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Activists Demand the Release of Omoyele Sowore and Other Political Detainees, Amidst Growing Attacks on Freedom of Press In Nigeria

"It feels like the '90s again," says Sowore's wife Opeyemi Sowore, about the recent crackdowns on political dissidents in Nigeria.

On August 3, activist and founder of Sahara Reporters, and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowere was arrested for planning a peaceful protest in Nigeria. Fifty-four days later, he remains in custody.

Sowere has been hit with a seven-count charge, including money laundering, treason, as well as "cyberstalking the president," Sahara News reports. He is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being jailed for nearly two months, according to his wife Opeyemi Sowore.

He, along with several activists who have voiced political dissent in recent months have been detained by Nigerian authorities, denoting an upward shift on crackdowns on members of the press and attacks on basic civil liberties in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari's administration. "This truly is a threat to freedom of press, freedom of speech and expression," Sowore tells OkayAfrica. "As much progress as we thought we had made, a lot of the events truly sadden me."


Others who have been arrested include fellow #RevolutionNow activists, Olawale Bakare another member arrested in Osogbo Nigeria. The movement's mission is to urge the government to take greater steps towards fighting insecurity, and advocate for improved education in the densely populated country.

Protests in support of Sowore took place last week, and another is set to occur at the Nigerian mission to the UN in New York City tomorrow, September 24, the same day as Sowore's first court appearance. There has been growing support for Sowore internationally, as several human rights activists across the diaspora have become involved in advocating for his release. Earlier this month a coalition of US and Nigerian activists, including Black Lives Matter co-founder, Opal Tometi, activist Folabi Olajbaju and more, sent a letter to the Nigerian ambassador to the United States, Sylvanus Adiewere Nsofor, demanding his immediate release. "The Nigerian people and people of good will around the world are watching," said Olabaju in a statement. "We will oppose all efforts to suppress the rights of the people and silence democracy defenders."

The letter also pushes for the release of several others who are believed to be unjustly detained by the Nigerian government. "Abubakar Idris, who has been held incommunicado after criticizing the Kano state government;" the letter reads. "Stephen Kefas, an activist in the tense Nigerian Delta oil fields imprisoned for more than three months for distributing a press report embarrassing to the state governor; journalists Agba Jalingo and Jones Abiri, who spent over two years in detention without charge; whistleblower George Uboh who exposed malfeasance at the Nigerian Central Bank; Olawale Adebayo, a pro-democracy activist arrested in August, and Muslim spiritual leader Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky."

The arrests reveal the growing gaps in Nigeria's democracy—the largest in Africa which has implications for the rest of the continent. "It feels like the '90s again," says Sowore, referencing one of Nigeria's most politically turbulent periods under the dictatorship of Sani Abacha. "It's so important for democratic societies to have freedom of press. It's the only way to hold the government accountable."

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Image.

Thousands of Gambians Protest for Former President Yahya Jammeh's Return from Exile

Supporters of the former statesman want the current Gambian government to guarantee his right to return from self-exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Yesterday, thousands of supporters of former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh took to the outskirts of the capital city Banjul. According to Aljazeera, they demanded that the current government under President Adama Barrow guarantee the former statesman's return from exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Jammeh ruled the West African country for over two decades and subsequently lost to Barrow in the national elections back in 2017.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Photo: Ben Depp.

Watch Yilian Canizares & Paul Beaubrun's Beautiful Video For 'Noyé'

"Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Yilian Canizares and Paul Beaubrun connect for the serene "Noyé," one of the highlights from Canizares' latest album, Erzulie.

The Cuban singer and Haitian artist are now sharing the new Arnaud Robert-directed music video for the single, which we're premiering here today.

"Noyé is a song that comes from our roots," Yilian Canizares tells OkayAfrica. "Inspired by the energy of love. The same love that kept Africa's legacy alive in the hearts of Haiti and Cuba. We wanted to do a stripped down version of only the essential pieces from a musical point of view. Something raw and beautiful where our souls would be naked."

The striking music video follows Canizares and Beaubrun to the waters of New Orleans, the universal Creole capital, where they sing and float until meeting on the Mississippi River.

"Noyé is a cry of love from children of African descent," says Paul Beaubrun. "Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Watch the new music video for "Noyé" below.

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