News From Across the Continent – September 2010

Kenya: Muslims Dispute Census Figures

Muslim leaders have asked the government to cancel the 2009 census results.

In a statement read by the Jamia Mosque religious convernor, Mr Billow Kerrow on September 3, 2010, the leaders said the results were ‘doctored.’

“It was also meant to serve interests of forces intent on diminishing the influence of Muslims in the country,” read the statement.

They said they learnt with shock the announcement by National Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya that the population of Muslims in the country is 4.3 million, representing only 11.1 percent of the population of Kenya.

This was against earlier figures which showed they were well beyond the 30 percent mark.

“If North Eastern has 2.1 million Muslims and the greatest percentage of Muslims is found at the Coast, how true is it that our population is only 4.3 million?” asked Mw Kerrow.

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Nigeria: Islamic Development Bank Board Member Job Secured

The Federal Government has secured the right to appoint permanent executive director to represent the country in the board of directors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) following increment in the country’s IDB subscribed capital.

On September 4, 2010, Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo said  while briefing newsmen shortly after a breakfast meeting with the bank’s management led by its President, Dr Ahmad Mohammed Ali, at the bank’s head office in Jeddah.

The appointment followed a declaration of intention by Nigeria to increase its subscription in the IDB capital from Islamic Dinar (ID) 0. 465 billion (0.03%) in 2005 to ID 1. 384 billion (8.65%) in June 2010, (equalling one unit of the IMF Special Drawing Rights).

He assured the IDB management that Nigeria would soon send her nomination for the position of executive director.

The appointment is, however, subject to payment of the first share in the announced subscription in IDB capital which automatically results in the increase of the number of executive directors from 16 to 18 of which 9 are appointed representing nine countries with the largest share.

Sambo said the IDB management team also reconfirmed commitment to support Nigeria in the development of the power and transport sectors as well as promotion of the public private partnership businesses and capacity building.

He said Nigeria does not need aid anymore.

“What we want is cooperation and support to develop our infrastructure and once we develop our infrastructure we will be able to drive away poverty and achieve our goals under the Vision 20:2020 blueprint”, he said.

He said critical sectors that needed the corporation of IDB were power, transportation, road construction, housing, education, access to financing for the private sector and most importantly the gas sector, which is of urgent concern to government.

He noted that the bank has also indicated interest in the development of the Mambilla hydro, which is a project of over $2 billion and is encouraging Nigeria to access its special fund of about $10 billion for supporting the development of infrastructure in Africa.

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Senegal: Koranic Teachers Sentenced for Forcing Children to Beg

On September 8, a Dakar court has handed down six-month suspended sentences to seven Koranic teachers who forced their pupils to beg, in an unprecedented ruling in the largely Muslim country. The accused were also fined 100,000 francs [150 euros], in what Human Rights Watch said was the first ever application of a 2005 law forbidding the practice.

During the trial, defence lawyers pleaded for leniency for the defendants, six Senegalese and one Guinea-Bissau citizen.

They argued that, according to tradition, Koranic teachers around the country have always made their pupils beg, and the state had previously tolerated the offence.

On 25 August, the government banned begging in the streets of the capital, saying charity could only take place outside places of worship.

Police rounded up several children between the ages of six and 16, whose testimony led to the arrest of the seven religious teachers.

“This conviction is a first and it will have a resounding effect,” said Malik Fall, a lawyer for the accused.

“In our argument we emphasised the shortcomings of the state which has left Koranic education completely on the margins, without subsidy, without identification and without control,” said Fall.

In April, the New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch said at least 50,000 boys, known as talibes, were “forced to beg on Senegal’s streets for long hours, seven days a week, by often brutally abusive Koranic teachers, known as marabouts.”

According to HRW, some children were often punished and beaten for failing to hand over a required daily amount from their begging, or for trying to run away.

“The arrest and conviction of these men represents a welcome step towards ending the exploitation of vulnerable children under the guise of supposed religious education,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at HRW.

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Senegal: Koranic Teachers Vow to Fight Wade’s Regime

On September 5, 2010, members of the association of Koranic teachers in Senegal have declared a “spiritual war” against the regime of President Abdoulaye Wade.

“We have declared a spiritual war against President Wade,” Mr Mohamed Lamine Fall, the chairperson of the association, told reporters at the end of an emergency meeting.

Mr Fall said he and his colleagues, who number several thousands, have the blessing of powerful Islamic sects in the country, including the Mourides.

The Mouride Islamic fraternity has a membership of about seven million of Senegal’s 12 million population and heavily influences national politics.

“We are optimistic that our war will lead to Wade’s unpopularity soon and subsequently he’ll lose the presidency in 2012,” Mr Fall said.

A statement following an ad-hoc meeting held at the association’s headquarters in Kaolack, central Senegal, at the weekend, said the move stems from the official interdiction of street begging in the country.

“Wade’s interdiction of begging in Senegal is a pretext to get rid of Koranic schools in the country,” the statement said.

In August 2010, Senegal declared street begging a crime. President Wade’s government was ostensibly coerced into the decision following years of lobbying by its international partners.

In Senegal, millions of Muslim children known as ‘talibés’ are forced to beg in the streets by their Koranic instructors or ‘marabouts’.

Statistics indicate that the ‘talibés’ collect over $100,000 for their ‘marabouts’, who use the money to sustain their polygamous and extended families.

Children as young as three were being engaged in the activity.

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