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Activists Hail Botswana Ruling to Allow Gender Reclassification

JOHANNESBURG Activists are celebrating a Botswana court case that allowed a transgender man the right to change his gender identity. Until recently, South Africa was the only African nation that allowed such transformations. But even in the Rainbow Nation, while transgender residents fleeing persecution in their own countries are hailing the court victory, some say they still fear for their safety in both countries.

The news came right before Christmas, said lawyer Tshiamo Rantao, whose client recently became the first transgender man in Botswana to be granted an identity document with his chosen gender.

It was cause for celebration for a man who spent a decade fighting for recognition, Rantao said. But his victory is underscored by a harsh reality: ND, as Rantao's client is known in court documents, did not want his real name known due to concerns for his safety.

Rantao said his client is just an ordinary, private guy who has very real fears.

"He was concerned that he could be targeted," he said. "Over and above the fact that he's private, he's not an activist, that's one of the main reasons, that he could be targeted."

Tashwill Esterhuizen, a LGBTI program lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Center, said his organization has now helped lawyers win two such cases in Botswana. He said cases like these are not about sexuality, but about dignity.

"And I think this is important because it set the space, and it set the tone, for other countries in the region who doesn't [sic] recognize legal recognition of gender identity to follow suit," he said.

Currently, South Africa is the only other nation in the region with laws that explicitly protect sexual minorities.

Malawi's penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex relations. Uganda in 2014 passed a harsh law that provides life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality." Zimbabwe's laws also criminalize homosexuality.

Across this conservative patch of Africa, religious leaders � and some politicians � have condemned those who do not conform to traditional gender roles, arguing such behavior is un-African or offensive to society.

VOA News spoke to a man from the tiny kingdom of Lesotho, which criminalizes male same-sex acts and has no laws prohibiting discrimination over sexual orientation or gender.

He currently lives in South Africa, he said, because it's the only place he can get the treatment and hormones he needs after he completed his medical transition two years ago.

The 31-year-old asked us not to use his name out of concerns for his security. He said he passes easily as male in South Africa, but that his national ID card still classifies him as female.

He said he hopes these successful cases will spur other countries to grant more rights and services to people like him.

"It's not about only changing legal documents. Even the health sectors, they have to be there to help," he said. "We shouldn't run away from our countries to come to South Africa where we can get all these things."

And what would he do if he could go home and change his gender status? Nothing extraordinary, he said � he dreams of going home, marrying a nice woman, and living a quiet life.

Source: Voice of America

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HARARE, Zimbabwe plans to resume auction of diamonds next month after having suspended sales in February last year following the merger in 2016 of companies previously operating in the Chiadzwa area of Marange in Manicaland Province into a single compa...
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Drone strikes, diphtheria, and data: The Cheat Sheet

Every week, IRIN's team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate important sources on unfolding trends and events around the globe:

A diphtheria dilemma?

A global shortage of the antitoxin used to treat highly contagious diphtheria could trigger an ethical dilemma for health providers in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps. There were more than 2,400 suspected cases of diphtheria in Bangladesh as of 25 December � but only 5,000 vials of antitoxin available anywhere in the world, according to Medecins Sans FrontiAres. There is not enough of the medication to treat all of the people in front of you who need it and we are forced to make extremely difficult decisions, Crystal van Leeuwen, MSF's emergency medical coordinator in Bangladesh, said on the aid group's website. It becomes an ethical and equity question. Early cases of diphtheria were spotted in November but there were no available antitoxinsin southern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees are now clustered together in haphazard camps and settlements. World Health Organization officials had to hand-carry the first available doses from Delhi in December. There are now about 1,300 vials of the diphtheria antitoxin available in Cox's Bazar, according to the WHO. Fuelled by low vaccination rates, extreme overcrowding and poor sanitation, the sudden re-emergence of diphtheria in Bangladesh followed years of decline: there were only two reported cases in 2016.

Diphtheria, long forgotten in many parts of the world, has also re-appeared in Yemen, which has seen more than 330 cases and 35 deaths in recent months.

US drone strikes in Somalia double under Trump

We reported on this topic in early November, but given Wednesday's announcement that a fresh US drone strike has killed 13 al-Shabab militants, it's worth revisiting. The latest hit, conducted northwest of Kismayo on 24 December, is, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the 34th this year, which compares to 15 for 2016 and 11 for 2015 and includes a strike on a militant training camp last month that killed 100 people. The increased rate of drone strikes is even more marked in Yemen, where US President Donald Trump has overseen a threefold increase from his predecessor, all in the name of the war on terror. Ironically, the latest strike in Somalia came as the Somali government officially took back control of its own airspace from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 27 years after the fall of the central government in 1991. The move marks a symbolic milestone for the administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Nine months into his tenure, in mid-October, Farmajo faced the deadliest attack in the country's history, blamed on al-Shabab, that killed more than 500 people at a busy Mogadishu intersection. The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, meanwhile, has begun a gradual drawdown that will see the phasing out of the 22,000-strong multinational force by the end of 2020.

E-book on climate change and food security reporting

It's not often we offer up an item of more than 100 pages compiled by IRIN itself. However, 2017 has seen Project Editor Anthony Morland edit an impressive body of work on one of the world's most urgent issues, namely climate change adaptation � exploring what people are doing to reduce their vulnerability. The project provides a platform for policy discussion, and for the voices of those men and women on the front lines of climate change to be heard. The project covers four countries � Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe � with the goal of sharing lessons so that small-scale farmers everywhere can find support to alter methods of food production to suit climatic variation.

It's goggle time again

No humanitarian data or innovation event is complete without photos of men in suits wearing virtual reality goggles, and sure enough the official opening of the Centre for Humanitarian Datain the Hague on 22 December did not disappoint. It was a relaunch of the existing UN OCHA initiative, enjoying financial support from The Netherlands. Snark aside, the service now claims over 900 sources. Its flagship site gathers and organises information from a range of sources, and continues to grow, offering everything from bilingual map data on Syria to one thousand rows of data on the displacement caused by the recent cyclone Tembin in the Philippines.

Source: IRIN

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Zimbabwe’s President Vows Reforms, Credible Elections

HARARE Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday vowed to ensure the rule of law, fight corruption, enact laws that attract investors and conduct free and fair elections next year. But the opposition says the country's new president and his government are no different from the old regime of Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa pledged that Zimbabwe would unveil a "robust" re-engagement policy and open up to foreign investment, as he delivered his first State of the Nation address since taking office nearly a month ago.

The president's remarks come as he prepares to head to South Africa Thursday to meet with potential investors.

Mnangagwa also sought to reassure Zimbabweans about the integrity of elections, expected in 2018.

My government is committed to entrenching a democratic society driven by the respect for the constitution, the rule of law, mutual tolerance, peace and unity. To this end, [the] government will do all in its power to ensure that the 2018 general elections are credible, free and fair.

However, the president's special adviser Christopher Mutsvangwa told the media last weekend that the ruling ZANU-PF party would use the military to ensure victory next year.

The International Commission of Jurists told VOA that Mnangagwa � who came into power on the back of the army � must not rely on the military for policing Zimbabweans as the country prepares for the elections.

Opposition skeptical

Tendai Biti, a member of the opposition People's Democratic Party and a former finance minister, says many Zimbabweans are worried about the military's involvement in politics and that Mnangagwa's Cabinet had been militarized by having two retired generals, including the one who announced the army had taken over state institutions.

We have nothing per se against the military, but we know that the essence of the rule of law and constitutionalism is that of democracy, and democracy is a government for the people and by the people. So the people that are ultimately decisive in our country are ordinary citizens who have the right to choose men and women who will serve them. You cannot make a transition from a barrack to a public office and we are concerned about that, Biti said.

Nelson Chamisa, the vice president of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, says the new government has nothing to offer Zimbabweans.

We are only confident that we will form the next government, we know it and Mr. Mnangagwa knows it. We are going to be the next government - that is why they are panicking. But even if we form the next government, it is going to be a very good dispensation for Mr. Mnangagwa and his team. We will be very inclusive and tolerant of the opposition, Chamisa said.

Mnangagwa is expected to appoint former head of the army Constantino Chiwenga as his vice president after retiring him this week pending redeployment.

Source: Voice of America

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