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Pope calls for reconciliation, healing over Canada school discovery
6 June 2021, 2:35 PM

Pope Francis said on Sunday that he was pained by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Catholic school for indigenous students in Canada and called for respect of the rights and cultures of native peoples.

However, Francis stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded. Two days ago, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of the schools.

Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing, Francis urged Canadian political and Catholic religious leaders to “cooperate with determination” to shed light on the finding and to seek reconciliation and healing.

Francis said he felt close to “the Canadian people, who have been traumatized by the shocking news”.

The residential schools operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by a number of Christian denominations on behalf of the government. Most were run by the Catholic Church.

The discovery last month of the remains of the children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and is fuelling outrage in Canada about the lack of information and accountability.

“The sad discovery further increases the understanding of the pain and suffering of the past,” Francis said.

“These difficult moments represent a strong reminder for all of us to distance ourselves from the model of colonizer … and to walk side by side in dialogue and in mutual respect in the recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the sons and daughters of Canada,” he said.

The residential school system forcibly separated about 150 000 children from their homes. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”.

“Let us commend to the Lord the souls of all of the dead children in the residential schools of Canada and let us pray for the families and the native communities of Canada shattered by pain,” he said before asking the crowd to join him in silent prayer.

Francis, who was elected pope 17 years after the last schools was closed, has already apologised for the Church’s role in colonialism in the Americas.

But he has mostly chosen to make direct apologies while visiting countries and talking to native peoples. No papal visit to Canada is scheduled.

Visiting Bolivia in 2015, Francis apologised for the “many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God”.

Congo volcano observatory failed to predict eruption due to mismanagement, say workers
5 June 2021, 10:15 PM

Researchers at an eastern Congolese volcano observatory on Saturday said they could have predicted the deadly eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in May if their work had not been impeded by alleged mismanagement and embezzlement.

At least 31 people died when the volcano sent a wall of lava spreading towards Goma on May 22, destroying 3 000 homes along the way and cutting a major road used to bring aid to the strife-torn region.

In a public letter to President Felix Tshisekedi, the workers at OVG, which monitors Nyiragongo, said the organisation had been crippled by salary arrears, embezzlement of funding, mistreatment of employees and other issues.

“Nyiragongo’s recent eruption could have been predicted by OVG researchers if it were not for all the problems,” they said, demanding payment of back salaries and the nomination of new management.

Representatives of OVG’s current management committee did not respond to requests for comment.

In late May, the president’s office said it would pay all OVG’s salary arrears and unpaid operational costs, promising to replace out-of-date or damaged equipment.

Before the latest eruption, volcanologists at OVG struggled to make basic checks on a regular basis as the World Bank had not renewed funding amid embezzlement allegations.

From October to April, the observatory could not carry out comprehensive seismic checks on the volcano because analysts lacked an internet connection. Nonetheless, volcano-watchers have said the eruption was not easily predictable.

“Even if there were more instruments, I don’t think we would have been able to know in advance,” said Francois Kervyn, the head of GeoRiskA, which monitors geological hazards in Africa. “It surprised us that it happened very abruptly.”

Nigerian telecoms firms suspend access to Twitter
5 June 2021, 8:38 PM

Nigerian telecoms firms blocked access to Twitter on Saturday following a regulatory directive aimed at suspending the US social media giant indefinitely, a move criticised by rights campaigners and diplomats as a gag on free speech.

Nigeria’s government said on Friday it had suspended Twitter’s activities indefinitely, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists in the West African country.

Following the suspension, the country’s attorney general ordered an immediate prosecution of those who break rules banning Twitter. He did not provide details of who would be targeted.

“Based on national interest provisions … our members have acted in compliance with the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission,” the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said, confirming the suspension.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Friday the government had acted because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

He did not say what form the suspension would take.

Buhari’s government, which runs Africa’s largest economy, last year proposed legislation to regulate social media following protests against alleged police brutality which were galvanized by a campaign on Twitter.

The demonstrations demanding police reforms drew global attention.

Twitter said on Saturday it will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world, posting another tweet the day after it said the suspension was “deeply concerning”.

Rights group Amnesty International condemned Twitter’s suspension in a tweet and called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights”.

Buhari, who was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, has previously been accused of cracking down on freedom of expression. His government has denied such accusations.

Gill Atkinson, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, wrote in a tweet on Saturday that “all Nigerians have the right to freedom of speech and the responsibility not to misuse that right”.

“Any action taken by government must be measured, proportionate and not suppress basic freedoms,” she said.

Fraser-Pryce sets fastest 100m time in 33 years
5 June 2021, 8:38 PM

Jamaican sprint darling Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce became the second-fastest woman of all time behind 100 metres world record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner when she clocked 10.63 seconds at a meet in Kingston on Saturday.

Double Olympic champion Fraser-Pryce, who laid down a marker ahead of next month’s Tokyo Olympics with her searing sprint, said her speed had taken ever her by surprise.

“Honestly no… I never expected I would run 10.6 and think it’s a good thing because there was no pressure,” Fraser-Pryce told reporters even as she screamed with excitement.

“I just wanted to get one run in before the (June 24-27) national championships and that’s what I was really looking forward to.”

American Griffith-Joyner still holds the women’s 100 metres world record of 10.49 seconds, set in Indianapolis in 1988, as well as the three fastest times ever, with 10.61 and 10.62, also in 1988.

But Fraser-Pryce shaved 0.01 seconds off Carmelita Jeter’s 10.64 set in 2009 to climb behind Griffith-Joyner on the all-time list.

Running in an empty stadium in Kingston at the JOA/JAAA’s Destiny Series, she decimated the field in the first of three heats from a rocket start, to finish ahead of former world championship finalist Natasha Morrison.

Fraser-Pryce, the reigning world champion after winning gold in Doha in 2019, said she had already set her sights on her next target.

“I’m lost for words because 10.6 has been a dream, a goal, I’ve been working so hard, being so patient to see it finally unfold. I’m so ecstatic,” added the 34-year-old, who set her previous personal best of 10.70 seconds nine years ago.

“If I’m able to run 10.6 now… I’m just looking forward to what the process will bring. I’m continuing the work because I did say that this year I wanted nothing more than to break the 10.7 barrier and I did it.

“But now the focus is on making the national team then taking it from there. This is just one part of the puzzle, so you can’t get too complacent and comfortable.”

Youth skills centre opens in Nyanga on the Cape Flats
5 June 2021, 8:07 PM

Youth Month is under way amidst the third wave of COVID-19 already hitting provinces. Statistics South Africa figures show an increase in the number of young people aged between 15 and 24 who are not employed or getting education and training. For young women, the rate is higher than for men.

In Nyanga on the Cape Flats, one of the most dangerous areas to live in the country, there are few opportunities for the youth.

For several years, Nyanga has had the dubious honour of being called the murder capital of South Africa. As one of the poorest areas in the city, it is also the most dangerous with murder, rape, armed robbery and theft that is rife.

In such a place, there does not seem to be much hope. But many young people from Nyanga, like Ulithemba Qoboka, have fire in their bellies and won’t let where they come from define them.

“It’s very difficult to live in this area because there’s lots of crime, gangsterism and most youngsters drink alcohol a lot. They don’t work because they’ve dropped out of school. A place like this will really help us right now, because we need the necessary skills to make sure we are compatible, especially now during COVID-19. So, if someone can learn how to do web development and software development at least you can also work from home and for companies from overseas too.”

Ulithemba is beside herself with excitement about the official opening of the Lulwazi Lwethu Youth Skills Centre which has been five years in the making.

“Finally it’s going to open now because the computers were stalled the first time. The second time now, we’re like wow and we were praying to God that it will be opening….So how does it feel to be part of something like this? I was dancing while the Minister was speaking inside, the councillor was speaking inside I was like – yeaaah yeaaaah!”

Beacon of hope for youth in Nyanga amid COVID-19 pandemic: 

Founder of the Lulwazi Lwethu Youth Skills Centre, Lulu Nongogo says, “It is the most dangerous area in all these communities. Maybe within two minutes in this area, you’ll see people are dying, they are being raped but I came with a solution for them – because kids are dropping out of school. Because the reason is the parents cannot afford to take them. So I decided, you know what, instead of letting them roaming around the streets, let me come with a solution and eliminate the crime. Because they say the government is not doing anything. So I said I’m gonna bring the solution to you guys.”

The centre will offer a safe space where young people from primary school level will learn, among others, computer skills and coding.

A Nyanga resident, Aphele Gwilika, says it’s centres like this and organisations, NGOs and outreach programmes that give the youth of the township hope.

“In Nyanga, how you have to live your choice because there’s crime and everything and you have to choose the right direction that you want. For me, it’s to involve yourself with the right organisation that can help you and equip you so that you can achieve good things.”

Another resident, Yonela Gebengu says when you live in an area like KTC in Nyanga, finding spaces such as this can also provide opportunities.

“Many youth who are on the streets as well, some have art skills, some others know computer, bicycle, some other like to skateboard so I think this also the place where they could meet together and collaborate and share ideas that they could have for themselves in the future as well and stop being on the roads and having ideas to join gangs as well.”

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says the creation of spaces such as Lulwazi Lwethu, must be expanded.

“Life does not being and end under these current difficult circumstances.  We all have to work together as a nation and in particular ourselves as government we have to work together to create a conducive environment for young people. It is our responsibility as government and communities to get our children off the streets, to get our children to schools, to make sure that they become even creative themselves because it’s not always about studying, finishing your studies, going to university and looking for a job.”

Zulu is also making an urgent appeal to big business to create a conducive environment for young people. She says the youth are not lazy — they just need a little help to find opportunities to spread their wings.

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