Emirate Lithium Commences Pre-Feasibility Studies of its Iwajowa and Kaima Lithium Projects

LAGOS, Nigeria, Sept. 07, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Emirate Lithium & Geominerals Limited ("Emirate Lithium" or the "Company"), a subsidiary of Emirate Group focused on the exploration, mining, trading and exporting of solid mineral ores, including lithium spodumene, tin, columbite, zircon sand (brown), monazite and tantalite to Europe and Asia, announced today that it has signed contracts with AGVision Mining Limited ("AG Vision") to carry out pre–feasibility studies for its licensed Iwajowa and Kaima lithium projects located within the known pegmatite belt in southwestern and north–central Nigeria. The Nigerian Geological Survey Agency, the Federal Nigerian agency charged with developing geo–science data, is currently carrying out several early–stage exploration programs within Nigeria's pegmatite belt.

AGVision was founded by a group of Nigerian engineering, procurement, and construction managers and a world–leading Australian geological, geophysical, and geospatial company "" International Geoscience Pty Limited. International Geoscience is led by Dr. Warwick Crowe, a globally recognized structural geologist and one of the world's foremost experts on Nigeria's economic geology. AGVision delivers the Australian Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) reporting standards in its various exploratory activities and reporting.

"This is an important milestone for Emirate Lithium, setting the stage for the next phase of our corporate evolution," said Lanre Afebuameh, Founder and CEO of Emirate Lithium. "While the pre–feasibility studies are conducted over the next several months, our team will continue to focus on our current surface mining operations, which have yielded average annual export volume of $4.5 million and approximately 6% spodumene concentrations since launching in 2020."

While Emirate Lithium's exports have primarily targeted Asia, the Company anticipates increased demand for its high–grade ore from European electric vehicle and battery manufacturers.

About Emirate Lithium

Emirate Lithium was incorporated in 2017 and commenced operations in 2018 as a mining, minerals, processing, and export company. The Company commenced open pit mining (surface mining) operations working with artisanal and small–scale operators in 2020 to establish lithium ore–grade quantities and build customer demand. Emirate Lithium currently has 27 minerals exploration licenses acquired from the Nigerian Minerals Cadatral Office ("MCO"). Six of the 27 licenses are for lithium, making the Company a major holder of lithium assets in Sub–Sahara Africa, with Emirate Lithium poised to become the largest holder of lithium assets in the continent.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward–Looking Statements
This news release includes certain “forward–looking statements” for the purpose of providing information about management's current expectations and plans relating to the future. Forward–looking statements are based upon a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable, are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results and future events to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward–looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to: general business, economic, competitive, political and social uncertainties. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward–looking statements. Emirate Lithium disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward–looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.


Dave Gentry, CEO
RedChip Companies, Inc.
1–800–Red–Chip (733–2441)

Zenas BioPharma Appoints Simon Lowry, M.D. as Chief Medical Officer

WALTHAM, Mass. and SHANGHAI, China, Sept. 07, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zenas BioPharma, a global biopharmaceutical company committed to becoming a leader in the development and commercialization of immune–based therapies for patients in need around the world, today announced the appointment of Simon Lowry, M.D., as the company's Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Lowry brings over 20 years of broad clinical expertise in the design and execution of early to late–stage clinical programs to Zenas, where he will lead the company's global clinical, medical affairs, and pharmacovigilance functions.

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Lowry to Zenas at this pivotal time for the company as we commence two phase three registration trials for our lead product candidate, obexelimab, in the fourth quarter of this year and initiate first–in–human clinical trials for multiple pipeline programs," said Hua Mu, M.D., Ph. D, Chief Executive Officer at Zenas. "Dr. Lowry's proven leadership, broad clinical development background, and extensive global clinical trial experience will further strengthen our ability to execute on our mission to transform the lives of patients with unmet medical needs by bringing best–in–class immune–based therapies to patients."

Dr. Simon Lowry added, "There are many patients with autoimmune and rare diseases in need of effective new treatment options. The deeply experienced and talented Zenas team has made impressive progress advancing the company's pipeline in a very short period of time, and I look forward to leading the ongoing advancement of Zenas' clinical programs through commercialization while further expanding the company's pipeline of innovative programs."

Dr. Lowry is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience at large and emerging pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies directing successful development programs, leading clinical and medical affairs teams, and interacting with regulatory agencies across multiple areas of medicine, including rheumatology, immunology, and ophthalmology. Prior to joining Zenas, Dr. Lowry was Chief Medical Officer at Kinevant Science, a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on treating rare inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Lowry was previously Head of Immunology R&D at Roivant Sciences, leading all development stage immunology assets into clinical development, and served as a key member of the leadership team. He also served as Chief Medical Officer at Sun Pharma North America, where he was responsible for four branded therapeutic areas (Immunology & Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Neurology and Oncology), and led all aspects of development and medical functions (including clinical development, medical information, field medical, HEOR, publications / medical communications, and operations). Early in his career, he worked at Novartis, where he served as Vice President, Global Medical Affairs Franchise Head, Immunology & Dermatology, and Pfizer, where he served in roles of increasing responsibility, including as Vice President, Oncology Medical Affairs Group Leader.

Prior to his pharmaceutical/ biotechnology career, Dr. Lowry practiced internal medicine at various institutions in the UK and Australia. He received his BA from Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, UK and his MB BChir medical degree from Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine.

About Zenas BioPharma

Zenas BioPharma is a global biopharmaceutical company committed to becoming a leader in the development and commercialization of immune–based therapies for patients around the world. With clinical development and operations in the US and China, Zenas is rapidly advancing a deep pipeline of innovative therapeutics that continues to grow through our successful business development strategy. Our experienced leadership team and network of business partners drive operational excellence to deliver potentially transformative therapies to improve the lives of those facing autoimmune and rare diseases. For more information about Zenas BioPharma, please visit www.zenasbio.com and follow us on Twitter at @ZenasBioPharma and LinkedIn.

Investor and Media Contact:
Joe Farmer
Zenas BioPharma

Sand Poachers Fueling Environmental Harm in Zimbabwe

Nesbit Gavanga, who mines sand illegally and sells it to builders, says he has few other economic options in Zimbabwe. Environmentalists, however, are concerned about land degradation. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Nesbit Gavanga, who mines sand illegally and sells it to builders, says he has few other economic options in Zimbabwe. Environmentalists, however, are concerned about land degradation. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe, Sep 7 2022 – In Chitungwiza, right next to the highway, 36-year-old Nesbit Gavanga and his five colleagues use shovels as they load trucks with sand.

The six apparently are in the business of sand-poaching and openly explain that every other day they engage in running battles with environmental officials who seek to curtail land degradation here. The group’s informal sand quarry lies 25 kilometers southeast of the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

For Gavanga and his colleagues, sand-poaching has been a source of income for years as the gang has never been formally employed.

Gavanga, with the others, invaded a patch of land in Chitungwiza to begin mining sand about eight years ago.

“This patch of land has given us money over the years, and we can’t afford to leave it. We are here to stay, and we are here to turn the sand into money,” Gavanga told IPS.

Gavanga is unfazed by the severity of damage he and his colleagues have unleashed on the giant swathes of land they have invaded in Chitungwiza.

What they care about is money, and Gavanga, with his colleagues, has managed to establish a huge customer base over the years.

“We just bring our picks and shovels here, and customers come with their trucks, and we fill the trucks with the sand we sell. Yes, this isn’t our land, but we have to survive from it even though (the authorities say) we are not allowed to mine,” 34-year-old Melford Mahamba, one of Gavanga’s colleagues, told IPS.

Gavanga claimed they make at least 30 to 40 US dollars daily from the enterprise.

But that is bad news for the environment.

Sand poachers have wrought huge scars on land across Zimbabwe as they harvest the river sand. These poachers leave uncovered pits.

Their customers are desperate individuals building urban homes.

According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Zimbabwe’s statutory body responsible for ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, approximately 1694 hectares of land are affected by sand-poaching in the country, with Harare contributing to over 850 hectares of the statistics.

EMA has not been successful in stopping the sand poachers.

“Authorities chase us away from the places we mine for sand, but we always return in no time, even as they arrest us at times. We just bribe the officials and continue with the business,” Mahamba said.

Environmentalists like Happison Chikova, based in Harare, blamed Zimbabwe’s poor economy for the land degradation unleashed by sand poachers.

“These people have no jobs. They think by digging up sand soils for sale, believing they may break free from bankruptcy and poverty, but alas. They only make the environment suffer as they get very little money that hardly changes their lives,” Chikova told IPS.

But for the sand poachers like Mahamba, the profits are significant.

“The profits are huge since sand sells for 6 to 8 US dollars a cubic meter. We sell to clients using their own transport,” said Mahamba.

The sand poachers, in fact, incur very few costs, and the only costs they have to shoulder are the bribes given to council police.

Council authorities, for instance, in Chitungwiza, even though they conduct regular raids on sand poachers, are not fully capacitated.

“We conduct raids on sand poachers, but we don’t do that always due to insufficient resources, and so the sand poachers always go back to their illegal activities. It is like a cat-and-mouse game,” said Lovemore Meya, the Chitungwiza Municipality public relations officer.

For environmentalists like Chikova, sand poachers “damage vegetation while they dig out wide and deep pits which subsequently get flooded each rain season.”

Amid growing sand poaching in Zimbabwe, environmental lawyers insinuate that the practice contributes to climate change.

“Sand poaching increases Zimbabwe’s vulnerability to flooding in areas receiving high rainfall, with the practice of sand poaching also threatening wetlands, but sand poaching also affects water availability downstream, which then affects water use for climate adaptation purposes,” Ray Ncube, an environmental lawyer in private practice, told IPS.

EMA statistics have shown that as of December 2019, 9.5 million square meters of land across Zimbabwe had degraded due to illegal sand poaching.

As vast swathes of land fall to degradation, environmental activists like Kudakwashe Murisi in Masvingo, Zimbabwe’s oldest town, has blamed the country’s polarized politics for enabling sand poachers to do so as they please with the environment.

“Sand poachers are often youths with links to the ruling Zanu-PF party, obviously shielded by their political leadership, making it difficult for anyone to call them to order when they start digging up everywhere for sand soil,” Murisi told IPS.

In power for 42 years, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) is this Southern African nation’s governing political party.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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COVID-19 Forced Ugandan Teachers to Go Digital, Teaching Them Important Lessons

Ugandan Teachers Go Digital - A student teacher at National Teacher's College Kabale follows a lecture through his smartphone. Credit: Michael Wambi/IPS.

A student teacher at the National Teacher’s College Kabale follows a lecture through his smartphone. Credit: Michael Wambi/IPS.

By Wambi Michael
KAMPALA/KABALE, Sep 7 2022 – Before the outbreak of COVID-19, an education officer in the district neighbouring Uganda’s capital Kampala decreed that teachers could not take computers, mobile phones, or tablets into classrooms.

Frederick Kiyingi said phones and information and communications technology (ICT) tools distract learners and would compromise their learning and focus.

But William Musaazi, a teacher who had realised the importance of using ICTs in teaching, tried to reason otherwise. “With this smartphone, I’m able to get the whole world around me just at the click of a button… And at the same time, it makes my lessons interesting, like a very interesting movie,” he told IPS recently.

While the colleges had already been supplied with ICT tools, the lecturers had technology phobia. After training, they can now use ICTs – When the COVID-19 situation came, it forced them to think ‘OK we have these facilities but how can we use them to reach out to our learners’

In the end, Musaazi decided to keep the vital tools out of class for fear of contradicting the guidelines.

Then in March 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni announced a total lockdown, sending learning to a halt. Schools and universities remained closed for two years, leaving 15 million students with no education.

Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MoE) suggested delivering lessons through radio and television but that was not effective. The ministry turned to Enabel, the development agency of Belgium. It developed and implemented a distance learning strategy known as the TTE Sandbox to ensure that learning continued by training educators at the five national teachers colleges (NTCs).


Teaching using a sandbox

Teachers in training had to undertake a crash programme on how to use technology for teaching instead of the traditional methods. They were taught how to use digital tools such as screen-casting, podcasting, video conferencing and e-books or padlets.

Ironically, Enabel had suggested using technology in teaching at NTCs in 2019 but veteran lecturers were reluctant, remembers Virginie Hallet, a portfolio manager at the organisation.

“They said ‘we were born before computers, we don’t know anything about computers. Why do you want us to use ICTS in delivering lectures’?” she told IPS.

Andrew Tabura, a principal education officer in charge of post-secondary and secondary teacher education at the MoE, told IPS that while the colleges had already been supplied with ICT tools, the lecturers had technology phobia. After training, they can now use ICTs. “When the COVID-19 situation came, it forced them to think ‘OK we have these facilities but how can we use them to reach out to our learners,” he said.

According to Hallet, 62% of learners who were at home in different parts of Uganda were able to follow classes via the TTE Sandbox. “It meant that education was able to continue… So really to us, the sandbox was like a mind shift from resistance to total buy-in,” she said. “To us, this is a major success.”

At Kabale National Teacher’s College 400 km south of Kampala, IPS found lecturers still using the TTE Sandbox and other online tools to teach pre-service teachers close to a year after colleges were reopened.


Teaching teachers to use ICTs

It’s early morning. IPS has been granted access to one of the lectures at NTC Kabale. The punishing cold from the Rwenzori Mountains finds its way into the room but warm-hearted learners seem unbothered as Molly Nakimera delivers her lecture. The room has an overhead projector and a set of loudspeakers. A number of cables linked to a laptop computer are visible. Nakimera projects a role-play video about education management, then the class is invited to comment.

Afterwards, Nakimera tells IPS that previously it would take more than three weeks to complete such a course unit, but using ICTs like videos and podcasts means less time is consumed and outcomes are better.

“I teach a very big class. Yet I had failed to figure out a method that would help me to work with big numbers. I used to shout a lot as a teacher. Sometimes I could feel like I’m stretching myself. And sometimes I could not complete the syllabus the way I’m doing it with the sandbox,” she says.

Nakimera adds that while before she knew how to type Word documents, she didn’t know anything about podcasting and producing videos for teaching. To her, the smartphone was for placing calls and checking emails but she has realised that it is actually a small computer, and a key teaching and learning tool too. “These are new things that made me feel more interested, that made my work easy, made me feel that I should become more serious,” added the teacher.

Physics and mathematics lecturer Mujungu Herbert told IPS that before the pandemic every lecturer was using what he described as traditional methods of teaching, which included ‘chalk and talk’ lectures and, sometimes, laboratory equipment or materials from the environment. “With the TTE Sandbox, I have noticed that the learners are more active during the lessons. The teaching is more learner-centred than teacher-centred,” he explained.

Asked why he had not previously embraced ICTs, Herbert said he and other lecturers did not see the reasons for using them and that the pedagogy in place did not include how to teach using ICTs or how to apply for online learning or teaching.


The only option during lockdown

“I would only get to a computer at the time of preparing or setting an exam. I had not heard of Zoom before the pandemic. But while we were in lockdown, we realised that the learners were away from us. The only way to access them was to use ICT tools,” added Herbert.

With such tools, lecturers were able to enrol learners to attend virtually, run quizzes and assign tasks like assignments. Classes were interactive. Herbert did note that some students who lacked access to the Internet would miss classes, while those who had not invested in smartphones or tablets would find it hard to access online resources.

France Ruhuma, a student majoring in biology and chemistry at NTC Kabale, is one of the cohort of students who were introduced to the TTE Sandbox and have continued to use it after schools reopened.

“Now, most of my lifestyle has been shifted online. I don’t have to carry a lot of books. I just get to the sandbox, click on the links and get access to interactive videos,” Ruhuma told IPS. He added that videos packed with illustrations and diagrams are far better to learn from than the old chalkboard and teacher illustration methods.

When he spoke to IPS, Ruhuma had just returned from a teaching practice at a school near Kabale. He said that he realised that veteran teachers were yet to adopt ICT, while not all learners had access to mobile phones. “So as an upcoming teacher, I’m leaving the college when I’m equipped with ICT skills. But the challenge is that in most of these schools, teachers are computer illiterate and the school environment is not prepared for ICTs in teaching,” he said.

MoE Officer Tabura told IPS that the ministry is developing a policy and guidelines to integrate ICTs into education. “It will give guidance to schools on how ICT facilities can be used because there is a fear that teachers or learners will misuse the ICT gadgets,” he said.

According to Tabura, the TTE Sandbox was a small innovation that was developed to reach learners during the lockdown, but it has opened many doors for lecturers. “ I know it requires Internet for example. And that can be a challenge. But if you have Internet, this is something that can be replicated all over the world,” he said.

‘Longings’ Of Ana of Galilee: Voice of Everywoman, Everywhere, And in Every Age!

By Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
SINGAPORE, Sep 7 2022 (IPS-Partners)

The American author Sue Monk Kidd’s award-winning novel The Book of Longings has a sensational beginning, despite the simplicity of the phraseology: It starts: “I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus bin Joseph of Nazareth”. It would be impossible for anyone not to swallow this bait with enormous curiosity, and follow through with reading what is well and truly a ‘page-turner’. The book is crafted to be breezy and exciting, necessary perhaps to better deliver its message. This historical work of fiction was the subject of discussion at a recent seminar organized by the Dhaka -based ‘The Reading Circle’. The event was held in a ‘hybrid’ format, an experiment of the Circle in consonance with the evolving practices of the Covid era. There was a core of participants in Dhaka, and other members joining in from London, Paris, and Singapore. Chaired by Professor Razia Khan, the list of speakers and commentators included Niaz Zaman, Nusrat Huq, Tanveerul Haque, Ameenah Ahmed, Shahruk Rahman, Asfa Husain, Nazmun Nahar, Sarazeen Ahana and myself. The following essay is based on my remarks made on the occasion.

Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

The novel is about Ana, a woman born in the first century in Galilee, Palestine, who in the book is the mythical wife of Jesus of Nazareth. It is about how she longs to shape her own destiny at a time when women were perceived as no more than mere silent chattels, or possessions. To have Jesus as a character in a literary work, and yet not as the main protagonist, would require huge skill on the part of any author, which in view of the discussants, Kidd was able to demonstrate. The challenge is compounded when he is to be shorn of his divinity and presented as a simple human being as he was in the book; as a husband, a brother, and a son, not of God, but of a woman. The writer picks up this intellectual gauntlet, and seems to be able to pull it off.

That is mainly because her work is not about faith, but about feminism. She has a theme, and despite the biblical backdrop, it is not theology. It is one that has been a center of aspiration of half of humanity through ages, of women in a world dominated by men. It is a simple one, but historically has been one of the most difficult goals of humanity to achieve. It is that women should have the equal rights and opportunities as men. Just as it should, in deference to its importance at this time and age,this topic had featured time and again in the Reading Circle’s discussions . It was reflected in the yearnings of Briseis when the Circle read Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls. Or in the passionate writings of Virginia Woolf when it discussed her A Room of One’s Own. And now in the longings of Ana in Sue Monk Kidd’s book. I would like to refer in this connection to a recent part-autobiographical tome by Glennon Doyle entitled “Untamed“. Having felt like a caged animal much of her life, Glennon Doyle has written about how she had learnt to break society’s rules, upend expectations, and rebuild her emotions and life. She was inspired by a Cheetah in a zoo!

Ana represents a prototype different from many others of her sex, though there is indeed a lot of Ana in a lot of women. She is wild, free spirited and untamed. She is intensely modern, a ‘woke’ person by contemporary standards, entertaining radical ideas about societal change. She even tries to shun motherhood, believed then, as now, to be a blessed state for every woman. She tries it by secretly using herbal contraceptives, which would be unthinkable in Nazareth, particularly in a household all Christendom was to worship as the ‘Holy Family’. She is extremely worldly, and not at all spiritual. Her prayer inscribed in an incantation bowl gifted to her by an aunt, is not about any kind of redemption from sin. Instead, she seeks blessings for the ‘largeness’ in her, a very individualistic longing, and seemingly Un-Christian. She is by no means a Mary Sue, the perfect woman in literature, one without failings or flaws. And yet the author shows Jesus as bestowing on her love, empathy, and understanding. And who can be more Christian in spirit than the Nazarene himself? So, is Sue Monk Kidd seeking to obtain for Ana’s behavior the highest possible social sanction?

Now for the character in the book of Jesus himself. The characterization of Jesus must have been the most difficult challenge to our writer. In Biblical terms, Jesus’ ministry to spread ‘the Word’ did not really begin till he was thirty. But in Christian belief emanating from the New Testament he was already divine when born, recognized by the three Magis who came to worship him with gifts at his birth! In the novel, Mary hardly behaves like the keeper of what would be the greatest secret on earth. She provides no clue as to Jesus’ divinity, remains totally mum about her experience at the Annunciation. This was (it’s not in the book but in the Bible) when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced the incarnation of baby-Christ in her womb, stating “Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee!” and a startled Mary, quickly regaining composure, responded ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord’!

Some Church-oriented critics of the book, who, while admiring the work of fiction, have opined that a Christian reader to better appreciate the book should be well-grounded in the Bible, otherwise he or she would be apt to misunderstand the essence of the contents. Be that as it may, Jesus here comes through, not as a leader of the Alpha- Male type like the mighty Achilles of the Trojan wars, but a Beta-male, compassionate and forgiving, who leads by kindness. He believes the kingdom of God will come by acts of love, rather than by the power of the sword.

This view is not at all shared by Judas, the betrayer of Christ, a complex personality in the book in which he is the adopted brother of Ana, apart from being a friend and later, disciple of Jesus. In the Biblical narration Judas gives Jesus away to his captors ‘for thirty pieces of silver’. In this book he is pictured as a political firebrand, a zealot who thinks for the Kingdom of God to come, the Romans must be driven away from Palestine, if need be, by the sword. He views Jesus’ mild ways as an impediment to his objective, and hence takes steps to remove him. There also have been interpretations of Judas, in some revisionist thinking, as someone who helps Christ fulfill his destiny by dying in the cross for the sins of man. Carl Trueman in his epochal work “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” has noted that radical thinkers and writers have driven the rapidly changing cultural mores in the Christian ethos with their ideas in recent times. Perhaps our writer can be seen as one such.

Sue Monk Kidd’s deference to tradition, however, is reflected in the way she depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus. Kidd shows Mary to be pious and pristine, truly without fault, as a woman, a mother, or even as a mother -in-law! Possibly the author uses a modicum of circumspection by not pushing the envelope too far. For me a tad surprising was that, perhaps being an American and not English, the author barely mentions a character, without developing it at all, who later emerges as a prime figure in English perceptions. It is Joseph of Arimathea who appears in this book only at Christ’s entombment. English literary tradition has it that Joseph of Arimathea had hosted the boychild Christ in the Mendip mountains in Somerset, which I had the occasion to visit.

This myth of the boy-Christ’s visit to England of course seeks to fill the void in our knowledge of Jesus’s life during his boyhood and youth, just as our author does in her book. The poet Blake highlights it in his New Jerusalem, England’s unofficial National Anthem when he rhetorically asks: “Did those feet in ancient times tread upon England’s mountains green?“. Since then, Jerusalem in English has become a metaphor for ‘heaven’, a blissful state in which many Britishers would like to see their country to be!

However, the message of our author lay, not in theology nor in history but in a somewhat fanciful response of our author to feminist intellectual and, at times, emotional urges. If Jesus had a wife, she would be the most silenced person on earth! Sue Monk Kidd only sought to give her a voice. This is indeed also the voice of everywoman, everywhere, and in every age!

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is the Honorary Fellow at the Institute of South Asia Studies, NUS. He is a former Foreign Advisor (Foreign Minister) of Bangladesh and President and Distinguished Fellow of Cosmos Foundation. The views addressed in the article are his own. He can be reached at: isasiac @nus.edu.sg

This story was originally published by Dhaka Courier.

Hundreds of Millions of Children Sentenced to Ignorance

There are 244 million children out of school. Credit: Shafiqul Alam Kiron/IPS

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Sep 7 2022 – More than two-thirds of 10-year-olds are unable to read and understand a simple text. This shocking finding should be enough to be alarmed about the horrifying fate of an entire generation. But there is much more.

In fact, there are 244 million children still out of school, while educational centres are victims of armed attacks.

And millions more are falling prey to recruitment, enslavement, vital organs extraction, obliged displacements, drowning in the sea in migration journeys, homelessness, sexual violence, maiming, and a too long etcetera.

The above is to be added to other shocking facts like that 800 million girls are forced to be mothers, and that more than 200 million girls have already fallen prey to a dangerous, abhorrent practice, which is carried out in the name of social and religious traditions.

Also that 160 million plus are victims of forced labour, the double of a big European country’s -Germany- total population.

Half of them -or 80 million– are just 5 to 11 years old, and their number has been rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without mitigation measures, their number could rise to nearly 170 million by the year 2022.

The world’s children are also exposed to grave health problems as a consequence of the “shocking, insidious, exploitative, aggressive, misleading and pervasive” marketing tricks used by the baby formula milk business with the sole aim of increasing, even more, their already high profits, as revealed by the World Health Organization (WHO).


Schools closed

Moreover, school closures and disruptions caused by the pandemic have likely driven learning losses and drop-outs. In the aftermath of the pandemic, nearly 24 million learners might never return to formal education, out of which, 11 million are projected to be girls and young women.

Grave violations affect boys and girls differently. Whereas 85% of children recruited and used were boys, 83% of sexual violence was perpetrated against girls, adds the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to all the above.

The bell is ringing for the start of a new school year in many countries, but inequalities in access to education are keeping some 244 million children out of the classroom, according to data published on 1 September 2022 by UNESCO.


Where most?

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the most children out of school, 98 million, and it is also the only region where this number is increasing.

The Central and Southern Asia region has the second highest out-of-school population, with 85 million.

In addition to being sold in refugee camps, up to 50% of refugee girls in secondary school may not return, when their classrooms reopen after COVID-19, whilst 222 million girls were not able to be reached by remote learning during the pandemic.

The data has been provided by Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, which also focuses on the staggering gender-based violations.



Girls impacted by the horrors of war and displacement in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen face even greater risks, such as gender-based violence, early child-marriage and unwanted pregnancies.

The banning of secondary girls’ education in Afghanistan is especially intolerable. In the past year, girls were estimated to be more than twice as likely to be out of school, and nearly twice as likely to be going to bed hungry compared to boys, adds Education Cannot Wait.


Education in emergencies

According to ECW’s recent Annual Results Report, conflict, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters and the compounding effect of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled increased education in emergencies’ needs with funding appeals reaching US$2.9 billion in 2021, compared with US$1.4 billion in 2020.

“While 2021 saw a record-high US$645 million in education appeal funding – the overall funding gap spiked by 17%, from 60% in 2020 to 77% in 2021.”


Under attack

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack has elaborated a global study of attacks on schools, universities, their students and staff, in 2020 and 2021.

Education is under attack around the world, warns the study. From Afghanistan to Colombia, Mali to Thailand, “students and teachers are killed, raped, and abducted, while schools and universities are bombed, burned down, and used for military purposes.”

According to the Education under Attack 2022:

  • In 2020 and 2021, there were more than 5,000 reported attacks on education and incidents of military use of schools and universities, harming more than 9,000 students and educators in at least 85 countries. On average, six attacks on education or incidents of military use occurred each day.
  • Six attacks on education or incidents of military use occurred each day.
  • Explosive weapons were used in around one-fifth of all reported attacks on education during the reporting period.
  • The highest incidences of attacks on education schools were in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar, and Palestine.

The United Nations has focussed on the tragedy facing world’s children on the occasion of both the International Literacy Day on 8 September, and the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, on 9 September, among several other international days.

Despite all the above, the world’s richest countries continue to be devoted to spending more than two trillion US dollars on weapons that kill tens of thousands of innocent children.

Just see this: Spending on Nuclear Weapons — US$105 Billion a Year; US$300 Million a Day, US$12 Million an Hour. A tiny portion of this amount would suffice to grant the basic human right to education to hundreds of millions of children, right?

Afghanistan: The Year of Illusions

An Afghan girl in the Nawabad District of Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: UNICEF/Mohammad Haya Burhan

A year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan has led to a deterioration in the lives of women and girls, affecting all aspects of their human rights, according to a report from three UN agencies. August 2022

By Saber Azam
GENEVA, Sep 7 2022 – Afghanistan is where history has taken it! The Trump-Taliban “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,” signed on 29 February 2020, is deemed by many as the submission of a superpower to a group that had perpetrated acts of extreme ferocity and terror.

The withdrawal of Western countries in August 2021 was the logical ramification of that “peace deal” and the dilapidation of the aspirations of Afghans who believed in democracy, respect for human rights, good governance, the rule of law, and many other attributes that had taken rightfully free societies to fame and gain.

The return of the Taliban to power reserves an unpredictable future for the Central and South Asia region and puts the entire world on alert. Western assertions during the past year that the religious clerics “had changed” or their regime “would improve with time” tallied the same dictions twenty years ago about the corrupt Karzai government.

Never fact-based, such postulations were not clear-sighted and cogent from various perspectives.

However, the Taliban articulate what the Western capitals desire to heed. In addition, falsity and negation of truth have become the daily practice of their leadership. A quick review of the situation since 15 August 2021 reveals drastic reversals in the country.

A – Human Rights and Humanitarian Situations

Human rights, particularly those of women and girls, are the prime prey of the Taliban. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission were instantly banned. Instead, the Ministry of Virtues is established to implement archaic dogmas that they attribute to Islamic Sharia.

While children are permitted to attend school, the prospects of secondary and higher education and job opportunity remain unattainable to the female population. In addition to the imposition of total body cover, women are restricted from traveling, visiting a doctor, or reaching a health clinic without a recognized male chaperone, who must be the father, brother, or husband.

In retaliation to the nascent resistance that grows in strength in Central and Northern provinces, reports of young women and girls sexually assaulted and raped by the Taliban militants surface daily. In addition, collective punishment, torture, assassination, and expulsion/forced displacement of civilians, replaced by Taliban sympathizers brought from elsewhere, have increased.

Civil society activists are forbidden, and their demonstrations are viciously suppressed. Many human dignity advocates left the country. Others are arrested, tortured, and in some cases, assassinated.

Despite the Taliban’s impressive repression machinery, dauntless women still express their demands for access to freedom, higher education, and job, either in closed premises or in public, at the cost of their lives. One woman recently mentioned that “their struggle is against submission, dishonor, or suicide!”

Freedom of expression and independent media also befell targets of the new regime. Journalists and bloggers are not free anymore as they have to obey strict guidelines imposed by the Taliban. Reporters, scholars, and artists who freely expressed their opinion exercise no more such privilege. Some were arrested, and others were tortured and even killed. Culture has not been spared.

The Ministry of Virtues prohibited listening to music or performing shows. They focus on the size of men’s beards, people’s sartorial, parting men and women, and preventing unaccompanied ladies from using public transportation.

Ethnic, religious, and linguistic discriminations are manifest. Decision makers around the country are Sunni Pashtuns. The Hazara are deliberately targeted, justifying calls for genocide against them.

At the same time, the Taliban “impose” Pashtu in Dari-speaking provinces. Subsequently, conversations with Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, and others appear quasi impossible, leading to systematic and senseless harassment.

The Taliban rebuffed recognition of the Shia Jaffary doctrine. Following the Jewish, the remaining Afghan Hindu and Sikh populations had no alternative but to depart the country. The few Christians face unbearable hardship.

The humanitarian situation is devastating. Most educated people lost their jobs and were replaced by religious clerics. Citizens depend on the alms of those residing outside Afghanistan.

In addition to repeated droughts, the recent destructive floods around the country have further deteriorated the conditions of ordinary people. The Taliban misappropriating international humanitarian aid has been reported in multiple instances, and sites.

B – Security Situation

The Taliban are a divided organization. Their leadership does not seem to have authority over the foot soldiers. Despite their spiritual leader’s amnesty to former security officers, hundreds of them have been brutally assassinated.

Resistance fronts in Panjshir, Baghlan, Takhar, Kapisa, Parwan, Badakhshan, Sari Pol, and many other provinces have gained strength. The Taliban suffer hefty losses in these mountainous areas.

Subsequently, they target civilians, including women and children, accusing them of helping the resistance and apply the “Discovery Doctrine.” Some already speak of war crimes.

In addition, over 100 incidents of explosive weapons have been recorded in the country. Recruitment by the Taliban of youngsters in the south to fight in the north will inevitably deepen the divide in Afghanistan. Reports of one million internally displaced and many more fleeing the country seem credible.

Fatal border clashes have occurred with neighboring Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Despite the Taliban’s denial, the presence of notorious regional and international terrorist organizations in Afghanistan cannot be refuted, transforming this country into a haven for evildoers.

The killing of Ayman Al-Zawahiri in Kabul supports the above assertion. Some foreign militants fight alongside the Taliban; others pursue their specific objectives. Confrontation with numerous resistance fronts would likely intensify in the near future.

C – Political Situation

Similar to communists, the Taliban are inspired by deleterious ideologies. They derive their philosophy, policies, and actions from “self-defined” doctrines that are often contradictory even to the fundamentals of Islam. International norms for human dignity are ignored. The regime’s effort for international legitimacy has so far dramatically failed.

The willingness of the world community to provide humanitarian aid has been presented to the Afghan people as “de facto recognition” of their regime. The West bears a heavy responsibility for the current situation.

Their capitals deliberately trusted the Taliban rhetoric to justify their failure and hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, the current contentious debate in the UN Security Council on the travel of the Taliban leaders may be a sign of change in the right direction.

There seems to be no place for democratic institutions in the Islamic Emirate. The “Supreme Leader,” assisted by a selected group of “religious scholars,” defines and decides everything. Under such circumstances, it would be challenging for the International Community to recognize the Taliban regime.

D- Economic Situation

Prior to the arrival of the Taliban, there was no viable economy in Afghanistan. Lack of proper vision and planning, rampant corruption, mismanagement, nepotism of the rulers, politicians, and senior managers, and many other misdeeds had gangrened public and private sectors. Since August 2021, the situation has worsened.

The Taliban appointed religious clerics to run each sector of the government (security, political, social, economic, financial, humanitarian, public relations, etc.) Those who could assist have either been sidelined or left the country. Afghanistan is in a terrible economic situation.

Despite numerous hydroelectric dams, Central Asian countries provide electricity to Afghans. Kazakhstan and India have provided significant quantities of wheat. And the International Community continues providing humanitarian assistance to delay or avert a looming calamity.


A new corrupt “Taliban elite” is being formed. They desperately lobby the Western countries for the sustention of their regime. Afghans have lost trust in bilateral or multilateral foreign security, humanitarian, and development actions.

World superpowers seem to compete to assert their supremacy in Central and South Asia. It can lead to another prolonged phase of instability! Though it is difficult to predict the corollaries of the current situation, the following would constitute the basis of sound assertions:

1 – Afghanistan is central to peace, stability, and security in Central and South Asia.

2 – The Taliban cannot govern Afghanistan alone. Their zealous effort to convince the Afghan people and the International Community that they are the right choice to govern the country failed. However, they would not share power. Therefore, insecurity will increase, and soon they will lose territory to the resistance. Lawlessness will intensify, and Afghanistan could face a “fractured country-like” situation. Human rights and humanitarian situations would severely worsen.

3 – Superpowers may destabilize each other’s interests through diverse internal and foreign groups rooted in Afghanistan. Neighboring countries would try to safeguard their interests using ethnic and/or religious affinities. The country could face the serious challenge of disintegration and the region the possibility of lengthy conflicts.

4 – To ensure that Afghanistan poses no threat, its entire political, social, and economic structures must alter with the sincere assistance of the International Community. The Afghan society has dramatically changed; previous government formulas and leaders proved futile.

For nearly three centuries, the centralized government has not served the population equitably. The so-called “peace agreements” and “all-inclusive governments” never proved efficient as they did not address the root causes of the repeated conflicts.

There is an urgent need to invest in a new generation of leaders from within the country and support them to identify the main grounds of dispute, disparity, injustice, and unhappiness. New good-governance formulas must be agreed upon. A unique Afghan-led peace process in which national, regional, and international dimensions of the puzzle are addressed must be sponsored and backed unequivocally. Any foreign interference would cause disruption and further deteriorate the situation.

The link to Afghanistan: What Went Wrong https://www.ipsnews.net/2022/08/afghanistan-went-wrong/.

Saber Azam is a former official of the United Nations and author of Soraya: The Other Princess, Hell’s Mouth: A Journey to the Heart of West African jungles, and numerous political and scientific articles [https://www.saberazam.com].

IPS UN Bureau


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How Development Banks Put Communities at Risk – PODCAST

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Sep 7 2022 – A 2021 World Bank-financed project in Uganda was supposed to help communities to sustainably manage local areas and to cope with the impacts of Covid-19. But at one site, the Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, the funding emboldened the Uganda Wildlife Authority. A government body, and the project’s implementing agency, the UWA has long prevented indigenous communities from reclaiming their land near the wildlife reserve.

Since 2015, UWA rangers have been responsible for more than 86 attacks, including 34 people beaten, shot, or injured, 15 arrested, and at least 29 killed in the wildlife reserve. That’s according to a new report called Wearing Blinders. Reprisals against the local community accelerated during negotiations over the World Bank financing.

Unfortunately, such events are not rare. In 2021, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre recorded over 600 attacks against human rights defenders in the context of business activities. Many of them involved, either directly or indirectly, development banks. That’s according to one of today’s guests — Lorena Cotza of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, an umbrella group of over 100 civil society groups and author of Wearing Blinders.

Our other guest is Ugandan human rights defender Gerald Kankya, director of the Twerwaneho Listeners Club. TLC  accompanies communities impacted by development projects, to denounce human rights violations and hold financiers accountable. Days before we spoke, Gerald and his colleagues filed requests for compensation for the families of the Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve in the High Court of Uganda.

According to Lorena, development banks often shirk their responsibilities. They claim that there are no links between reprisals against community members and their financing of local projects. She believes that banks’ independent complaint bodies do produce insightful and credible investigations. However in the end, they can only make recommendations, not hold banks accountable.


Bukele’s Failed Bitcoin Experiment in El Salvador

María del Carmen Aguirre, 52, stands outside her home and pizza business in El Zonte, on the Pacific coast of El Salvador. Her daughters send her remittances from the United States, but they use traditional systems and not the bitcoin electronic wallet, after this country became the first to make bitcoins legal tender on Sept. 7, 2021. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

María del Carmen Aguirre, 52, stands outside her home and pizza business in El Zonte, on the Pacific coast of El Salvador. Her daughters send her remittances from the United States, but they use traditional systems and not the bitcoin electronic wallet, after this country became the first to make bitcoins legal tender on Sept. 7, 2021. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Sep 7 2022 – A year after Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele decided to make El Salvador the first country where bitcoin is legal tender, the experiment has so far failed, as few of the original plan’s objectives have been achieved.

This result was foreseeable since Sept. 7, 2021, when Bukele’s government decided, out of the blue and without any precedent, to make bitcoin legal tender through a law approved by the legislature, controlled by members of the ruling party, Nuevas Ideas.

The aims of that decision were never explained in detail in an official plan, but were basically set out by Bukele, in power since 2019, through his tweets, as well as by officials who merely repeated what the president, given to governing with an authoritarian style, in which he is the only authorized voice for almost everything, has said.”In the end, the majority of the population is not using either the government e-wallet or bitcoins in general.” — Tatiana Marroquín

“Unfortunately there is no formal document or official information from the government in which the specific objectives of the measure have been laid out,” economist Tatiana Marroquín told IPS.

But judging by the president’s announcements, and by communications between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which requested in January 2022 that the measure be annulled, several aims can be highlighted, such as boosting financial inclusion and tourism and improving the country’s “brand”, said Marroquín.

Disenchantment with the Chivo Wallet

The government claimed that bitcoin as legal tender would reduce the gap of unbanked people, which is around 70 percent of the population.

That segment would begin to carry out digital financial transactions with several clicks from their cell phones, according to the government.

However, because much of the information on bitcoin transactions has been classified by the authorities, it is unknown, for example, what percentage of the population is still actively using the Chivo Wallet, the digital wallet created by the government, and in what amounts.

Chivo is basically slang for “cool” in El Salvador.

It is known that at the beginning of the cryptocurrency’s implementation, around four million people downloaded the application, but basically they did so in order to collect a 30 dollar bonus granted by the government to promote the use of bitcoins.

But by this point it is clear that very few people are still using the application, judging by what you hear and see in the towns and cities of this Central American country of 6.7 million people.

“In the end, the majority of the population is not using either the government e-wallet or bitcoins in general,” Marroquin said.

Some businesses use them to receive payments, but there are very few transactions, analyst Ricardo Chavarría, director of Renta Asset Management, a company that manages investment funds in the international market, told IPS.

Nor has the government managed to convince Salvadorans living abroad to use the app to send family remittances to El Salvador, one of its main aims when it dove headfirst into bitcoins.

Each year, the country receives around seven billion dollars in remittances, representing 26 percent of GDP.

In August 2021, a month before the approval of the so-called Bitcoin Law, Bukele said in a tweet that Salvadorans pay around 400 million dollars in commissions to send money to their families in El Salvador.

That amount of money would be saved by sending it through the Chivo Wallet.

One of the Chivo ATMs scattered throughout El Salvador, in an attempt by the government to make it easier for the public to make transactions in bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that is legal tender in El Salvador, but which very few are using a year after its implementation. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

One of the Chivo ATMs scattered throughout El Salvador, in an attempt by the government to make it easier for the public to make transactions in bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that is legal tender in El Salvador, but which very few are using a year after its implementation. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Not even the diaspora trusts the cryptocurrency

However, according to official figures, only 1.5 percent of remittances were sent through e-wallets in the first quarter of 2022, a percentage far below what the government expected.

This was probably influenced by the high volatility of cryptoassets such as bitcoin, which is currently going through a crisis in its value, dubbed as a crypto winter.

Bitcoin’s price plunged to 19,813 dollars at the close on Sept. 5, well below last year’s peak, when it surpassed the 60,000 dollar mark.

And the Salvadoran population abroad, especially in the United States, where more than three million live, is reluctant to bet on something so volatile and, therefore, risky.

“People are extremely careful, despite the political capital of the president (Bukele), the same people over there (Salvadorans in the United States) do not risk their money,” said Chavarría.

That is the case of María del Carmen Aguirre, a 52-year-old entrepreneur who runs a small pizza business in El Zonte, a coastal community on El Salvador’s Pacific coast, some 50 kilometers southeast of San Salvador, part of the municipality of Chiltiupán, in the central department of La Libertad.

Aguirre told IPS that she regularly receives remittances from her two daughters who live in the United States, in San Francisco, California, but neither of them send the money through Chivo Wallet or any other similar platform.

“They send it only through the bank. It seems that they are quite afraid. ‘What happens if we send 200 dollars and at that moment the price of bitcoin goes down?’ they say to me,” said Aguirre, in her pizzeria.

El Zonte is a beach area known for its surfing and because an unusual community effort to use the cryptocurrency was launched there, about two years before the government decided to try bitcoins.

This initiative was promoted thanks to a donor, who remains anonymous, who gave money to carry out works in the town, but on the condition that those who worked on them would be paid in bitcoins and not in dollars, the legal tender in El Salvador since 2001.

That still raises suspicions: why would anyone be interested in promoting the crypto-asset in a poor coastal town, with dirt roads and modest shacks, although there are also some luxury hotels, hostels and restaurants.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, families in El Zonte received, on several occasions, 30-dollar vouchers from the mystery donor to use for bitcoin transactions.

“They gave us the bonus three or four times so we could go to the stores that already handled bitcoin,” Aguirre said.

Chavarría said the cryptocurrency is probably at the end of the so-called crypto winter, and he expects it to rise again in the future.

“For me, in a medium to long term horizon it is going to recover and it is going to win out,” he argued.

A street corner in the town of El Zonte, on the Pacific coast of El Salvador, which became the place where a project to promote the use of bitcoins in the country started, before the government of Nayib Bukele gave the cryptocurrency legal status in September 2021. Most businesses in this town accept them as a form of payment, but in the rest of the country the use of bitcoins is marginal. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A street corner in the town of El Zonte, on the Pacific coast of El Salvador, which became the place where a project to promote the use of bitcoins in the country started, before the government of Nayib Bukele gave the cryptocurrency legal status in September 2021. Most businesses in this town accept them as a form of payment, but in the rest of the country the use of bitcoins is marginal. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Not just gangs

One thing that Marroquín the economist and financial analyst Chavarría agreed on is that, with the passage of the Bitcoin Law, El Salvador made the global headlines about something other than the recurring issue of gang violence, which used to be the only issue of interest to the international press.

In this sense, it could be argued that the country’s image improved somewhat on the world news agenda.

“The fact that El Salvador is on the news map and that it appears in Bloomberg, in The New York Times, in Spain’s El País, when the only topic before was the gangs, is good news for me as a Salvadoran,” said Chavarría.

Marroquín concurred that “El Salvador is undoubtedly no longer known as it used to be solely for violence.”

She added that the adoption of the bitcoin has also bolstered tourism in the country by attracting a segment of visitors interested in the cryptocurrency, although it remains to be seen whether this improvement will have an impact on poor communities near tourist spots.

The bitcoin symbol can be seen everywhere in El Zonte, a coastal community in southern El Salvador, such as on this 1970s Volkswagen van or ‘furgoneta’, called the Bitcoineta. The implementation of the cryptocurrency in this country has not gone well and so far has been a setback for President Nayib Bukele, although the outlook could change if the price of the cryptoasset rallies. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The bitcoin symbol can be seen everywhere in El Zonte, a coastal community in southern El Salvador, such as on this 1970s Volkswagen van or ‘furgoneta’, called the Bitcoineta. The implementation of the cryptocurrency in this country has not gone well and so far has been a setback for President Nayib Bukele, although the outlook could change if the price of the cryptoasset rallies. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A cloak of secrecy

The government has been harshly criticized for the secrecy with which it has handled not only the adoption of the bitcoin but also other important issues about which the public has demanded information, since they have involved the use of public funds for which the Bukele administration has not been held accountable.

When it has been made available, Information has arrived in dribs and drabs.

It is known that the government has purchased 2,381 bitcoins, on which it has spent 106.04 million dollars. But when related investments are factored in, such as the ATMs placed at various points around the country, the total investment exceeds 300 million dollars.

“There is a big black cloak surrounding the government’s use of public funds,” Marroquín said.