Africa’s history changed in the wake of the European and Arabic invasion of the continent, where the strategic preference that the Europeans, for example, placed on males became the foundation for the installation of a patriarchal social system and corresponding male-centered political pyramids. Perhaps, because of the nature of the relationship that various African civilizations and nations kept with these different invaders, there was minimal resistance to the political structure in some places. Also, the culture that they were confronted with in the hand of their unceremonious visitors ineluctably forced them to adopt a system that would eventually polarize their gender unity. This appears to be one of the reasons why African women may have been slow to meet up with their contemporaries in other parts of the world in terms of their contributions to society. With the termination of the colonial structures, however, came the motivations and aspirations of women to reclaim their political positions in society so that they would be once again respected in the social hierarchy. To be candid, this is an inevitable condition because women are important in different socioeconomic positions hitherto assigned to males and because they are redefining democracy, gender, and politics in a global context.
During the recently concluded Toyin Falola Interviews, Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor responded to the question Ms. Ireti Bakare Yusuf asked about how she felt about the topic of engagement, “Women Speak,” by reminding the audience that women have been speaking across time and ages, generations and epochs because they have something important to contribute to the society and would be uncomfortable to remain silent on critical issues. But then, she ends with a rather incisive question: “women have been speaking; is anyone listening?”, meaning that even when women speak, is society genuinely ready to listen to them? From a very keen observation of her tone, the remark revalidates the earlier position that colonization and invasion had affected the politics of Africa in some ways. The idea that women’s voices in topics that directly impact them, particularly politics, are not heard should be enough reason for re-engagement. Ms. Ayisha Osori would also be very practical in her response to the same question. To her, women have constantly become a central focus for social and political discussion, which invariably compels them to speak so that they would appropriately offer their perspective, as opposed to the biased ones. The women panelists seemed to have no contention about this as the third speaker, Ms. Nseabasi Ufot, concurred with the opinions of the previous speakers on this question.
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However, the gravity of this intellectual enterprise is to understand the context of Nigerian and global politics and how it restricts women’s participation and contributions. Women’s voices, which would have been in their highest decibel given the appropriate conditions, have not been considered central in the Nigerian political engagements, particularly from the Fourth Republic. Ms. Osori stresses that the marginal positions appropriated for women in Nigerian politics within the highlighted timeframe do not reflect women’s deficiency in or apathy to political participation. Instead, it reflects an extremely patriarchal system that makes it difficult for them to be represented. This will, however, come with its devastating effects on the general development of the people. Ms. Osori explains that exclusionary politics has been the foundation of women’s challenges in participating equitably in the country’s political landscape. To be fair, while women have been hard hit by this political atmosphere, everyone who does not belong to the status quo has also been exposed to the damaging results of such practice. Primary in the destructive downsides of this exclusive politics is that policy development continues to suffer from bias because women’s voices are not well-represented there.
Without necessarily taking the current topic of engagement outside the purview of the panelists, the moderator again asked Ms. Ufot where she thinks Nigeria is in the comity of nations, with relation to how they engage women in their political and democratic experience. The justification for this question finds strength in the understanding that women are expected to fight back through different means to be appropriately included in the country’s political process. She certainly understands the complexity of the question by her informed responses and established that movements have been formed to mobilize public support for women’s collective struggles.
If people are not made aware of the immeasurable disadvantage it is to them to be excluded from the political decisions of their environment, it would be difficult to make them see why resistance is a profitable progressive measure. Therefore, women have taken to online and offline mobilization and information platforms to educate the people about the activities of their political actors and how exclusionary politics impedes their general progress and development. Among the useful online platforms are the social media outlets used in most cases to educate, encourage, and enjoin citizens to give necessary moral and spiritual support for women’s emancipation movement.
For Nseabasi Ufot, communication through digital information and media awareness is one of the key strategies for changing the political culture to advance women’s interests in society and in political institutions. To the government officials, as important as these information sharing platforms are to the reformation of our general political system, they could be misused at will. On several occasions, there have been reasons for doctoring information to be circulated to the people, which instantly mislead and misdirect them. Therefore, information poisoning is one of the drawbacks of what we have in contemporary times, especially concerning the question asked. If these happen in the global context, the possibility of having women even on the international scene is slim. Enabling the free dissemination of information between and among groups ensures that they are educated on the current conditions that hamper their freedoms, and are sensitized towards how and what to do to remedy the situation. Where there is no freedom of the press, for instance, the psychological effect is that some people, especially women, would be disinterested in politics, which would further jeopardize their interest as a group.
Ms. Ufot was pragmatic enough to respond to the question that although the government continues to show its aversion to protests and public resistance, the people are not throwing in the towel in their fight against injustices and pervasive repression of their voices. To ensure that they have a voice, they have engaged different social media platforms to amplify their interests in the country and how they want it to be run. They achieve this by intelligently analyzing their situations and then draw to themselves a growing audience that also takes their messages with keen interest.
Dr. Nwankwor comes in with a compelling and stimulating insight into this issue. She responds that civic responsibility begins with awareness. Being aware of one’s political system and what can be done to advance it to an envious point helps to channel one’s energy in the right direction. Of course, all these can be sustained in a world where the democratic culture is itself advanced. When democracy is not properly formed, it becomes an agent of imposition and repression where the institutions in the polity work for the benefits of the bureaucratic powers.
Still, Dr. Nwankwor sees some promising future in Nigerian politics, noting that the process of transformation involves endurance and persistence. She remained steadfast in her conviction that in the wake of Nigerian democratic engagement, which began in 1999 with the Fourth Republic, the fact that citizens are challenging the country’s power structure through their engagement on various social media platforms indicates that the country is evolving, although at a very slow pace compared to the expectations of the people. Through available social media platforms, citizens now have increased confidence in challenging the government to the extent of organizing a series of protests primarily through social media mobilization. In this particular trend, women feature prominently and have successfully deployed these tools for achieving their goals.
Naturally, one would expect that a follow-up question to this is to ask about the attitude of the Nigerian government towards alternative perspectives, knowing that leaders in the country have continuously found extreme difficulty in transforming from their totalitarian values to a democratic culture. It is never out of context to ask this question, knowing that citizens have faced state antagonism whenever they develop plans to challenge the government through protest, which is a democratically accepted means of engaging the government in contemporary times. However, the Nigerian government has always reacted with lethal force whenever there is a nationwide demonstration, because they are well aware of the potential damage that protests might do to their reputation and image, and more importantly, in order to protect their ill-gotten privileges and to maintain the status quo.
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For Ms. Osori, she stressed the points already strengthened by the previous panelists who had responded to the same question. Among other things, she emphasized that inclusive politics in Nigeria is under serious prognosis, but this does not mean it is all generally negative, as different narratives have suggested. By the understanding that the women demographic is now being engaged, they have shown through determination that they would always make their voices count, regardless of the circumstances that continue to repress their voices. Without creating an atmosphere for women, it would be difficult for a country to build a civilization worthy of being transferred from one generation to another. She, however, included that it would be misleading if one does not put into context the circumstances that has similarly emboldened the young generation to engage the older generations in power, to ask for their right, as in the recent #EndSars protests in November 2020 in Nigeria.
Many of the #EndSars activists however seemed insufficiently aware of previous activists’ efforts and of state responses of civil repression that have psychologically limited potential protestors or activists from considering confronting the state. Nevertheless, according to Ms. Osori, we must not be distracted from the truth that Nigeria has not actually built a viable and veritable democracy that can be benchmarked for the level of development that the forthright ones can picture.
This pathetic political situation is aggravated by the apparent lack of creativity in building systems and institutions that can help transform the society or people. To take for granted the fact that institutions are the foundations for enhancing an accountable government that is not founded on patronage is to pay inadequate attention to the issue of democratic importance. This, in itself, incubates an insinuation that the government is not necessarily developed by strategies and philosophies but by some unforeseen luck. Without overstating it, this would eradicate the thinking that a country needs appropriate systems to help in its transformation and meteoric improvement. This thought manifests in Nigeria’s institutions, for example in the electoral system where there is no evidence of improvement from what happens in the modern time and the events of the 1960s. This aversion to creativity has affected the polity negatively in that it ordinarily rejects the possibility of attracting the necessary minds who would help improve the system. Elections are conducted with similar experiences as they had in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with ballot snatching, massive electoral fraud, and the use of thugs and violence, among others, for election purposes.
Meanwhile, the beauty of any intellectual engagement is that people of different professional or career paths can view things from perspectives that align with their academic or professional background. In this case, opinions are meant to differ, and as such, it would help to stimulate a very interesting conversation and engagement. For this reason, the moderator wanted to seek the opinion of Dr. Nwankwor about the position held by the two panelists. Surprisingly, she gave a position that complemented the stand of Ufot and Osori. She reiterated that the democracy of the country is in the Intensive Care Unit because it has not been strong enough to ensure upward mobility of the people, as it enriches only a select few and because it has not always entertained alternative perspectives in most cases. Thus, one would understand that these Nigerian women, irrespective of where they are, are intricately linked to their homeland politics by demonstrating that they not only understand the challenges that are inhibiting the system from attaining a greater height but by also showing that they are aware of the corresponding solutions which they can give for the raging problems. Despite this untoward retrograde, there are some positive and encouraging lights about the situation as there is no cloud without a silver lining. The younger generation has shown that they are capable of changing the narrative. Women’s groups have also become proficient in mobilizing and seeking reform.
Actions that are reflective of a weak democracy are not only demonstrated by the Nigerian or African people, for instance. It is a common challenge in the global political community as there appears to be a wave of governmental repression of people and infringement on some of their fundamental rights. Following the US general elections, laws are being passed by which some citizens are being disenfranchised for reasons that are not always justified. These disenfranchisements are being challenged as well as adjudicated, as they should be.
Non-governmental organizations, important groups, and intellectual communities have not refused to lend their voices to confront such a level of rights abuses, and it is contextually encouraging that one of our guests, Ufot, is making commendable efforts for the interrogation of the situation so that sanity would be returned to the American polity. The very first way to confront a debilitating situation is to know the background to the said challenge. This would make one have a better and objective view of the situation and make informed decisions on how to contain the possible outcomes. In a bid to control the activities of the people, the former American leader builds a narrative that can sway the people from what actually matters, but it is obvious that such would not sail through in a society where markets of information are shared now and then.
According to Ms. Ufot, having failed in misleading the people, the other way is to manipulate the system. She openly declared that the most insensitive thing that anyone would do is to consider fighting a movement whose time has come or to make efforts to downcast an idea whose maturity has germinated. She argued that demographic changes and the sweeping interest they showcase in the political affairs of the community is not something that can be silenced by individuals, groups, or gatherings against its evolution. She jokingly alluded to the age-long conversation of slavery and antislavery narrative when she said that some members of the American public should not consider antagonizing the inclusionary government that factored the multiracial system, or that condoned multicultural temperament in the current system, as it would not lead the white racial community to experience enslavement, the type that their ancestors subjected the Black community to in recent history. While this would not happen for whatever reason, it cannot be argued that the changes it would bring may disallow the preferential treatment that some members of the society have enjoyed to the detriment of innocent others.
The strategy used by these women of value is to leverage the institutional power of the country to challenge individuals or government agencies who decided to use them for their provincial intentions. The litigation process, for example, was considered important in fighting these wars. While the trilogy of litigation process, communication strategies, and direct action are usually very effective in correcting political anomaly in America, these erudite African women have looked into the different ways by which they can be replicated in the Nigerian political terrain so that the country’s politicians would understand that the responsibility of hiring and then firing anyone who is in a political office lies exclusively with the masses. This means that the people would be informed of their untapped power left to suffer unimaginable abandonment because the people have been oppressed and defeated in their spirit.
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These outstanding women are evidence that gender oppression or exclusion in political engagements would generally work against the country. This is consolidated by the understanding that they have not only been equipped with the necessary skills and systems of leadership but have also been very pragmatically strategic in their political tactics. We continue to underplay women’s potential and their possibility to rescue the country from imminent danger of destruction because we have not considered aggressively engaging them in our political system. In all seriousness, they have shown how indispensable they are in intellectually marshaling their points and drawing systematic means of rescuing any civilization known to man.
(This is the first of two reports on the interview on “Political Reforms Nigeria Needs—The Women Speak”on July 11 2021) For its entire recording, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wbkjm59oRdw&t=6s
Abiodun Seeks US Partnership In Developing Critical Sectors
The Ogun State government has solicited for partnership with the United States of America in developing the critical sectors of the State’s economy.
The State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun who stated this when he received the American Consul General to Nigeria, Mr. Will Stevens, who led a 5-man delegation on a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan Abeokuta on Wednesday, noted that the State considers the United States as a progressive partner in the areas of economy, good governance, security, climate change and human capital development around the world.
Governor Abiodun posited that the State apart from the sophistication of its people and their cognitive political culture, is unanimously and popularly adjudged as the New Jersey of Nigeria and the leading industrial hub in the West Africa Sub-region, hence the need to tap from the American experience to further its developmental stride.
The governor said his administration at inception in 2019, assembled a team made up of highly resourceful technocrats and cerebral policy architects and conceptualized a transformational philosophy coined ISEYA, which is an acronym for Infrastructural Development, Social Welfare and Well-being, Education and Human Capital Development, Youth Empowerment and lastly, Agriculture and Food Security.
He said: “Through this concept, we have strategically transformed the state with modern infrastructure, deliberate policy steps to attract businesses and moving the economy from being federal allocation-focused to becoming the state with the third largest Internally Generated Revenue in the country.
“The State’s strategic location as the primary gateway to Lagos State – the largest market with the busiest ports in Nigeria has contributed to its status as the Industrial Hub of Nigeria.
“Our State is home to one of the largest industrial zones in Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the 8,000 hectares OPIC-owned Agbara Industrial Estate, which accommodates the Federal Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone (OGFTZ), with forty-four (44) operational companies, factory tenants from across the world, with over 6,000 Nigerian employees and an estimated 100,000 metric tons of freight moving in and out daily.”
Prince Abiodun noted that in its quest to make Ogun State the first destination for investors in Nigeria, his administration is currently constructing an Agro Cargo International Airport at Iperu-Ilishan road in Ikenne Local Government Area of the State, adding that the project is strategically designed to create the needed infrastructure to boost the exportation of agricultural and non-agricultural goods.
“By its structure and business plan, the Cargo Airport remains a game-changer in our import and export promotion efforts, as it was specifically constructed to be an aerotropolis (Airport City) equipped with components such as a special agro-processing zone to process raw agricultural materials for exports, an international testing centre to certify that agro-produce complies with international standards before it is exported, and facility for passenger operations as well as facilities to receive parcels coming into Nigeria that are to be redistributed to other parts of the country.
“In addition to that, it is an important component of Ogun State’s transportation master plan expected not only to connect rail, road and water transportation but also to decongest the Lagos Airport,” the governor added.
Governor Abiodun appreciated the American government for her firm stance on democratic governance, specifically on the sanctity of the electoral process as well as supporting different reforms in the electoral process and taking an uncompromising position on electoral offenders.
In an interview after a closed-door meeting with the governor, the Consul General said their discussions centred on security and health.
He noted that health remains the number one investment in Nigeria as the US government is in the health sector to help Nigeria to reach the 95 95 95 goals of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.
“It is my job to promote US trade and investment here in certain parts of Nigeria. I had a great conversation with the governor about the incredible investment the US companies are already making in the state as well as opportunities for more increased US trade and investment.
“We also talked about the tax sector, I think there are incredible opportunities right now to find jobs and opportunities for Nigerian youths to participate in the tax sector.
“We’ve seen the explosion of growth and investment in that sector throughout Nigeria, particularly in the South West,” the Consul General added.
Toyin Falola And The October Harvest
By Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti
In the annals of academic and societal change, few luminaries shine as brightly as Professor Toyin Falola. As autumn leaves drifted in October, the literary world was astir from the changing seasons and the relentless enthusiasm of a septuagenarian scholar making waves across lecture halls and public platforms. In many cultures and traditions, October is a month of harvest – a time to reap the fruits of labour sown in prior months. Fittingly, for Professor Falola, this October truly lived up to that essence, bearing witness to an intellectual harvest that few could parallel.
Prof. Toyin Falola at the second Distinguished Lecture Series of the Department of History & International Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria on August 10, 2022. Photo by “Gbile Oshadipe (2022) ©
In many ways, the achievements of this month were a microcosm of Falola’s broader career: a testament to the confluence of hard work, passion, and a deep-seated commitment to societal advancement.
Within 31 days, Falola graced the podium for 3 public lectures, imparted wisdom in 2 university lectures, and was the beacon of 3 convocation lectures. Each of these engagements wasn’t just about sharing knowledge; they were conduits for sparking change, challenging established norms, and inspiring the next generation. However, to truly grasp the magnitude of Falola’s October endeavours, one must delve deeper into the essence of the man himself. At an age when many of his peers are retreating into the tranquillity of retirement, Falola’s spirit remains undiminished, if not encouraged. It’s not just the number of lectures or the honorary doctorates he received – which, in and of itself, is a remarkable feat – but the zeal with which he approaches each endeavour. His lectures, for instance, are not mere recitations of historical facts or academic theories. They are vibrant tapestries woven with threads of history, contemporary societal issues, and a vision for a brighter future. They challenge, they provoke, and most importantly, they inspire. But what drives a man of over 70 years to such relentless pursuit? To find the answer, one need not look further than his past works and the themes that permeate them. For Falola, academia isn’t a secluded ivory tower but a platform to engage with the real world. His research, extensive and varied as it is, always circles back to the core of societal problems. From the intricacies of Yoruba history to the broader strokes of African colonial and post-colonial narratives, Falola’s work sheds light on the issues that matter. These are issues that, in many ways, continue to shape societies today.
In this context, October wasn’t just another month in the calendar but a manifestation of Falola’s lifelong commitment to societal change. A promise that has seen him transcend the traditional confines of academia to engage with the broader public. His public lectures resonate with many audiences, often interspersed with anecdotes, real-life examples, and a touch of humour. From the eager university student to the curious layman, Falola’s words strike a chord, reminding everyone of the transformative power of knowledge and its role in sculpting a better future. In delving deeper into the man behind the October Harvest, one quickly realizes that Professor Falola’s achievements are not a product of overnight success but the culmination of decades of unwavering dedication. It’s a journey that’s seen him navigate the tumultuous waters of academia, societal challenges, and personal hurdles, emerging each time with a renewed sense of purpose. More than anything, this tenacity has been the cornerstone of his October endeavours and his broader career. One might wonder, what is the essence of these lectures and engagements? Why do they matter? The answer lies in the content and context of each meeting. Take, for instance, one of his public lectures from October. While the topic might have revolved around historical narratives, Falola deftly intertwined it with contemporary issues, drawing parallels and highlighting lessons. His ability to bridge the past with the present, to draw lessons from history and apply them to current challenges, is what sets him apart. In doing so, he educates and empowers his audience to view issues through a multifaceted lens, promoting critical thinking and proactive engagement.
Moreover, the venues of these lectures—from universities to public platforms—underscore his commitment to inclusive education. Universities, the traditional bastions of knowledge, are just one part of the equation for Falola. By stepping out and engaging with the broader public, he’s democratizing knowledge, making it accessible to all, irrespective of their academic or socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a move that challenges the status quo, emphasizing that learning shouldn’t be confined to ivory towers but should permeate every stratum of society. However, it’s not just the lectures that stood out in October. The two honorary doctorates he received are symbolic of his contributions to academia and society at large. Such accolades, while celebratory, are also reflective. They compel us to examine the body of work that merits such recognition. For Falola, it’s a vast tapestry of research, publications, mentorship, and public engagement. Each strand, be it a book, an article, or a lecture, is imbued with a purpose: to enlighten, challenge, and change. Yet, amidst all the accolades and achievements, what’s truly remarkable is Falola’s humility. Interact with him, and you’re not met with the airs of a celebrated academician but the warmth of a mentor, the curiosity of a lifelong learner, and the passion of a societal changemaker. This unique blend of excellence and humility makes his October Harvest not just an academic feat but a life lesson for many. It serves as a poignant reminder that success isn’t just about personal milestones but about the impact one leaves on society and the legacy one creates for future generations.
Reflecting on the October Harvest and the man at its epicentre, we must contextualize Professor Falola’s achievements within a broader societal framework. At a time when the world grapples with myriad challenges – from socio-political upheavals to environmental crises – the role of intellectuals and academicians becomes ever more crucial. And Falola, with his October engagements and lifelong commitment, epitomizes the potential of scholarly intervention in driving societal change. But why is this important? In an era dominated by bite-sized information and fleeting trends, the depth and breadth of academic research provide a counterbalance. Falola’s lectures, rich in historical context and analytical depth, offer a respite from the cacophony of superficial narratives. They remind us of the importance of understanding the past to navigate the present and shape the future. Every lecture and engagement is a clarion call for introspection, urging society to delve deeper, question more, and strive for a holistic understanding. This is not to say that academia is the sole bastion of truth or the only path to societal change. But scholars like Falola, who bridge the gap between the academic and public spheres, play a pivotal role in grounding discussions in research, evidence, and historical context. They serve as beacons, illuminating the path forward with the torch of knowledge.
Furthermore, Falola’s October engagements underscore the timeless essence of commitment and passion. His journey is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and lifelong learning in a world that often prioritizes instant gratification. It’s a narrative that resonates beyond the confines of academia, inspiring professionals, creatives, and changemakers across various fields. The underlying message? Age is but a number; passion and commitment are timeless. As we draw the curtains on the October Harvest, carrying forward the lessons it offers is essential. It’s a month that celebrates Professor Falola’s achievements, the ethos of scholarly engagement, and its potential impact on society. It’s a call to action for scholars, students, and the general public to engage, question, learn, and drive change.
In conclusion, Professor Toyin Falola’s October Harvest is more than a chronicle of a month’s achievements. It’s a celebration of a lifetime of dedication, a tribute to the transformative power of knowledge, and a reminder of the potential each one of us holds. As the leaves of October give way to the chill of November, the echoes of Falola’s lectures, the wisdom of his words, and the passion of his commitment continue to inspire, urging us all to sow the seeds of change, knowledge, and progress. For in every seed lies the promise of a harvest, and in every effort, the potential for impact.
Prof. Adeoti wrote from the Department of History & International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria.
Keep Witchcraft Accusations Out Of Politics In Sychelles
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches urges the government of Sychelles to keep charges linked to witchcraft beliefs out of politics in the country because they make no legal and political sense. This call became necessary following a report that the country’s main opposition leader, Peter Herminie has been charged with witchcraft. Charged with witchcraft in this 21st century? He was accused along with seven other persons including a Tanzanian. According to the report, Herminie and other persons have been charged with “possessing items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft”. It was stated that the name of this key politician was allegedly mentioned in a whatsapp message between a local and the person from Tanzania, who was arrested at the main international airport on September 21, 2023. The report says that “Items related to witchcraft, including stones, black wooden artefacts, small bottles of brownish liquid, a collection of powders, and documents with strange language and “demonic and satanic” symbols” were found in the possession of this Tanzanian.
State prosecutors are of the notion that the documents might be some vandalised materials from the local churches. Mr. Herminie has denied the charges, and dismissed the allegation that items linked to witchcraft including bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity” were found in his office or in his possession.
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches is asking the government of Sychelles to drop these charges, because they are absurd and constitute a show of shame and embarrassment. The prosecution of Herminie and other co-accused is witch hunting in both literal and political sense. And witch hunting should has no place in 21st century politics in Sychelles.
Otherwise, how does the government define witchcraft or witchcraft items? How does the government distinguish witchcraft items, whatever that means, from traditional religious objects? How did the prosecutors know that the said items were intended for use in witchcraft? Are stones, black wooden artefacts, and small bottles of brownish liquid witchcraft materials? I mean how will state prosecutors establish that some symbols are demonic and satanic?
Has the government the facility or expertise to prove beyond reasonable doubt what is witchcraft and what is not witchcraft, what is demonic or satanic and what is not? How will the government prosecute this case without flagrantly violating the right of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief? At a time of growing cases of witch persecution in many parts of Africa, the government of Sychelles should discontinue this unfortunate and unwarranted instance of witch hunting.
Dr.Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
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