Category - Africa

Liberia Is Free of Ebola, World Health Organization Declares

New York Times, By Sheri Fink, May 9

The World Health Organization declared Liberia free of Ebola on Saturday, making it the first of the three hardest-hit West African countries to bring a formal end to the epidemic.

“The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over,” the W.H.O. said in a statement read by Dr. Alex Gasasira, the group’s representative to Liberia, in a packed conference room at the emergency command center in Monrovia, the capital.

Just before Dr. Gasasira’s statement, Luke Bawo, an epidemiologist, showed a map depicting all of Liberia in green with the number 42 superimposed on it. This represented that two maximum incubation periods of the virus, a total of 42 days, had passed since the safe burial of the last person confirmed to have had Ebola in the country, fulfilling the official criteria for concluding that human-to-human transmission of the virus has ended.

[…]

In the past week, Guinea and Sierra Leone each reported nine cases of the disease, the lowest weekly total this year. Dr. Bruce Aylward, head of the W.H.O.’s Ebola response efforts, cautioned that hidden chains of transmission were probably occurring in those two countries. “We don’t know where that virus is,” he said.

Dr. Aylward said it had taken Liberia several months to get to zero cases after reaching single digits.

New York Times: After Ebola Outbreak, Liberian Churches Confront Crisis of Faith

Barack Obama: Two Time Nobelist?

You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.

Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More

UN aid worker suspended for leaking report on child abuse by French troops

Anders Kompass said to have passed confidential document to French authorities because of UN’s failure to stop abuse of children in Central African Republic.

The Guardian, By Sandra Laville, April 29

A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.

Sources close to the case said Anders Kompass passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse. The report documented the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French troops stationed in the country as part of international peacekeeping efforts.

Kompass, who is based in Geneva, was suspended from his post as director of field operations last week and accused of leaking a confidential UN report and breaching protocols. He is under investigation by the UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS) amid warnings from a senior official that access to his case must be “severely restricted”. He faces dismissal.

The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susana Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.

Egypt extends state of emergency in northern Sinai by three months

Reuters, April 25

Cairo – Egypt said on Saturday it had extended by three months a state of emergency imposed on parts of northern Sinai in October after Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the peninsula bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.

Insurgents have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Sinai since mid-2013, lashing out after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests. Sisi went on to be elected president last year.

The decision, announced in a statement from the presidency, will be implemented in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and surrounding areas starting on Sunday. It also extends a night-time curfew in place in the same areas.

South Africa arrests hundreds over xenophobic violence

Police arrest more than 300 for crimes against migrants, after violence kills eight and displaces more than 1,000.

Al Jazeera, April 20

South Africa’s government has vowed to crack down on xenophobic violence, after arresting more than 300 people for a range of crimes against migrants.

Authorities said on Sunday in Johannesburg that 307 suspects had been arrested for a range of xenophobic-related crimes.

Security agencies have also increased the police presence on the ground after at least eight deaths in anti-immigrant violence in the past week.

“They have actually pushed other people to leave their own comfort zones, their homes,” David Mahlobo, the minister of state security, said.

More than 1,000 people have been displaced after violence against foreign nationals flared up on March 30 in the country’s coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, whose capital is Durban.

Millions of Nigerians come out to vote in tight poll

Voters brave sun, insecurity and queues but presidential election extended to Sunday in some areas after tech glitches.

Al Jazeera, March 28

Nigerians turned out en masse on Saturday to vote in what is expected to be one of the tightest presidential races in their history between incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

Analysts are calling the poll a pivotal historical event for the young democracy. Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled Africa’s most populous nation virtually unopposed for 16 years.

But it is possible he could lose to Buhari, who has contested three previous elections but never come close to victory before.

Al Jazeera: Goodluck Jonathan hopes it will be 2011 all over again.

Ebola outbreak ‘over by August’, UN suggests

BBC, By Smitha Mundasad, March 23

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa will be over by August, the head of the UN Ebola mission has told the BBC.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed admitted the UN had made mistakes in handling the crisis early on, sometimes acting “arrogantly”.

A year after the outbreak was officially declared, the virus has killed more than 10,000 people.

[…]

“We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer.”

Chad, Niger launch joint offensive against Boko Haram in Nigeria

Reuters, March 8

Chad and Niger launched a joint army operation against Boko Haram in Nigeria on Sunday, intensifying a regional offensive designed to defeat the Islamic group, military sources said.

It is the first incursion deep into Nigeria by troops from Niger, which have so far only fought Boko Haram in the border area. Chad has already sent troops many kilometres inside northeastern Nigeria and has won territory back from the Sunni jihadist group near the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

“We can confirm that Chadian and Nigerien forces launched an offensive this morning from Niger. The offensive is underway,” said Colonel Azem Bermandoa, spokesman for Chad’s army.

South Sudan foes agree to end conflict

BBC, February 1

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar have signed a deal, committing to end the conflict that has devastated the country.

The ceasefire agreement was signed at talks in Ethiopia.

But consultations will continue on the contentious issue of a future government and power-sharing.

The conflict – which erupted in December 2013 – has displaced about 1.5 million people and earlier ceasefire deals have not been lasted.

“Complete cessation of hostilities in South Sudan is expected as of this morning (Monday),” said Seyoum Mesfin, a negotiator from the regional Igad bloc.

Chadian aircraft ‘bomb Nigerian town in anti-Boko Haram raid’

AFP, January 31

N’Djamena, Chad – Chadian aircraft on Saturday bombed the Nigerian town of Gamboru in a raid targeting Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, security sources said.

A raid was carried out around midday by two fighter jets on the town in Nigeria’s far northeast along the Cameroon border, sources from Chad and Cameroon said on condition of anonymity.

Boko Haram overran the town several months ago as part of its campaign to seize territory in the region and create an Islamic state.

The Boko Haram uprising has become a regional crisis, with the four directly affected countries — Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria — agreeing to boost cooperation to contain the threat.

AP: Africa agrees to send 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

Simultaneous Attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Kill 26

AP, By Ashraf Sweilam, January 29

El-Arish, Egypt – Militants struck more than a dozen army and police targets in the restive Sinai Peninsula with simultaneous attacks involving a car bomb and mortar rounds on Thursday, killing at least 26 security officers.

An Army spokesman immediately blamed former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack, which killed 25 Army soldiers and one policeman.

The wide-ranging attacks late Thursday required a previously unseen level of coordination. At least one car bomb was set off outside a military base, while mortars were simultaneously fired at the base, toppling some buildings and leaving soldiers buried under the debris, official said.

Other attacks included mortar rounds fired at a hotel, a police club and more than a dozen checkpoints, officials said.

BBC: Egypt’s Sisi cuts short visit over Sinai attacks
Al Arabiya: Sisi cuts short overseas trip after Sinai attacks

45 churches torched in Niger capital in cartoon demos: police

AFP, January 19

Niamey – Forty-five churches were torched over the weekend in Niger’s capital during deadly protests over the publication of a Prophet Mohammad cartoon by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police said on Monday.

The protests, which left five people dead and 128 people injured in Niamey, also saw a Christian school and orphanage set alight, Adily Toro, a spokesman for the national police, told a press conference.

Similar unrest sparked by the French satirical weekly, which was targeted by a bloody Islamist raid on January 7, saw five people killed in the southern city of Zinder, where 45 were wounded.

UN Ebola czar says epidemic has ‘passed the tipping point’

AFP, By Carole Landry & Andre Viollaz, January 15

The Ebola crisis has “passed the tipping point” and there is now a reasonable chance the deadly outbreak could end quickly, the UN special envoy said Thursday.

UN Ebola coordinator David Nabarro welcomed fresh data from the World Health Organization showing that all three hardest-hit countries in West Africa had registered the lowest weekly tally of new cases in months.

“I’m absolutely delighted to see that the incidence of confirmed Ebola cases week-on-week is reducing,” Nabarro told AFP in an interview.

“This suggests that we have passed the tipping point and we are beginning to be on the downward slope of the outbreak,” he said.

Burundi: Violence Sparks Alarm Ahead of Burundi Polls

Mounting violence in Burundi is adding to concern over an already volatile political climate. The government and the opposition are trading accusations, while rights groups warn that basic freedoms are being restricted.

Deutsche Welle, By Dirke Köpp and Eric Topona, January 15

A wave of violence has been sweeping the Central African country of Burundi for weeks. Heavy clashes between the military and rebels have left scores of people dead. Unidentified assailants dressed in military fatigues killed several members of the ruling party in early January.

Meanwhile the political climate is becoming harsher ahead of legislative elections in May, which are to be followed by presidential polls in June.

The incumbent president, Pierre Nkurunziza, is exacerbating an already difficult situation in the country by pursuing a third term in office. Burundi’s constitution only allows for two terms, as was agreed in 2000, in a peace deal that ended a civil war. But President Nkurunziza’s camp argues that when he was elected for the first time in 2005, it was not by popular vote but by the legislature.

Observers see a clear connection between the upcoming elections and the escalating violence. “The attacks come just as the ruling party and the government are having problems with the opposition,” said Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), a rights organization in Burundi.

Egypt acquits 26 men accused of debauchery in Cairo bathhouse

Associated Press, By Maggie Michael, January 12

Cairo — An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bathhouse, a ruling that set off deafening cheers and jubilation inside the courtroom as some of the defendants uncovered their faces and cried with relief.

The trial, which had caused an uproar among activists and rights groups, captured public attention after a pro-government TV network aired scenes of half-naked men being pulled from the bathhouse by police.

Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egyptian law but homosexuality is a social taboo in the conservative, Muslim-majority country. Same-sex marriage is unheard of. Only in recent years have movies and fiction included gay characters.

[…]

The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”

“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told The Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”

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