Posts tagged ‘Nigeria’

AROUND AFRICA: Burkina Faso Unrest; Ebola Update; Zambia President Dies; Another Boko Haram Attack, Nigeria President Seeking Re-Election; [UPDATE]

UPDATES with  Rioting, state of emergency in Burkino Faso, Nigerian President to Seek Re-election.

Burkina Faso Capital in Flames.

Burkina Fasolocation  in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Burkina Fasolocation in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency, after tens of thousands of people took the streets, setting the  parliament building ablaze. Violence in the capital, Ouagadugou, has left at least one person dead, according to Al Jazeera.

Army General Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, said that the government and parliament were dissolved on Thursday (October 30). Some of the protesters, who are opposed to constitutional amendments that would allow President Blaise Compaore to stay in power for another term, ransacked state television and tried to storm other state buildings, Al Jazeera noted. 

“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today,” said a statement from the president read by a presenter on Radio Omega FM.  The president also said he would open talks with the opposition.

“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change,” the statement said. “I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.” 

The BBC is reporting that President Compaore  is defying opposition calls that he step down. The president says he will stay in power for a year under a transitional government, following a day of violent protests demanding his resignation. Demonstrators angered by his bid to extend his 27-year rule torched Parliament and other government buildings.

General Traore did not spell out who would lead the interim administration. He also declared the imposition of an overnight curfew. In a message broadcast by a local TV station after the general’s statement, Compaore said he welcomed the military’s “patriotic action”. He said he would hand over power to a democratically elected government after the transitional administration had completed its term. He also said he was withdrawing a controversial legislation that would enable him to seek another term in office. He has held the presidency for 27 years.

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Ebola Update

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says here has been a decline in the spread of Ebola in Liberia, the country hardest hit by the deadly virus.

The WHO’s Bruce Aylward said it the U.N. agency is finally confident health officials are gaining the upper hand against the outbreak, the BBC reported.

However, Aylward warned against any suggestion that the crisis was over.  Liberia’s Red Cross said its teams collected 117 bodies last week, down from a high of 315 in September, according to the WHO. Treatment centers also have empty beds available for patients.  “It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing,” said Aylward.

According to the latest WHO situation report, the death toll from the West African outbreak stands at 4,922. The WHO says a total of 13,703 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virdus disease (EVD) have been reported in six countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States as of October 28. Meanwhile, the outbreak of EVD in Senegal was declared over on October 17 and in Nigeria two days later (October 19, 2014).

EVD transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the WHO report said, adding: “All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began.” Cases of EVD transmission remain lowest in Guinea, but case numbers are still very high in absolute terms. Transmission remains intense in the capital cities of the three most affected countries. Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in the outbreak.”

More on Ebola Later

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Boko Haram Attack

Updates with President Goodluck Jonathan saying he will seek re-election.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

The Voice of America website is reporting that Boko Haram militants have taken over a city in northeast Nigeria — another violation of a cease-fire declared by the government earlier this month.

Local residents tell VOA’s Hausa language service that militants stormed the city of Mubi on Thursday (October 30), pillaging the local emir’s palace and freeing jailed militants from a prison.

A Mubi resident reported seeing black turban-wearing Boko Haram fighters patrolling the city on motorbikes. The witness also said Nigerian soldiers have either fled or abandoned their positions in the city. The Nigerian air force is reported to have launched air strikes in Mubi to counter the Boko Haram advance, VOA reported.

Despite widespread discontent with how his government is handling the Boko Haram crisis, President Goodluck Jonathan announced he would seek re-election in February’s elections, the BBC reports.

The announcement comes as Jonathan faces mounting criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and the group’s abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, the BBC noted. The government announced a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram earlier this month that was supposed to lead to the release of the schoolgirls.

The Nigerian government says it has been talking to Boko Haram in neighboring Chad with both parties agreeing on a ceasefire. But with attacks in northeast Nigeria continuing and no word on when — or if — the girls will be released, critics have raised questions about the validity of the truce.

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Sata Dead, Scott Acting President.

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013. (Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013.
(Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

The president of Zambia, Michael Sata, has died and his successor — at least temporarily — is the Zambian-born son of a Scottish doctor and sub-Saharan Africa’s first white head of state in 20 years.

Sata, 77, who was elected president of the South Central African nation in 2011, died Tuesday (October 28) in a London hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness, according to the BBC.

Zambia’s vice president, Guy Scott, 70, will serve as acting president until elections are held in January. He is a former agriculture minister who also worked in Zambia’s finance ministry.

“Elections for the office of president will take place in 90 days. In the interim, I am the acting president,” Scott said in a broadcast address that also announced the start of  a period of mourning for the late president, the Associated Press reported.

MAP-Zambia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

MAP-Zambia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Scott, whose parents were both Scottish, has said he has no presidential ambitions. Zambia’s constitution also bars him from running for president because his parents were not Zambians by birth or descent, the AP said.

Sata — nicknamed “King Cobra” for his blunt talk and sharp tongue — was Zambia’s fifth president and the second to die in office.  He promised to tackle corruption and create jobs and prosperity for the former British colony (Northern Rhodesia) of 15 million people.  But his declining health was mirrored by Zambia’s declining economy, and he left behind an impoverished country with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, according to the BBC’s obituary.

October 30, 2014 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Death Toll; Boko Haram Ceasefire and Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Ebola Death Toll

WHO declares Ebola outbreak over in Senegal (World Health Organization image)

WHO declares Ebola outbreak over in Senegal
(World Health Organization image)

The death toll in the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has risen to 4,493, according to the latest situation report by the World Health Organization.

The WHO said there have been 8,997 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of what the U.N. agency calls Ebola virus disease (EVD) in seven affected countries:  countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of  October 12.

Today (October 17) the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in Senegal over. The U.N. agency commended the country’s authorities for their “diligence to end the transmission of the virus.” The WHO said it has been 42 days since any new cases had developed in Senegal.

However, the WHO said the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone “is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of EVD.” The situation report said an increase in new cases in Guinea is being driven by a spike in confirmed and suspected cases in the capital, Conakry, and the nearby district of Coyah.

“In Liberia, problems with data gathering make it hard to draw any firm conclusions from recent data.” The the report stated, adding that it suspects “almost certainly significant under-reporting of cases from the capital, Monrovia.” While there does appear to be a genuine fall in the number of cases in Liberia’s Lofa district, the WHO said a concerted effort will be needed to confirm that drop  and whether it means EVD has been eliminated in that area.

In Sierra Leone, intense transmission is still occurring in the capital, Freetown, and the surrounding districts.   

Back in the United States, President Obama has appointed Ron Klain, “a seasoned Democratic crisis-response operative and White House veteran,” to manage the U.S. government’s response to the deadly virus as public anxiety grows over its possible spread, the New York Times reported. The new Ebola czar is a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, is known for his ability to handle high-stakes and fast-moving political challenges, according to the Times.

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane arrives with the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help contain Ebola in Liberia, Sept. 23, 2014. The cargo included a heavy duty forklift, drill set and generator.  (U.S. Army Africa photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia) Liberia

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane arrives with the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help contain Ebola in Liberia, Sept. 23, 2014. The cargo included a heavy duty forklift, drill set and generator.
(U.S. Army Africa photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia) Liberia

Hundreds of U.S. military personnel are already in Liberia assisting in the construction of Ebola treatment centers and training local personnel. They include Marines helicopter crews, Navy SeaBees and lab technicians, Air Force cargo handlers and Army engineers.

The Pentagon says between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel may be sent to Liberia to help with logistical, construction and administrative tasks. Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reservists, if necessary. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says no U.S. military personnel will be involved in treatment of Ebola patients during the mission, which is called Operation United Assistance.

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Nigeria: Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria’s military says it has agreed to a ceasefire with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and that the militants will release hundreds of schoolgirls it kidnapped earlier this year.

Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce but Boko Haram has yet to make a public statement, according to the BBC.

Boko Haram, which seeks to create an Islamic state governed by a severe interpretation of Sharia law, requiring beheadings, whippings and limb amputations for crimes launched an insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Thousands have been killed in the struggle, including some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year, the BBC said.

The group, whose name translates roughly into “Western education is fraudulent” and by implication, forbidden, has bombed police stations, churches and bus terminals and attacked high schools and colleges, killing students and teachers. It sparked worldwide outrage in April when it raided a high school in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria and carried off hundreds of teenage girls.

Many in the country have been critical of the government’s slow response to the kidnappings and the counterinsurgency in general. They remain skeptical about the ceasefire announcement.

Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, says the negotiations in Saudi Arabia and Chad between the government and Boko Haram will only increase the stature of the group.

“It has acquired its own status that puts it on its own pedestal.  But the reality is there [are] a lot of people in northeastern Nigeria who have an incentive to join Boko Haram because of the failures, corruption and the inability of the government to exercise transparency and good governance,” Nwankwo tells the Voice of America.

He’s also worried that Abuja’s willingness to negotiate with Boko Haram may reflect the government’s “desperation” bring the abduction crisis to a close. 

October 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: U.S. Ebola Response, Nigeria College Attacked, U.N. Peacekeepers Killed in Mali UPDATE

Ebola Roundup.

UPDATES Ebola Roundup with aid pledge from Canada, Sierra Leone shutting down for three days and report of health workers and journalists found dead in Guinea.

Disinfecting personal protective garb and equipment at the J. F Kennedy Treatment Center in the capital of Liberia. (WHO photo by Christina Bamluta)

Disinfecting personal protective garb and equipment at the J. F Kennedy Treatment Center in the capital of Liberia. (WHO photo by Christina Bamluta)

The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has gone over 2,600, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 2,630 people have died and at least 5,357 people have been infected, the WHO said Thursday (September 18), according to Reuters.

In an update on the epidemic, which is raging through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – and has spread to Senegal and Nigeria, the U.N. health agency said there were no signs of the outbreak slowing, said Reuters.

Several Western governments – criticized for not doing enough — have stepped up their assistance in fighting the fast-moving virus, for which there is no known cure.

President Barack Obama says the United States will send 3,000 military personnel to West Africa where they will erect new treatment and isolation facilities, train health care workers and increase communications and transportation support, according to The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama convenes briefing on the Ebola virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.  (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama convenes briefing on the Ebola virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
(White House Photo by Pete Souza)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the 3,000 troops would not provide direct care to Ebola patients, the AP reported. A substantial number will be stationed at an intermediate base in Senegal, Earnest said, with others at locations in Liberia where they will provide logistical, training, engineering and other support.

Obama said the Ebola outbreak is now an epidemic “of the likes that we have not seen before. It is spiraling out of control … The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Obama said during a visit to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) where he consulted with health officials about the U.S. response to Ebola. “Right now, the world has the responsibility to act – to step up, and to do more. The United States of America intends to do more,” Obama added.

France says it will set up a military hospital in West Africa as part of its contribution to the fight against Ebola. President Francois Hollande said Thursday (September 18) that the facility will be set up “in the forests of Guinea, in the heart of the outbreak,” according to Reuters.

UPDATE:

Earlier this week, Canada said it will donate $2.5 million worth of the specialized medical gear used to protect health-care workers who are treating Ebola patients, The Canadian Press reported.

In a bid to reduce its Ebola infection rate, Sierra Leone will “close down” the country for three days beginning Friday (September 19), according to information minister Alpha Kanu.

Current figures show there are 1,400 cases of the Ebola disease in Sierra Leone, according to Kanu, the Voice of America reported. Sierra Leone is one of three hard-hit Western African nations being overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading deadly virus.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports officials in Guinea searching for a team of health workers and journalists who went missing while trying to raise awareness of Ebola have found several bodies.

A spokesman for Guinea’s government said the bodies included those of three journalists in the team. The group was reported missing after being attacked Tuesday (September 16) in a village near the southern city of Nzerekore.

Guinea and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

On Thursday night, a Guinea government spokesman, Albert Damantang Camara, said eight bodies had been found, including those of three journalists.

He said they had been recovered from the septic tank of a primary school in the village, adding that the victims had been “killed in cold blood by the villagers”.

The reason for the killings is unclear, but correspondents say many people in the region distrust health officials and have refused to co-operate with authorities, fearing that a diagnosis means certain death, the BBC said. Last month, riots erupted on rumors that medics who were disinfecting a market were contaminating people.

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Nigeria College Attack

Gunmen have attacked a teacher training college in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, and officials say at least 15 people have been killed, the BBC reports. Another 34 people were injured in the Wednesday (September 17) attack.

The gunmen exchanged fire with police outside the college before running inside. While it is not clear who was responsible for the attack, the BBC said, suspicion will fall on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009. The group which wants to set up a separate Islamic state in Africa’s most populous country has already killed 2,000 people this year and kidnapped hundreds of high school-age schoolgirls.

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Peacekeepers Killed

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013. (Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013.
(Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

The United Nations mission in Mali says five of its peacekeepers from Chad were killed and another three wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device in the north of the country on Thursday (September 18).

The attack brings the number of U.N. peacekeepers killed in the country this month to 10, according to Reuters. The U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, said the blast happened between the desert towns of Aguelhok and Tessalit, in the Kidal region of the Wester African nation.

MINUSMA was deployed last year to help stabilize Mali following a three-pronged crisis which began with a Tuareg separatist uprising, followed by a military coup in the southern capital and a nine-month occupation in the north by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

The militants were chased out by a French-led intervention, but pockets of insurgents remain in Mali’s vast desert north from where they have launched attacks on the U.N. peacekeepers.

September 18, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA Update 2: Al Shabaab Blitz; Ebola Crisis, Niger Drone Base, Rwanda Verdict, Bastille Day

Somalia Islamists Attacked.

Updates with al Shabaab leader’s death confirmed.

Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia.(Photo copyright, Kate Holt, IRIN)

Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia.(Photo copyright, Kate Holt, IRIN)

The U.S. military today (Friday, September 5) that the leader of the African Islamist extremist group, al Shabaab, was killed in the drone missile attack in Somalia earlier this week.

Witnesses said drones fired at least four missiles Monday (September 1) in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, destroying two al Shabaab vehicles, according to the Voice of America website. On Tuesday (September 2), the Defense Department disclosed that the head of al Shabaab was the target of the attack.

 “We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, has been killed,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby announced today in a press statement that did not detail how Godane’s identity and death was cestablished. “Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab. The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations,” the published statement continued.

Previously, Kirby said U.S. special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions,” according to a transcript of Tuesday’s Pentagon press briefing.

It was the most aggressive U.S. military operation in nearly a year, coming as the President Barack Obama’s administration grapples with security crises in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, the Washington Post noted. Al Shabaab, which means “the youth,” in Arabic, is a jihadist movement affiliated with al Qaeda that started in Somalia “a chronically unstable country on the Horn of Africa,” and has grown into a regional terrorist group that has carried out attacks in Uganda and Kenya — including last year’s Nairobi shopping mall attack that left scores of dead and injured. Al Shabaab has also cooperated with another al Qaeda branch in Yemen, the Post added.

Al Jazeera reported that the jihadist group confirmed it had come under attack but would not Godane’s situation. The attack comes just a few days after African Union troops and Somali government forces launched a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from al Shabaab and cutting off key sources of revenue, said Al Jazeera. The Associated Press reported that the air strikes killed six militants but it was not known at the time if Godane was among the dead.

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Widening Ebola Threat

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The head of an international medical aid, group, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors without Borders), says the world is losing the battle to contain the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Military teams should be sent to the region immediately if there is to be any hope of controlling the epidemic, MSF’s international president Dr. Joanne Liu told the United Nations Tuesday (September 2), painting a stark picture of health workers dying, patients left without care and infectious bodies lying in the streets, The Guardian website reports.

Although alarm bells have been ringing for six months, the response had been too little, too late and no amount of vaccinations and new drugs would be able to prevent the escalating disaster, Liu told U.N. officials, adding: “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.”

Ebola has spread to a fifth West African nation. Senegal’s health minister, Awa Marie Coll Seck has confirmed that country’s first Ebola case. On Friday (August 29), she said a young man from Guinea with the deadly disease had crossed into Senegal, where he was promptly put in isolation, according to Al Jazeera. Other countries reporting Ebola cases include: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

The current outbreak, which first appeared in Guinea, has killed more the 1,900 people across the region since March, according to the World Health Organization, the BBC reported. At least 3,000 people have been infected with the virus and the World Health Organization has warned the outbreak could grow and infect more than 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, fear and ignorance is blamed for the violent — and unhelpful reaction is some places in the region. In Liberia, one of the three hardest-hit nations, there have been clashes between soldiers and residents of quarantined slum area in the capital, Monrovia. In Nigeria, residents in some areas are protesting against the idea of building isolation units in their neighborhoods. The Voice of America reported  Friday (August 29) that people have taken to the streets in the northern city of Kaduna, protesting plans to convert sections of a local clinic into an Ebola treatment center. In many parts of Nigeria residents say they fear Ebola more than Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group that has killed thousands of people.

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2nd Niger Drone Base UPDATE

Map of Niger (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

After months of negotiations, the government of Niger in West Africa has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials, the Washington Post reports.

The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent, the military newspaper said.

The United States started drone surveillance flights out of Niamey, Niger’s capital, in early 2013 to support French forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Mali. Washington always intended to move the operation further north and now the details have been worked out to relocate the flights to a base in Agadez, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Niamey, said a U.S. defense official speaking on condition of anonymity, Defense News reported.

The U.S. Air Force also flies unmanned aircraft out of Chad to help locate hundreds of school girls kidnapped by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria.

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Rwanda Verdict

A South African court has found four of six suspects charged with trying to assassinate a former Rwandan Army general guilty of attempted murder. Two other men accused in the 2010 attack on Faustin Nyamwasa in Johannesburg, South Africa that left him wounded.

Nyamwasa fled Rwanda in 2010 after a dispute President Paul Kagame, al Jazeera reported. According to the an Al Jazeera reporter, Nyamwasa does not blame the four who were convicted, saying they were “used” by the Rwandan government. According to Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, the trial judge was convinced the murder attempt was politically motivated by people in Rwanda. Kagame denies involvement in the attack.

Police broke up another murder plot against the general in 2011 and early this year armed men attacked his Johannesburg house in a separate incident.

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Africa at Bastille Day UPDATE

African troops march in Bastille Day parade in Paris July 14. (Photo: SCH Sébastien Lelièvre/SIRPA Terre)

African troops march in Bastille Day parade in Paris July 14.
(Photo: SCH Sébastien Lelièvre/SIRPA Terre)

Troops from several African nations that served as peacekeepers during the French intervention in Mali were among the contingents July 14 during the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris. Among the troops in this photo, all wearing the blue United Nations beret are soldiers from Chad, Niger, Senegal and Nigeria.

(Click on the photo to enlarge. To see more photos of the 2014 Bastille Day military parade in Paris, click here.

September 3, 2014 at 11:51 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Update, C.A.R. Stalemate

Ebola Death Toll.

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Protective gear for health workers treating Ebola patients in West Africa. (World Health nization photo by Christine Banluta)

The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak in four west African countries has topped 1,000, according to the World Health Organization. In an update report Tuesday (August 11), the WHO said there have been 1,848 confirmed and suspected cases reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria resulting in 1,013 deaths.

Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, 69 new cases of Ebola virus disease (confirmed-probable-suspected) as well as 52 deaths were reported in those four countries.

A WHO panel of experts has determined that it is ethical to administer experimental drugs that have not been tested on humans but may counter the effects of Ebola to people suffering from the almost always fatal disease – which has no known cure or preventative vaccine. But the panel’s conclusion does not address who should receive the treatment, which is in limited supply, the Washington Post reported.

Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant WHO director general, said she hopes that efforts to produce more of an Ebola treatment developed by a small San Diego biopharmaceutical company, as well as other drugs under development, could result in wider availability late this year or early in 2015, according to the Post.

Two American medical missionaries, sickened by Ebola in Liberia, have been given the drug – ZMapp – and appear to be improving. But the untested drug’s manufacturer, Mapp Pharmaceutical of San Diego, California, said the remaining supply of ZMapp was exhausted after it sent several doses to Liberia. The Liberian government said it would administer the drug to two doctors felled by the disease while tretaing patients, the Post reported.

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What is Ebola?

According o the WHO, Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, — often fatal illness — with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. “It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases,” the WHO website states. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, The risk of infection is higher among health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

Here is a link to a WHO Ebola factsheet.

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Country-by-Country

Guinea and it's neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Guinea

Researchers suspect the Ebola outbreak started in Guinea late last year and the first victim — or Patient Zero — was a two-year-old boy who died December 6, just a few days after falling ill in southeastern Guinea, which borders Liberia and Sierra Leone, the New York Times reports. Within a week Ebola also killed the boy’s mother, his three-year-old sister and his grandmother.  Within weeks it had spread to other relatives, funeral mourners and health workers who carried it across Guinea and elsewhere.

Liberia

The first European infected by Ebola, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, died in a Madrid hospital, Spanish health authorities announced Tuesday (August 12). The 75-year-old missionary, who contracted the deadly disease in Liberia, had been treated with the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp, according to Reuters.

Nigeria

Since a Liberian-American businessman into Lagos from Liberia about three weeks ago, the number of new Ebola cases in Nigeria has slowly grown and the number of people who may have been exposed is growing. Officials are now monitoring 177 people for symptoms of the disease, according to the Voice of America website. The businessman and one of the nurses who treated him have died.

Ivory Coast

The West African nation of Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) has banned all passenger flights from the three countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Ivory Coast is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, according to the BBC. The air travel ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where hundreds of people have died. It excludes Nigeria, where a tenth Ebola case has been confirmed and two people have died.

Uganda

Uganda, which has a history of containing Ebola outbreaks, has sent 20 of its experts to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help curb the spread of the disease, VoA reports. Uganda has experience fighting Ebola with four major outbreaks in the past 10 years, all of which were contained.

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C.A.R.’s Muslim Prime Minister

French and African peacekeepers in C.A.R.

French and African peacekeepers in C.A.R.

The Central African Republic (C.A.R.) named its first Muslim prime minister on Sunday (August 10) to create a more inclusive government and end more than a year of sectarian violence, AFP reported.

Mahamat Kamoun, a former special advisor to interim president Catherine Samba-Panza, will lead a transitional government trying to implement a shaky ceasefire signed late last month. He is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the Central African Republic since the majority Christian nation gained independence from France in 1960.

But Kamoun’s appointment has been rejected by the mainly Muslim rebel group Seleka, the BBC reported. An estimated 20 percent of the C.A.R.’s inhabitants have fled their homes in the conflict which began as Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013. Seleka excesses led to the creation of largely Christian anti-Balaka militias and the situation descended into ethno-religious violence.

The rebels accuse interim President Catherine Samba-Panza of not consulting with them before choosing Kamoun. Thousands of peacekeepers from France and several African nations have been trying to keep the rival factions from even more violence.

August 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Washington Summit, Mali President, Ebola Update, Boko Haram Attack UPDATE

UPDATES with Mali president’s discussion of security issues in the Sahel at Washington think tank appearance.

Africa on the Potomac.

President Barack Obama poses for a group photo with African leaders at a three-day business forum in Washington. (White House photo)

President Barack Obama poses for a group photo with African leaders at a three-day business forum in Washington.
(White House photo)

Leaders from nearly 50 African nations are heading home after a three-day business forum with U.S. corporate executives in Washington organized by President Barack Obama.

Obama did not meet privately with any of the African leaders but  addressed the U.S.-Africa Business Forum and hosted a dinner for the African dignitaries on the South Lawn of the White House, the New York Times reported.

Obama also announced $12 billion in new funding for his administration’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to provide electricity to households across sub Saharan Africa. He also promoted $14 billion in new investments by American companies in Africa, including $5 billion from Coca-Cola, according to the Times.

The White House said those and other new commitments “amount to more than $33 billion, supporting economic growth across Africa and tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.”

The gathering was overshadowed in part by the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa and ongoing violence in a number of countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. Some African leaders bristled at press questions about the Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 900 lives in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone skipped the business summit to deal with the health crisis in their countries.

One of the delegates to the business forum,  President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali will be speaking Thursday (August 7) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The topic is Security in the Sahel, where military coups, revolts, kidnappings of foreigners and terror attacks by Islamist militants have rocked the arid North Africa region south of the Sahara. Your 4GWAR Editor monitored his talk and the ensuing question and answer session. See next item.

*** *** ***

Mali President

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao in the drive against Islamist fighters in Mali. (Copyright Frenh Ministry of Defense)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao in the drive against Islamist fighters in Mali.
(Copyright Frenh Ministry of Defense)

Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Keita told an overflow crowd a CSIS that international assistance – especially military logistics — had helped bring his country back from the brink following a 2012 military coup and rebellion in Mali’s northern deserts by nomadic Tuaregs and radical Islamist militants. But the threat to Mali, the region and the world isn’t over, Keita warned. “We’re at a strategic nexus. This is a completely lawless region,” Keita, who spoke in French and sometimes English, said through an interpreter.

For decades, the Tuaregs have rebelled against the government in Bamako, claiming their health, education and economic needs were being ignored in the southern capital. Because of the harsh physical and economic landscape of the north. “rebels are in a situation of despair” and that makes them receptive to the message of outsiders  armed with cash as well as guns and preaching jihad against westerners and Bamako, he said. “New jihadists may be trained in that region” and that poses a danger for world peace, said Keita, who was elected president in July 2013. Compounding the problem, a flow of heavy weapons out of neighboring Libya and Tuareg mercenaries who know how to use them after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011

He said Bamako wants to assist the north and has pooled “millions of dollars” for that purpose, but asked how could the government develop the region or build a school amid constant fighting. “We have no other choice but to move toward peace. We need peace to rebuild Mali,” Keita said.

Mali's President Keita at an African-European summit in Dakar in April (Republic of Mali website)

Mali’s President Keita at an African-European summit in Dakar in April
(Republic of Mali website)

*** *** ***

Ebola Toll Rises

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking on national television she said some civil liberties might have to be suspended, the BBC reported. The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 930 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria — where a second death has been reported, according to the Voice of America.

World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak. The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, President Obama said it is “premature” to send an experimental medicine for the treatment of Ebola. Obama said Wednesday (August 6) that he lacked enough information to green-light a promising medicine called ZMapp that was already used on two American aid workers who saw their conditions improve by varying degrees, Al Jazeera America reported. There is no known cure for the virus which has a fatality ate between 60 and 90 percent.

*** *** ***

Attack in Cameroon

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

Ten people were killed and a child was kidnapped in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a remote part of northern Cameroon.

Police said the militants gunned down nine civilians and a soldier in the town of Zigague. State-run radio reported the kidnapped child is he daughter of a local chief, the Voice of America website reported.

Boko Haram extremists have killed thousands of people in its five-year campaign to turn northern Nigeria into a strict Islamic state. Their violence often spills over into neighboring countries like Cameroon. The latest attack follows the deployment of more than 1,000 soldiers along Cameroon’s long and porous border with Nigeria last month.

Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya last week dismissed two senior army officers leading the battle against Islamist militants just two days after militants abducted the deputy prime minister’s wife and  her maid from the northern town of Kologata, according to the BBC. The raiders also kidnapped a local religious leader who is also the town’s mayor

 

August 6, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Violence in Libya, Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, Ebola Spread, Desert Air Crash

Libyan Chaos.

This MV-22B Osprey with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response provided security for the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel from Libya.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

This MV-22B Osprey with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response provided security for the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel from Libya.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

Libya appears to be sliding into anarchy as a raging fire, touched off by a missile strike, has closed the main airport and 61 people have been reported killed in just the last 24 hours, according to the Voice of America. VoA noted the death toll stands at 150  in two weeks of clashes across the North African country.

Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have been pounding each other’s positions with  rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two week — turning the south side of Libya’s capital into a battlefield, Reuters reported. On Sunday (July 27) a rocket struck and ignited a huge jet  fuel storage tank — forcing closure of the airport as several foreign embassies have been evacuating their diplomatic personnel and hundreds of foreign nationals are trying to flee the country on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The airport fire raged out of control Monday (July 28) and Libya’s interim government sought international assistance.

The violence, which has been escalating and spreading since Libyan strongman Muammar Qadaffi was deposed and killed three years ago, has prompted the U.S. Embassy to move the diplomatic staff out of Tripoli to Tunisia. The United Nations and Turkey have moved their diplomats out as well. According to the Pentagon, all embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards, by ground vehicle on Saturday (July 26) without incident. During the exodus F-16 fighter jets and MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft (carrying an Airborne Response Force) and unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets provided security.

Nearly 100 people have been killed by ongoing clashes at the airport since early July and scores more have been killed recently in Benghazi — where government forces clashed with Islamic militants — and in Tripoli, where rival militias are fighting.

At least eight foreign governments (Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the United States) are urging their citizens to leave Libya immediately. Libya’s neighbors and Western security analysts worry that the chaos will spread beyond Libya’s borders — and create a a safe haven for terrorists close to Europe. Already, many of the heavy weapons — like man-portable rocket launchers and truck mounted machine guns — have disappeared from Qadaffi’s armories and spread across North Africa.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram-Cameroon

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

Military officials in Cameroon say the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has abducted the wife of one of Cameroon’s  top officials, Reuters reports from Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

The wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali was abducted in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata. A local religious leader, who was the town’s mayor, was also abducted in a separate attack. At least three people were killed in the raids.

Boko Haram has been increasing cross-border incursions into Cameroon in recent weeks and the West African country has deployed troops to the region bordering Nigeria. Officials said the attack on the vice prime minister’s house was the third in Cameroon since Friday (July 25). At least four soldiers were killed in previous attacks. About 22 suspected Boko Haram militants, in custody since March, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10-to-20 years in Maroua, Cameroon on Friday (July 25). It’s not known if the attacks are related to that. Militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers.

Meanwhile, at least five people were killed by a bomb in northern Nigeria and locals suspect Boko Haram is responsible. Nigerian police say the five victims were killed when a bomb was thrown at worshippers as they were leaving a church in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Sunday (July 27, the BBC reported. A young female suicide bomber also wounded five police officers as she rushed towards them and blew herself up in a separate incident, they added

Boko Haram has been waging a five year terror war against the Nigerian government, Western influence and Christians in largely Muslim northeast Nigeria. The group’s name, in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has been translated to mean either “Western education is forbidden” or “Western education is false or fraudulent.”  The concept stems from British attempts during the colonial era to force a unified education curriculum for Nigerian children that by-passed traditional Muslim schools in the rural north. Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria under strict sharia law.

Last week, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger agreed to form a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle Boko Haram. Efforts to step up regional co-operation gathered momentum after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigeria government of President Goodluck Jonathan — who faces re-election this year — of doing too little, too late to find and rescue the girls.

*** *** ***

Ebola Threat Spreads

As the death toll from the Ebola epidemic continues to rise, the New York Times reports that panicked villagers in Guinea are blocking and even attacking international  aid workers, fearing that it is the doctors who spread the deadly virus.

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

 Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others, according to a piece written by the Times’ Adam Nossiter.

The deadly virus, for which there is no known cure or vaccine, has killed 660 people in West Africa since February. The outbreak began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone

Liberia, one of the affected countries, has closed most of its border crossings and communities hit by the epidemic face quarantine in an effort to halt the outbreak, deemed the deadliest by the United Nations. Screening centers are also being set up at the few major entry points that will remain open, such as the main airport, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, Nigeria largest’s airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after a man with Ebola flew to Nigeria last week and later died.

Two US aid workers are also being treated for Ebola in Liberia, including Dr Kent Brantly, who was the medical director at one of the country’s two treatment centres run by the group, Samaritan’s Purse. The other American, Nancy Writebol, works for the Serving in Mission (SIM) as part of the same team, BBC said.

On Saturday (July 26), one of Liberia’s most prominent health officials treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, died after contracting the disease, according to The Independent. A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia also died earlier this month, while last week the virus infected Sheikh Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s chief Ebola doctor

*** *** ***

Air Algerie Crash

French officials are citing poor weather as the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over Mali in northwest Africa with 118 people on board.

Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, officials said, suggesting it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack. But French authorities are not ruling out other causes, including terrorism, without a full investigation, the Associated Press reported.

The MD-83 twin engine jet liner — bound for Algiers, Algeria — disappeared less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Following on the heels of the shootdown of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian jet bound for Beijing earlier this year the Algerian plane’s disappearance sparked concerns about a hijacking or a surface-to-air missile attack.  Yhe area where the plane crashed was a conflict zone a year ago when nomadic Touregs and Islamic extremists launched a rebellion against Mali’s government and seizied half the country. French, Malina and Dutch troops from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali secured the crash site. The plane’s black boxes have been recovered and will be studied for clues to what caused the plane to crash.

 

July 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

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