afrol News, 2 July - The government of Mauritania is putting 500 imams on its payroll, providing monthly "stipends" if they help stop the spread of religious extremism.
The aim of the operation is to limit the recruitment of fundamentalist scholars to Mauritania and better regulate the mosques and their selection of imams, according to Ahmed Ould Mukhtar of the Nouakchott Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
According to the Arabic language journal 'Magharebia', a competition to get the 500 state stipends was announced to Mauritania's mosques on 20 June. Government officials this week started receiving applications for this unique state salary.
The selected imams are to be paid a monthly salary of ouguiya 50,000 (euro 150) by government.
The scheme has been presented as an official aid to the running of mosques in the predominantly Muslim country. In addition to financial support, the Ministry also could provide some food aid to the mosques' social programmes, it was announced.
But critics hold that the programme only aims at rooting out propagators of unpopular schools of Islam in the country. Authorities have struggled to control the rise of several fundamentalist Muslim groups in Mauritania, putting some of them in connection with terror attacks in the country.
Ministry advisor Ould Mukhtar confirmed to 'Magharebia' that authorities want to improve control of what happens in the country's many mosques. "Mauritanian authorities have recognised the need for regulating the mosques; and for development of control mechanisms for the selection of imams, due to the importance of their role in society in general," he told the journal.
The stipend scheme is seen in connection with a religious control programme launched by the Ministry in October last year. During the programme, all the country's mosques, religious schools and imams were surveyed. The message put through in the Friday prayers of the country's imams were of special interest to the surveyors.
It is expected that the completed survey will for the basis of eligibility for the stipend programme. Imams with an extremist message can count on exclusion from the state payroll.
According to unconfirmed information from Mauritania, the 500 imams that will receive government funds will also be expected to help authorities monitor signs of extremism in their congregations.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.