to stifle democratic dissent.
A spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and was elected separately, called the complaint “completely baseless.” Her party ally Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was part of a series of moves toward removing her from office.
Leila de Lima, an anti-Duterte senator detained on drugs charges, said it was “hogwash, pure hogwash,” and Samira Gutoc, a candidate in recent Senate elections, urged the police not to become partisan.
“I really am baffled,” Gutoc said of being accused of involvement.