Posts tagged ‘Liberia’

AROUND AFRICA: Horn of Africa; Hundreds of Tunisians Kidnapped; Hunger Crisis in Mali; UPDATES with Tunisian Soldiers Killed; Somalia Fisheries Plundered; Liberia Ebola-Free

Geopolitical Powder Keg.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

According to new research, the Horn of Africa is warming and drying faster now than it has over the past 2,000 years.

That research — into ancient marine sediments — contradicts global climate models, which show the geopolitically unstable region getting wetter as emissions boost temperatures worldwide, the Scientific American reported Tuesday (October 13).

The Jessica Tierney, lead author of the new paper, published in Science Advances last Friday (October 9), says the new findings “changes our view of how greenhouse gases will affect future warming in the Horn.” Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, said scientists — herself included — believed that rising emissions “would lead to rainier seasons.”

Violent conflicts, droughts and famines have already wracked the area of Eastern Africa roughly encompassing Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan. Climate change could be a “threat multiplier,” Tierney and her colleagues said.

Peter deMenocal, a co-author of the paper and the director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the region is a “geographical powder keg” that has been experiencing tremendous food insecurity, water insecurity, geopolitical insecurity and now “we’re adding to that climate insecurity.”

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Mass Kidnapping.

An armed group in western Libya says it has released 30 of the approximately 300 Tunisian workers it kidnapped Tuesday (October 13), the BBC reported. The group says it is holding the rest in the town of Sabratha.

Kidnappings of Libyans or foreigners by any one of the country’s militia groups are routinely staged to extort money, encourage a prisoner exchange, or for political leverage.

Hassan Dabbashi, the head of the armed group that took the Tunisian workers, told the BBC that it wants the Tunisian government to release the Mayor of Sabratha in exchange for their captives.

The Libyan mayor was arrested in Tunis airport at the weekend after attending a workshop on local governance hosted by the United Nations Development Programme.

Tunisia and its neighbors. (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia and its neighbors.
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

Meanwhile, the Tunisian military said Monday (October 12) that Islamist militants killed two Tunisian soldiers near the Algerian border.

The soldiers were searching for a kidnapped shepherd in that western region of the country and four other soldiers were wounded during the search near Mount Sammama.

The army has been carrying out operations in western Tunisia, where dozens of security forces have died battling Islamic extremists, the VoA reported.

The military did not identify which group of extremists might have carried out Monday’s attack, which occurred just days after Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Associated Press reported. The Arab Spring reform movement originated in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011 and quickly spread to other nations.

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Insecurity, Violence … Now Hunger.

The United Nations says violence against aid groups and general insecurity have plunged the Timbuktu region of northern Mali into a hunger crisis. Tens of thousands of children are at an increasing risk of dying from malnutrition, the U.N. said, according to the Voice of America website.

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)

About one in six people in the region are suffering from acute malnutrition, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [UNOCHA] said. That includes more than 50,000 children under the age of five who are up to nine times more likely to die, because they are malnourished, the U.N. agency said.

 Conflict in Mali erupted in 2012, when a loose coalition of separatist rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants swept across the north of the country before a French-led military intervention in 2013 drove them from the main towns they had been occupying, according to VoA.

Armed groups drove the Malian army out of many posts in the north last year, and they are now fighting each other for control of land, which has uprooted tens of thousands of people and hindered relief efforts, aid agencies say.

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Somali Fishing Grounds Plundered.

Remember all the problems pirates caused around the Horn of Africa just a few years ago?

Well locals in the coastal trading town of Durduri, Somalia say there are no more fish in the sea. They blame not the pirates who brought the attention of international law enforcement to Somalia’s waters, but the foreign fishing boats that have plundered sea-life stocks, according to the Al Jazeera news site.

And if things don’t change, they say, a return to piracy will be their only way of survival.

Large foreign vessels “come at night and take everything”, one young fisherman told Al Jazeera. “With their modern machinery, there is nothing left,” he added.

His accusations are backed up by two new pieces of research, according to the website. The studies, conducted by separate Somali development agencies, suggest that international fishing vessels – particularly Iranian and Yemeni, but also European ships including Spanish vessels – are illegally exploiting the East African nation’s fish stocks on a massive scale. 

While piracy put a stop to illegal fishing, these findings suggest it was merely a hiatus. Now that international anti-piracy task forces have halted the seagoing hijackers, illegal fishing vessels have returned.

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Ebola-Free Liberia.

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)

October 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Buhari Wins Nigeria Election, Ebola Roundup [UPDATE 2]

NIGERIA: Jonathan Concedes, Buhari Winner.

Women at a health education session in northern Nigeria. (Photo by Susan Elden/DFID via Wikipedia)

Women at a health education session in northern Nigeria.
(Photo by Susan Elden/DFID via Wikipedia)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has conceded to his opponent Muhammadou Buhari in the closest presidential election since democratic rule was restored to Africa’s most populous naion in 1999.

Although the final tally isn’t known yet, Jonathan — who defeated Buhari in 2011 — called his rival Tuesday (March 31) to concede and congratulate the retired major general. It is the first time a sitting president has lost an election in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and leading oil producer, according to the BBC, Reuters, VoA and CNN.

More than 20 million votes were cast in an election marred by insurgent attacks, charges of fraud and technology glitches at polling places. Saturday’s voting had to be extended to a second day, Sunday (March 29), as tens of  millions turned out to vote, either to stay the course with Jonathan or try Buhari’s promise of change — including a more robust campaign against violent Islamist insurgents who have killed thousands.

The 72-year-old Buhari had a growing lead — 2.5 million votes — over Jonathan late Monday (March 30) with some 23 million votes counted in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, according to Reuters. The announcement of further results will resume Tuesday morning, Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC).

Buhari, a Muslim from Nigeria’s north, promised to root out the corruption that has plagued Jonathan’s administration and the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Buhari also vowed to crush the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, whose attacks over the last five years have killed 10,000 people and driven thousands more. Buhari seized power in a military coup and ruled Nigeria for almost two years in the 1980s.

While international bodies like the United Nations and the African Union initially said the Nigerian vote was largely free and fair, Britain’s and American’s top diplomats expressed concerns that election results “may be subject to deliberate political interference.”

The joint statement from Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there were “disturbing indications” that such interference would mar the bitterly contested election, the Washington Post reported.

Problems with electronic fingerprint readers at several polling stations caused delays for voters already waiting in long lines. Nigeria has 60 million registered and turnout was predicted to be the largest since the country returned to democracy in 1999.

Population density in Nigerian states. (Wikipedia)

Population density in Nigerian states.
(Wikipedia)

Observers’ big concern is that no matter who wins, reports of fraud or intimidation could spark a repeat of the post-election violence in 2011 when Buhari lost to Jonathan, 57, a Christian from southern Nigeria. About 800 people were killed, most of them in the predominantly Muslim state of Kaduna in the north.

Buhari’s supporters in the All Progressives Congress (APC) party are already crying foul after Jonathan won a massive 95 percent of the vote in Rivers state, the volatile and hotly contested home of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry. Some took to the streets in protest. In the oil city of Port Harcourt, police fired tear gas at a crowd of 100 female APC supporters demonstrating outside the regional offices of the election commission.

In addition to technical problems at the polls, voting was marred by reports of election-related violence in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram launched several attacks on voters in the north-east on election day. Before dawn, extremists invaded the town of Miringa, in Borno state, torching people’s homes and then shooting them as they tried to escape the smoke. Twenty-five people died in the attack, The Guardian reported.

Another 14 people were killed in attacks on the towns of Biri and Dukku, in Gombe state, according to police and a local chief. Among the dead was a state legislator, AFP reported.

The election was delayed for six weeks to allow the government to launch an offensive against  Boko Haram — supported by troops from neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad, which have all suffered attack by the Islamist radicals who have sought union with the brutal Islamic State group terrorizing parts of Syria and Iraq.

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Ebola Roundup.

The three West African countries hit hardest by the Ebola virus outbreak are ramping up efforts to eradicate the deadly disease using lockdowns, restrictions on burials and warnings about the risks of unprotected sex.

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 region’s Ebola outbreak has killed more than 10,000 people since cases were first recorded more than a year ago, with most of the dead coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Associated Press reports.

LIBERIA: Safe Sex

In Liberia, hardest hit by Ebola, Liberian officials are urging Ebola survivors to refrain from unprotected sex beyond the recommended 90 days, following on the country’s first Ebola death in more than a month, the Voice of America reported.

The female patient who died Friday was married to a man who had the disease but survived. Officials fear she may have gotten sick through sexual transmission. The 44-year-old woman was its first confirmed case in more than a month.

GUINEA: 45-Day Health Emergency

Guinea’ President Alpha Conde has declared a 45-day “health emergency” in five regions in the west and south-west of the country to stem the spread of the disease.

The restrictions include the quarantining of hospitals and clinics where new cases are detected, new rules on burials and possible lockdowns, the BBC reported.

The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. Last January, the World Health Organization reported a steady drop in cases in the three epicenterre countries.
But renewed concern has been triggered by fresh setbacks Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

On Sunday (March 30),  the head of the U.N.’s Ebola fighting force warned against complacency, while also hailing Guinea for tightening surveillance, AFP reported.

SIERRA LEONE: Lockdown Ends

Sierra Leone has just ended a three-day, countrywide lockdown where people were told to stay home while volunteers went door-to-door educating people on Ebola prevention.

Almost 4,000 people have died from Ebola in the West African country. The goal of the “Zero Ebola Campaign,” the Voice of America reported, is to stop the spread of the disease by educating people about the dangers and encouraging sick people to seek treatment.

 

March 30, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 26, 2014)

Holiday S.O.P.

U.S. Army photo

U.S. Army photo

A soldier with a bike (and Christmas lights) tied to his back participates in a Toy Ruck March at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on December 18, 2014. During this holiday march, soldiers are encouraged to decorate their rucksacks and headgear for the holidays … and more than 600 toys were collected for distribution throughout the Fort Polk community.  This  soldier is assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion.

If you are the photographer who took this photo (or know who did) please contact us in the comment section below or email us at: 4gwarblog@gmail.com so we can give credit where credit is due.

And, as you can see from the next photo, Toy Ruck Marches are conducted at several military installations across the nation.

Massachusetts National Guard photo by Sergeant Alfred Tripolone III

Massachusetts National Guard photo by Sergeant Alfred Tripolone III

A plush toy snowman peeks from a rucksack of as Massachusetts Army National Guard soldiers participate an another toy ruck march sponsored by the 164th Transportation Battalion. The troops trekked  from the National Guard armory in Dorchester to Boston Children’s Hospital on December 18, 2014. The soldiers donated over 300 toys to the children’s hospital.

To see some more photos of the good deeds soldiers, Marines and airmen are doing in Alaska, California, Illinois, Japan and Liberia, this holiday season — click here.

 

December 26, 2014 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: China Troops to S. Sudan, Bombings in Nigeria, Ebola Deaths Climb

Peacekeepers.

South Sudan and its neighbors. (CIA World Factbook)

South Sudan and its neighbors.
(CIA World Factbook)

China is sending a 700-man infantry battalion to South Sudan, its first combat-trained unit to serve in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Previous Chinese peacekeepers were mainly engineer, transportation, medical service and security units, according to Xinhua news service.

The unit includes 121 offices and 579 soldiers – 43 members of the battalion have participated in peacekeeping missions before, according to Xinhua. The first 180 soldiers will fly to South Sudan in January. The rest of the unit will travel by air and sea in March.

The battalion will be equipped with drones, armored infantry carriers, anti-tank missiles, mortars, light weapons and other equipment “completely for self-defense purposes,” Commander Wang Zhen said.

China currently has more than 2,000 peacekeepers serving in conflict zones around the world. The U.N. has more than 11,000 peacekeepers in oil-rich South Sudan, which won its independence from Sudan in 2011. Fighting broke out a year ago when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

Fighting in the capital, Juba – one of the fastest growing cities in the world – set off a series of retaliatory massacres that have claimed thousands of lives and driven the country to the brink of famine, according to The Guardian news site.

A 2011 report by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Saferworld, found that, despite stated neutrality, China is gradually using diplomatic means to push for the resolution of certain conflicts, according to The Guardian. The report also said China is becoming both a major supplier of conventional arms in Africa and has increased its contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions since 2000 – most of them based in Africa.

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Bus Stop, Market Bombings.

At least 26 people have been killed in bombings in two major cities in northern Nigeria, the BBC reported. Twenty were killed at a bus stop in Gombe, while six more died in an explosion at a market in Bauchi.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in the area, the BBC noted.

Meanwhile, a video purportedly released by Boko Haram shows dozens of people being executed at a school dormitory. There is no independent confirmation that Boko Haram produced the video. It is unclear where or when it was shot.

But the video bears Boko Haram’s insignia and shows gun-wielding men chanting “Allah is great” and speaking in the Kanuri language associated with the group’s fighters, says BBC Nigeria analyst Jimeh Saleh.

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s military said it had dismantled a training camp run by Boko Haram near its border with north-eastern Nigeria. Soldiers captured 45 trainers and 84 children between the ages of seven and 15 who were undergoing training, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant Colonel Didier Badjecks, told the Reuters news agency.

Despite a strong military presence, Nigeria’s Boko Haram continues to strike targets in northern Cameroon, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009, seeking to create an Islamic state in the region.

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Ebola Roundup

The World Health Organization says the Ebola death toll in in West Africa has risen to more than 7,500, the Voice of America reported.

And the number of cases is nearing 20,000 according to the WHO’s latest data posted on Monday.

The new numbers show Liberia and Guinea with a decrease in the rate of Ebola transmissions, while Sierra Leone’s cases continue to rise. Those three West African countries account for almost all the Ebola deaths.

The death toll in other countries remains the same with six deaths in Mali, eight in Nigeria, and one in the United States. Spain and Senegal have had one case each, but no deaths.

 

 

December 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Mali Hostage Freed, Ebola Roundup, Kenyatta Charges Dropped

French Hostage Released.

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in 2013. (Copyright Ministry of Defense)

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in 2013.
(Copyright Ministry of Defense)

A Frenchman kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in North Africa more than three years ago has been freed, the French government announced today (December 9).

Details of the release of Serge Lazarevic were not disclosed but French officials have insisted that no ransom is paid or prisoners released in exchange for any French hostages. At one time 14 French citizens were being held by terrorists in Africa. A Malian security source told AFP that Lazarevic was released at Kidal in northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande said there are “no more French hostages in any country in the world.” Another, Phillipe Verdon, who was abducted with Lazarevic in 2011 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali to halt a revolt by Islamic extremists and nomadic Tuaregs.

While authorities denied or wouldn’t comment on reports that ransom was paid, a retired French anti-terrorism judge, Alain Marsaud, was more frank. He told France’s RTL radio: “There is no reease if there is no payment. Someone paid, if not the government, a business or insurance company.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A Malian newspaper and two sources, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were freed.

A Dutch tourist, Sjaak Rijke, kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, has not been seen or heard from since he appeared alongside Lazarevic in a November AQIM video, the BBC reported.

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Ebola Roundup

The World Health Organization reports new cases of Ebola are still rising in West Africa, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia with the highest number of cases.

Data published Monday (December 8) by the WHO shows Sierra Leone has recorded 7,798 cases of the deadly virus, making it the country with the fastest growing infection rate, according to the Voice of America website. Meanwhile, infection rates are dropping in Liberia, which now has just over 7,700 cases – but Liberia still has more Ebola deaths than any other country: a little more than 3,100.

Overall, Ebola has infected 18,000 people in Africa and killed 6,346. The vast majority of those cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea.

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International Court Drops Kenyatta Charges.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Official photo via Wikipedia)

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta.
(Official photo via Wikipedia)

The International Criminal Court has dropped its case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity.

The prosecution withdrew the charges Wednesday (December 5) against Kenyatta, citing a lack of evidence. But there were also allegations that because the Kenyan government did not cooperate with the international court’s investigation, the case was unable to proceed, according to the Voice of America website.

The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against Kenyatta beyond a reasonable doubt. Bensouda said Kenya’s government failed to provide key documents to the prosecution, which undermined her investigations and “had a severe, adverse impact” on the case. She also said she reserved the right to file charges again if more evidence becomes available.

Kenyatta was charged for his alleged role — before he was president — in the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. More than 1,000 were killed and a half million more were displaced by the violence, which prosecutors claimed Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, incited.

After the ICC dropped the case, Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — called it a “travesty” adding that he felt vindicated, the BBC reported. In the Hague, prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over evidence vital to the case and said officials in Nairobi had intimidated potential witnesses.

 

December 9, 2014 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

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

*** *** ***

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 Roundup

Ebola Death Toll Rises.

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrea McCoy tests patient RNA samples for the Ebola virus at a Naval Medical Research Center mobile laboratory on Bushrod Island, Liberia. (U.S. Army Africa photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich )

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrea McCoy tests patient RNA samples for the Ebola virus at a Naval Medical Research Center mobile laboratory on Bushrod Island, Liberia.
(U.S. Army Africa photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich )

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to nearly 3,900, including Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with the deadly disease on U.S. soil.

Duncan, 42, who caught the deadly virus in his native Liberia, died Wednesday (October 8), 10 days after he was admitted to a Texas hospital. His death and reports that Texas hospital workers fumbled his diagnosis has sparked controversy and raised questions about how safe the United States is from foreign epidemics in the era of jet travel and globalization.

According to the World Health Organization , the total number of confirmed, probable, and suspected cases in the epidemic of Ebola virus disease (EVD) reported up to the end of October 5, is 8,033 with 3879 deaths.

Countries affected are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the United States. A confirmed case of EVD has been reported in Spain, but because the case was confirmed this week — information on that case will be included in the next Ebola Response Roadmap update, the United Nations health agency said.

“The situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone continues to deteriorate, with widespread and persistent transmission of Ebola,” the WHO said, adding that reports of a fall in the number of new cases in Liberia over the past three weeks “is unlikely to be genuine.” The WHO report said that report “reflects a deterioration in the ability of overwhelmed responders to record accurate epidemiological data.”

“There is no evidence that the EVD epidemic in West Africa is being brought under control, though there is evidence of a decline in incidence in the districts of Lofa in Liberia, and Kailahun and Kenema in Sierra Leone,” the WHO said.

Decontamination workers treat patients coming out of the hot zone. U.S. Africa Command is supporting the effort by providing command and control, logistics, training and engineering assets to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations.  (U.S. Army Africa photo by Commander Peter Niles)

Decontamination workers treat patients coming out of the hot zone. U.S. Africa Command is supporting the effort by providing command and control, logistics, training and engineering assets to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations.
(U.S. Army Africa photo by Commander Peter Niles)

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is preparing to send as many as 4,000 troops to Ebola-ravaged Liberia to build new Ebola treatment units and manage the logistics of medical supplies, food, fuel and other commodities starting to pour into Liberia from donor nations and organizations.

The head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) told a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday (October 7) that the U.S. military mission to Liberia may take up to a year, according to Military Times.

Pentagon officials emphasize that troops will not provide medical care or have direct contact with Ebola patients. The military mission is to support civilian health care efforts through construction of new facilities, providing logistics support and training locals in prevention methods, Military Times reported.

Army General David Rodriguez, the AFRICOM commander said a headquarters for the joint force command, United Assistance in Monrovia, Liberia, has been created to provide regional coordination of U.S. military support to the U.S. and international relief efforts. Two  additional mobile medical labs were put into operation last week, to increase the capacity for rapidly diagnosing Ebola. And the command is establishing a training facility for Liberian health care support workers, enabling them to safely provide direct medical care to patients, Rodriguez said.

“As we deploy America’s sons and daughters to support this comprehensive effort, we will do everything in our power to address and mitigate the potential risk to our service members, civilian employees, contractors, and their families,” he general told reporters, according to a Defense Department transcript. “Preventing the spread of Ebola is the core task of this effort. This is a key requirement in everything that we do in this operation, and this applies both to our support efforts and the protection of our own people,” Rodriguez added.

U.S. Navy combat engineers known as Seabees survey the site for an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia. (U.S. Army Africa photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery T. Stitzel)

U.S. Navy combat engineers known as Seabees survey the site for an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia.
(U.S. Army Africa photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery T. Stitzel)

In other developments, a special Marine expeditionary unit based in Spain is deploying to Liberia, joining other U.S. troops in support of efforts to contain the spread of Ebola. Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday (October 8) that 100 personnel from the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are deploying from Moron, Spain, to Dakar, Senegal. They will then move to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.

Navy construction engineers have been in Liberia since late September, clearing the ground for the first Ebola hospital.  A team of 15 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 traveled to Monrovia September 23, to provide engineering support including: conducting site surveys for projects such as hospitals, supply storage and training facilities for healthcare workers fighting the Ebola outbreak, according to AFRICOM’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

October 9, 2014 at 1:39 am 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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ****

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

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