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India leaves about 2m people off citizens’ list, fate hangs in the balance

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About two million people have been left off a list of citizens released on Saturday in India’s north-eastern state of Assam, after a mammoth years-long exercise to check illegal immigration from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Resentment against illegal immigrants has simmered for years in Assam, one of India’s poorest states, with residents blaming outsiders, many said to come from neighbouring Bangladesh, for stealing their jobs and land.

Officials checked documents submitted by roughly 33 million people for a draft released last year of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, which left out more than four million residents of the state, many of them Hindu.

But 31.1 million people now make up the final list, with 1.9 million excluded, said Prateek Hajela, the coordinator of the state’s register.

“Any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of the claims and objections can file an appeal before the foreigners’ tribunals,’’ Hajela said in a statement, adding that everyone had received an adequate hearing.

Those excluded have 120 days to prove their citizenship at hundreds of regional quasi-judicial bodies known as foreigners’ tribunals.

If ruled to be illegal immigrants there, they can appeal to higher courts.

“Everyone in my family is on the list but not me,’’ said Munwara Khatun, accompanied by two grandchildren and her husband, Sahar Ali, at a registration centre in Assam’s central district of Nagaon.

“How can that be?’’

Her 65-year-old spouse, a farmer, said the draft list had also omitted her, prompting them to provide authorities with documents ranging from land records to her voter identification and the Aadhaar identification number of Indian residents.

Some of the two dozen people at the centre said officials had asked them to go to court to get included on the register.

“They are saying go to court,’’ said car mechanic Ritesh Sutradhar, 45, who had been left out along with his wife.

“But who will pay for all that?’’

Critics accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party of stoking sentiment against illegal immigrants and misusing the register to target even legal Muslim citizens.

His close aide, Home Minister, Amit Shah, has previously vowed to weed out illegal immigrants, calling them “termites”.

But Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also rules the state, has had to change tack in recent months because a large number of Hindus figured on the previous list.

“Names of many Indian citizens, who migrated from Bangladesh as refugees prior to 1971 have not been included in the NRC,’’ Assam’s Finance Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said in a Twitter post, adding that some illegal migrants had been wrongfully added.

Another BJP lawmaker, Shiladitya Deb, said he did not expect the list to be fair.

“It will not have the names of many Bengali Hindus,’’ he said.

The Supreme Court, which has monitored the process after it ordered preparation of the list this month, denied a request for more time from the government.

The government had said it needed more time for a partial re-verification after many Bangladeshis produced false or fabricated documents.

Separately, the BJP has been planning legislation to ease the way for non-Muslim minorities from neighbouring countries to become citizens.

Some party members have publicly assured Hindus left off the list India would give them refuge.

To establish citizenship, people in Assam have had to provide proof of residence in India going back decades, before March 24, 1971, the year in which hundreds of thousands of people fled Bangladesh, as it split off from Pakistan.

State officials say they do not know the eventual fate of those finally adjudged foreigners.

Bangladesh has not committed to accepting them.

More than 1,000 people are being held in Assam’s six detention centres for illegal immigrants and the state wants to set up more centres.

Human rights activists have criticised conditions at the centres, and lawyers and activists point to problems with the functioning of the foreigners’ tribunals.

(Reuters/NAN)

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Algeria clamps down, detains opposition activist, Boumala

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Algerian authorities have arrested Fodil Boumala, a prominent opposition activist and anti-government protester, fellow activists and a lawyer said on Thursday.

Mr Boumala’s arrest on Wednesday night, though not immediately confirmed by the justice ministry, was the latest sign of a new clampdown on dissent following the detention of three other leading opposition activists in recent weeks.

The authorities are trying to quell a mass protest movement that began in February, forced veteran president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to quit in April and is pressing demands for a thorough purge of the old ruling elite.

Interim President, Abdelkader Bensalah, on Sunday called for an election in December.

Protesters have rejected the move, saying any election that goes ahead while the old guard holds power cannot be free or fair.

Earlier on Wednesday, Army Chief, Ahmed Saleh, ordered security forces to stop and confiscate any vehicles being used to bring protesters into the capital Algiers.

His order and the arrests mark an increase of pressure on the protesters along with a heavier police presence at demonstrations.

The authorities had earlier responded to protesters’ demands over corruption by detaining and charging several prominent officials and businessmen with allegations of graft.

The three other activists recently detained were Lakhdar Bouragaa, Karim Tabou and Samir Belarbi, who have been accused of “contributing to weakening the army’s morale’’ according to their lawyers.

(Reuters/NAN)

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Andela plans to lays off over 250 engineers in Nigeria, other African countries

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Tech firm and talent accelerator, Andela, has announced that it will lay off over 250 junior engineers across Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria.

Jeremy Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Andela, made this known Tuesday in a statement titled “The Future of Andela”.

The layoffs come as the company announced its plan to hire another 700 experienced engineers by the end of 2020 in order to keep up with demand from its partners.

To continue creating junior engineering talent at scale, it also said it will invest in the Andela Learning Community, through which it has already trained more than 30,000 learners in software engineering fundamentals.

But despite the huge plan, the company said it has seen shifts in the market and what its customers are looking for in more experienced engineers.

By implication, Andela is letting go over 250 of its contracted junior developers in Lagos and Uganda while up to 170 trainees in Kenya could also be potentially impacted, the company said.

“As a result of that,” the statement said Tuesday, “we began sourcing and assessing mid-level and senior engineers, and they now represent more than 25% of our talent base.

“While placing teams led by senior engineers has helped drive additional junior placement, it hasn’t been enough. We now have significantly more junior talent than we are able to place.

“Just as important, those junior engineers want, and deserve, authentic work experience that we are not able to provide. As a result, we’ve come to the conclusion that Andela’s next phase of growth requires a strategic shift in how we think about talent.”

Historically, the company said it has viewed its talent supply as being primarily junior with some mid-level and senior engineers. Moving forward, Mr Johnson said, Andela will be shifting its approach to be focused on senior talent, with junior talent layered in on top of it.

He said: “While nuanced, this shift in focus will allow us to better align with what the market needs, and in the process better connect brilliance with opportunity at all levels.

“As part of this shift, we have also had to make an extremely difficult decision as it relates to a number of talented junior engineers. Today, we are announcing that we are closing the D0 program in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. Moving forward, we will be focusing D0 training efforts on our pan-African hub in Rwanda.

“In addition, we will be letting go of approximately 250 Andelans in Nigeria and Uganda, with an additional 170 potentially impacted in Kenya, who we don’t believe we’ll be able to find meaningful work for over the next year.

“The well-being of our employees, both past and present, is our immediate priority. We are providing holistic support programs for those who are affected by this shift, including ongoing access to learning programs and job placement services. We have committed a range of financial and emotional resources to former employees, and those who are leaving will continue to have access to the strongest engineering network on the African continent. Once an Andelan, always an Andelan.”

Founded in 2014, Andela has offices in New York and five African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Egypt.

The company selects a roster of developers each year who come on staff for a salary and are encouraged to continue working and living in their home markets in Africa.

Before the layoff, Andela had 1575 engineers on board.

The affected software engineers will gain severance packages and placement assistance and Andela is working with partners such as CCHub in Nigeria to connect the developers to new opportunities.

The emergence of the 400 developers may impact Nigeria’s and indeed Africa’s tech space. There are concerns over the availability of opportunities in local tech start-ups in Nigeria and other African countries.

Iyin Aboyeji, a co-founder who left the company in 2016, described the influx of young talent into the ecosystem across Africa as a welcome development.

“Glad that more junior engineering talent will come to the ecosystem. Local companies better scoop up this junior talent and build pipeline with a focus on engineering mentorship and management,” he tweeted via his handle @iaboyeji on Tuesday.

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36 persons missing as boat capsizes in DRC – Police

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At least 36 people are missing after the sinking of a boat on Sunday at Maluku commune, a district on the banks of the Congo River in Kinshasa’s suburbs, according to announces of the Congolese national police on the spot.

According to police authorities, only 76 survivors have so far been counted out of over a hundred passengers who embarked on the boat journey, which came from the province of Mai-Ndombe, a province located southwest of the city of Kinshasa.

The boat filled with goods and passengers capsized at Mambutuka locality in Maluku commune.

For the moment, research is underway to try to find other survivors in the accident area.

No bodies have yet been retrieved by the local river services in the area where the authorities say they have deployed the Congolese army’s naval forces, to intensify research on the extent of the accident, which is not away from the main port of the village of Maluku located about 50 kilometres from the city of Kinshasa.

Shipwrecks are frequent between the city of Kinshasa and the province of Mai-Ndombe, where dozens of boats leave with passengers to go to refuel agricultural goods and others.

The overload and poor conditions of the ships are generally at the root of most shipwrecks on the river and across the country, where most of these ships cannot withstand storms during navigation.

(Xinhua/NAN)

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