West Africa – flight ban by Asky over ebola threat


Ebola outbreak: Asky bans flights in West Africa

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) put on their protective gear before entering an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun on 20 July 2014

A major West African airline has stopped flying to Liberia and Sierra Leone amid growing concern about the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Asky said it took the decision to keep “its passengers and staff safe during this unsettling time”.

The number of people killed by the virus in West Africa has now reached 672, according to new UN figures.

In Sierra Leone, the doctor who led the fight against Ebola, Sheik Umar Khan, has died of the disease.

Government officials hailed Dr Khan, 39, as a “national hero”.

The government disclosed last week that he was being treated for Ebola and had been quarantined.

His death follows that of prominent Liberian doctor Samuel Brisbane at the weekend.

Police deployed

Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected, but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.

It spreads through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.

The outbreak – the world’s deadliest to date – was first reported in Guinea in February. It then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A banner creating awareness about Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia (28 July 2014) Liberia tied Independence Day celebrations on 26 July to efforts to create more awareness around Ebola
A Liberian man washes his hands as an extra precaution for the prevention of the spread of the Ebola virus before entering a church service in Monrovia, Liberia -27 July 2014 Greater emphasis is being placed on hygiene in an effort to contain the virus
 Liberian money exchanger wears protective gloves as a precaution to prevent infection with the deadly Ebola virus while transacting business with customers in downtown Monrovia, Liberia, 28 July 2014 People have also been urged to wear protective gloves

Asky is the second airline, after Nigeria’s largest airline, Arik Air, to ban flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It had not halted flights to Guinea, but passengers departing from there would be “screened for signs of the virus”, Asky said.

Last week, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, reported its first case – that of Liberian finance ministry official Patrick Sawyer who flew to the main city, Lagos, in an Asky flight.

Liberia has deployed police officers at the international airport in the capital, Monrovia, to ensure passengers are screened for symptoms of Ebola.

Football ban

“We have a presence of the police at the airport to enforce what we’re doing,” said Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority.

“So if you have a flight and you are not complying with the rules, we will not allow you to board.”


Ebola since 1976

Graphic showing Ebola virus outbreaks since 1976
A map showing Ebola outbreaks since 1976

Most border crossings in Liberia have been closed to contain the outbreak and affected communities are being quarantined.

Liberia has also suspended all football activities in an effort to control the spread of Ebola.

“Football being a contact sport – people are sweating – they do contact each other, and that could result in contracting the disease,” the president of its football association, Musa Hassan Bility, told the BBC.

“It also has to do with the fans because whenever there is a game, a lot of people come together and we want to discourage gathering at this point,” he said.

The association had also told football governing body Fifa to cancel trips to Liberia scheduled for August and September because “we do not want the life of the Fifa president [Sepp Blatter] to be exposed to this disease”, Mr Bility said.

In a statement, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said that 1,201 Ebola cases had been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Of the 672 deaths, the highest number was in Guinea with 319, followed by Liberia with 249 and Sierra Leone with 224, it said.

The BBC’s Jonathan Paye Layleh in Monrovia says that public awareness campaigns around Ebola have been stepped up in the city.

Many people are worried about the outbreak, and fewer people are going to restaurants and entertainment centres, he says.


Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Coloured transmission electron micro graph of a single Ebola virus, the cause of Ebola fever
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats are considered to be virus’ natural host


How gold and diamonds fuel sectarianism in Central African Republic

Eye Witness News

Gold, diamonds feed CAR religious violence

FILE:A protester holds a placard reading “No to the injustice of Samba Panza, No to partiality, Equality and freedom for all” as residents demonstrate in the ‘Muslim enclave’ of the PK5 district in Bangui to express their anger on 31 May, 2014. Picture: AFP.

NDASSIMA – Three young rebels, their AK47s propped against wooden stools in the afternoon heat, guard the entrance to the giant Ndassima goldmine carved deep into a forested hilltop in Central African Republic.

Sat in a thatched shack at the edge of a muddy shantytown, the gunmen keep the peace – for a price – among hundreds of illegal miners who swarm over the steep sides of the glittering open pit, scratching out a living.

The mine, owned by Canada’s Axmin, was overrun by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels more than year ago. It now forms part of an illicit economy driving sectarian conflict in one of Africa’s most unstable countries, despite the presence of thousands of French and African peacekeepers.

Seleka fighters – many from neighbouring Chad and Sudan – swept south to topple President Francois Bozize in March last year. Months of killing and looting provoked vicious reprisals by Christian militia, known as “anti-balaka”, that pushed the rebels back, splitting the landlocked country of 4,5 million people into a Muslim north and the Christian south.

“We control the mine. If there is a problem there, we intervene,” said Seleka’s local commander Colonel Oumar Garba, sipping tea outside a villa in Axmin’s abandoned compound. “People don’t want the French peacekeepers here because they know they’ll chase them away from the mine.”

Axmin suspended activity at the mine in late 2012 after rebels occupied its camp. The firm says it is monitoring the situation. CEO Lucy Yan did not respond to requests for comment.

Thousands of people have died and more than a million fled their homes in Central African Republic amid the violence between the Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian militia.

Scenes of cannibalism and the dismemberment of Muslims by Christian mobs in Bangui sowed fears of ethnic cleansing, prompting France to deploy 2,000 peacekeepers to its former colony. After tens of thousands of Muslims fled the south, the United Nations agreed to a 12,000-strong mission from September.

A ceasefire signed last week in the capital of neighbouring Congo Republic raised hopes of an end to the conflict. But many fear local warlords on both sides will resist attempts to break their grip over resources, especially diamond and gold mines.

At Ndassima, 60 km north of Seleka’s military headquarters in the northern town of Bambari, sweat-soaked labourers toil beneath the gaze of Seleka gunmen to produce some 15 kilos of gold a month – worth roughly $350,000 on the local market, or double that in international trade.

Weighing gold on a balance in a hut at the foot of the mine, Jimmy Adoum says buyers are scarce but some pay their way past rebel checkpoints to carry gold to Bangui and east to Cameroon.

Further north, diamond fields around Bria and Sam Ouandja provide revenue for rebels, who extract protection money and sell diamonds to dealers in Sudan and Chad, experts say. From there, the gems are trafficked to Antwerp, Dubai or India.

“Commanders on both sides are profiteering from this conflict. Both the anti-balaka militia and Seleka are involved in gold and diamonds,” Kasper Agger, field researcher for the Enough Project, a Washington-based think-tank. “If we are going to make peace, we need to offer them an economic alternative.”

“JEALOUSY, NOT RELIGION”                                                                                                            

Before Seleka seized power in March last year, Central African Republic ranked as the world’s 12th largest diamond exporter. Thousands of artisanal miners produced more than 300,000 carats a year from thin alluvial deposits.Much of the fiercest fighting centred on these deposits, especially in the west. In the mining town of Boda, nestling in forests 100 km west of Bangui, the anti-balaka militias have besieged thousands of Muslims in the market district.

French troops, their armoured personnel carriers aligned on an escarpment overlooking the town, now keep the two sides apart. Opposite the Muslim enclave stand ruins of Christian homes destroyed in fighting after Seleka withdrew in January.

Both sides accuse the other of starting the clashes. Christians have seized Muslims’ mining equipment and cattle from nearby pastures. Some who venture from the Muslim enclave have been killed by militia, their bodies dumped in the river.

“If the Muslims stay there 40 years, we’ll wait for them. We want to kill them,” said Nicaise Wilikondi, 45, an ex-teacher who lives in a camp for displaced Christians.

Like elsewhere in Central African Republic, in Boda it was Muslim middlemen who controlled the diamond trade and reaped its profits, while most of the poorly paid mine labourers were Christians, fuelling sectarian resentment.

Cherif Dahirou, Boda’s main Muslim diamond trader, said the Christian militia had seized the nearby artisanal pits, but he refused to leave the town where he has lived for 38 years.

“This isn’t about religion: it’s jealousy,” he said under an awning in the grounds of his large house in Boda, in the besieged Muslim enclave. Originally from Chad, he spoke in Arabic, not the local Sango language: “I know the anti-balaka commanders, Romeo and Malou: they used to work the mines.”

The region west of Bangui is controlled by Christian militia leader Alfred Yekatom, a veteran soldier known as “Rombhot” after the movie hard man Rambo, who has profited from several uprisings. He collects thousands of dollars a week from roadblocks staffed by his fighters, according to UN experts.

In Boda, militia leader Habib Saidou, a former soldier loyal to Rombhot, said the Muslims would be left in peace provided that 14 people who controlled the diamond trade – including Dahirou and Mayor Mahamat Awal – left the town forever.

“Until then, the Muslims have to stay behind the red line. If they cross over, we’re going to kill them.” EWN

South Africa – NUMSA strike over


Strike ends in South Africa as wages to increase

South African miners According to employers, the strike cost the engineering sector about R300m a day

A four-week strike in South Africa has come to an end after the country’s biggest trade union sealed a deal with employers.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said its 220,000 striking members had “unanimously” accepted the employers’ offer.

The deal promised three-year fixed annual wage increases of 10% for Numsa’s lowest-paid workers.

But it has seen both sides compromise heavily on their initial offerings.

‘Sweat and struggles’

The strike was across South Africa’s steel and engineering sectors. According to employers, it cost the engineering sector about R300m (£17m) a day.

The South African department of labour and a national mediation council had to step in to arbitrate early on during negotiations as they were in deadlock.

Numsa lowered its initial demand of an increase between 12 and 15%, while Steel and the Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa), the body representing employers, increased theirs, up from an opening 7%.

Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said he hoped “all parties would honour the letter and spirit of the agreement”.

Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said the final agreement had come as “a product of sweat and bitter struggles by our toiling workers for a living wage… and a four week long resolute battle to do away with colonial apartheid-era wage dispensation in the engineering and metals sector.”

The strike, which started on 1 July, saw 220,000 members down tools, and affected about 12,000 companies, and carmakers including Toyota Motor and General Motors.

The strike came almost immediately after the country’s record five-month-long strike on the platinum belt.


US tells African leaders not to make excuses about dependency

Obama sings same old US tune, ignoring terms of trade and structural inequalities. KS


Obama urges African nations not to make economic ‘excuses’

WASHINGTON Mon Jul 28, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, July 28, 2014.     REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, July 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday gave a preview of a summit he will hold with African leaders next week, saying African nations should look inward for solutions to economic woes and not make “excuses” based on a history of dependence and colonization.

Speaking to 500 young Africans finishing a six-week Washington leadership fellowship, Obama said while it was important for developed countries to consider providing some targeted debt relief, it was time to end the notion that all of African nations’ problems resulted from “onerous debt imposed by the West.”

“At some point, we have to stop looking somewhere else for solutions, and you have to start looking for solutions internally,” Obama told the enthusiastic audience.

“And as powerful as history is, and you need to know that history, at some point, you have to look to the future and say, ‘OK, we didn’t get a good deal then, but let’s make sure that we’re not making excuses for not going forward.’”

Next week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington will convene economic and political leaders from across Africa to discuss the continent’s development and the U.S. role in partnership and investment.

Obama’s remarks amounted to a rejection of comments last month from Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who said Western “neo-colonial” domination of Africa has impeded the continent’s development. Nguema blasted what he said were too-low exchange rates, problems with natural resources’ pricing and Western-imposed “barriers to international trade” at a summit of the 54-nation African Union.

Obama said there was not a “single country” in Africa that could not be doing better with the resources it had.

“There are a lot of countries that are generating a lot of income, have a lot of natural resources, but aren’t putting that money back into villages to educate children. There are a lot of countries where the leaders have a lot of resources, but the money is not going back to provide health clinics for young mothers,” he said. reuters


Nigeria – suicide bombers hit Kano during Eid


Two female terrorists bomb Kano

Scene of Boko Haram attack

Two female suicide bombers struck in different parts of Kano on Monday, killing   and injuring many on a day Muslim faithful thronged the prayer grounds in the city to observe the Eid-el-Fitri.

The first attack took place at about 10am on a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Mega station   at Hotoro Quarters along Maiduguri Road. The second was at about 1.40pm at the Trade Fair Complex entrance on Zoo Road.

But there were conflicting figures on the numbers of the killed and injured.

Only on Sunday, a bomber hurled explosives at worshippers in a Catholic church in the city, killing five and wounding eight. The same day,   a 15-year-old female suicide bomber killed herself while trying to target some police officers.

There have been no claims of responsibility for any of the blasts, but fingers point at the militant   Islamist group, Boko Haram.

A resident, Tijjani Isa, told the Associated Press that the first bomber was standing in line with many women   buying kerosene   before she set off the bomb.

Another resident was quoted by the Agence France Presse as saying that the “female bomber who was milling in the crowd set off explosives concealed under her dress.”

The resident, Habibu Ali, added that “several people, mostly women, were killed.”

Ali’s account, according to the AFP, was supported by another resident, Shehu Mudi, who said that many were killed.

But the   state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adelenre Shinaba, told journalists that doctors at the Murtala Muhammad Hospital confirmed the death of three, out of the 10 people evacuated from the scene.

He added that the impact of the blast caused partial damage to the canopy of the kerosene section of the mega station.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, however said   in a statement that four people, including the bomber, died while eight were injured in the mega station attack.

Mba said, “The suicide bomber and three others have been confirmed dead, eight persons were injured and rushed to the hospital.

“It is instructive to note that the mega station did not go ablaze due to the security barricade put in place by the policemen on duty at the station.

“Security forces have cordoned off the scene and police bomb disposal experts are sweeping the area.”

He added that investigation into the incident had begun, while security operatives had intensified patrol of the city.

The second blast occurred when the female suicide bomber   aged about 19,   blew up herself and injured six others, including two policemen at the entrance gate of the Kano Trade Fair Complex near Shoprite.

The state Police command spokesman, Magaji Majia, told journalists that   security operatives had stopped the suspect for screening when the IEDs hidden under her dress went off.

Majia said the policemen had been treated and discharged, while the remaining four persons are still in hospital.

He said the mangled body of the female suicide bomber was recovered and deposited at an undisclosed government hospital.

The police added that investigations had commenced with a view to unravelling those behind the renewed attacks on the city.

Meanwhile, there was heavy traffic in Kugbo, Nyanya and Karua on the Abuja-Keffi Road on Monday due to   roadblocks set up by soldiers.

Residents going to amusement parks in the Federal Capital Territory to enjoy Monday which was a public holiday were stranded for many hours.

Also,   presence of armed soldiers was observed   at the AYA, Central Area and the Eagle Square.

Copyright PUNCH.

South Africa – DA to question minister over appointment of Zuma’s daughter

Mail and Guardian

The DA will submit written questions to Siyabonga Cwele over his appointment of Jacob Zuma’s daughter to a powerful ministry position at just 25.

Siyabonga Cwele will face questions over the appointment of Zuma's daughter, Thuthukile, as his chief of staff. (Gallo)

Concern has grown over the appointment of President Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Thuthukile, to the position of chief of staff at the department of telecommunications at the age of 25, earning her a salary of nearly a million rand a year.

Public opinion has been split over the news, broken by the Mail & Guardian on Friday, with some calling for an end to nepotism, while others have insisted that Thuthukile deserved the job given her qualifications.

Now the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) is seeking clarity on the matter. Its national spokesperson Marius Redelinghuys is planning to submit written questions to Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele by the end of the week.

“Was it advertised? If not, why not? What criteria was set for filling this position, and what influenced the consideration? If it was based on the CV, I’d like to know what other CVs were looked at,” Redelinghuys told the M&G.

The department of public administration (DPSA) meanwhile has told the M&G it would look at the issue more thoroughly if it was “referred to us,” according to DPSA minister Collins Chabane’s spokesperson Brent Simons.

“Off the cuff: if proper procedures were followed and there were no technical problems with the interview process itself there should be nothing wrong with the appointment,” said Simons.

No rules broken
In an interview on Monday morning on Talk Radio 702, Chabane defended Cwele’s choice.

“If the minister is comfortable, and the department feels comfortable, I think they should be able to proceed.”

Chabane said that he wasn’t suggesting that people should like the appointment, paid for by South African taxpayers, adding: “I don’t think there has been a rule which has been broken.”

Of the R1-million annual salary for Zuma, Chabane said it was a moral issue, not a legal one.

“The appointment itself, and the legal procedures themselves, they are most likely to be correct,” Chabane said, adding that, legally speaking, the minister is entitled to appoint a person in the manner in which he did.

The issue has proven to be a divisive one, with even opinions in the DA differing slightly. Redelinghuys’s fellow national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme was more cautious on the matter.

“I don’t know Thuthukile Zuma from a bar of soap, but a lot of young people will be given an opportunity because their bosses see talent in them.”

Talent for the job
Thuthukile worked for Cwele as a public liaison officer in his previous department, the State Security Agency, “for just under a year”, according to state security spokesperson Brian Dube. She moved with Cwele to telecommunications after her father announced his new cabinet in May.

While Thuthukile has an honours degree in Anthropology and thus meets the academic qualifications for the job, she does not have “extensive management experience” required by job adverts for the position seen by the M&G.

But van Damme believed that this could have been overcome if a candidate was particularly successful.

“She might not have the experience but she may have the talent to do the job,” said van Damme.

Thuthukile and her department refused to justify the appointment when contacted by the M&G. Departmental spokesperson Siya Qoza said only that the appointment was “consistent with the rules and regulations governing the appointment of people in government ministries”. Thuthukile put the phone down on the M&G and refused to respond when asked to describe how she had worked to fastrack her career.

Van Damme pointed out that current DA parliamentarian Geordin Hill-Lewis served as the DA party leader’s chief of staff in 2009, at the age of 22. “I know a lot of young people like Geordin who applied for jobs like this and did them well.”

However this was not a government position.

Political appointment
Thuthukile’s position was a political appointment, which is the norm for personnel within the smaller ministry staff, as opposed to the wider department. Ministers have the prerogative to make these appointments without going through the normal processes, thus it appears the post was never advertised. However, several departments do advertise such posts to ensure they attract the best-qualified candidates.

Redelinghuys noted that public money was still on the line.

“It may not necessarily be a public service position in terms of the the Public Service Act. However, even having said that, because it’s a position that the public foots the bill for there should be still be criteria and guidelines and processes for filing such a position.”

Thuthukile is the youngest of the president’s four daughters with ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former Cabinet minister who is currently chairperson of the African Union Commission.

Shortly after completing her undergraduate degree in 2011, she worked – or “volunteered”, according to the ANC – at the ruling party’s headquarters. She subsequently joined the State Security Agency and spent less than a year there, before being appointed to her current position.

The University of the Witwatersrand confirmed that Thuthukile graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in April 2011 and received an honours degree in anthropology in June 2012.

Ministerial proxy
A chief of staff can be a proxy for the minister himself, as a ministerial representative, if delegated by the minister.

Depending on the size of the ministry, the number of employees under the chief of staff can vary between 10 and 20 people, including ministerial spokespersons and very experienced staffers.

Even though ministerial advisers report directly to the minister, in some ministries chiefs of staff call the shots and regulate the advisers’ access to the principal. Depending on their relationship with the minister, some chiefs of staff even write speeches and act as de facto chief advisers to the politicians.

Cwele is obliged to answer questions submitted to him via the parliamentary process within 10 days.

Nigeria – Borno State bans car use during Eid

Nigeria’s Borno state bans cars during Eid

Motorbikes were permanently banned in Maiduguri in 2011 to prevent drive-by assassinations

The use of vehicles in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state has been banned during Eid, the three-day festival that ends Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.

Eid started on Sunday in Nigeria, and authorities say they have intelligence that Islamist group Boko Haram is planning to carry out car bomb attacks.

Meanwhile, police say a bomb has exploded in the northern city of Kano.

For a third year the city’s famous Eid durbar, or horse parading ceremony, has been cancelled due to security fears.

Boko Haram has carried out a wave of bombings and assassinations in Nigeria since it launched a brutal insurgency in 2009.

It sparked international outrage in April by abducting more than 200 girls from their boarding school in Borno state, where the militants are mainly based.

On Sunday, police said a bomb was thrown at worshippers in Kano as they were leaving a church killing four people; separately, a female suicide bomber blew herself as she was cornered by police near the city’s university.

Details about the blast on Monday morning are still sketchy, but the BBC’s Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai in Kano says three people who were queuing up with others to buy kerosene from a garage have been killed by an apparent suicide bomber.

The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, said the decision to ban cars was taken “in order to safeguard the lives of the innocent citizens”.

Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa
He was traumatised to see people walking for miles in Maiduguri, the state capital, he said, “under the scotching sun in an attempt to observe a very important spiritual rite which is the Eid prayers”.

“I am very much aware that there are those of our citizens who only get what to feed themselves and their families after going out every day either as traders, transporters or artisans,

“I know that the restriction of vehicle movement would greatly impede on their source of livelihood,” he said.

“But we all have to be alive before we can do anything at all.”

In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency on Borno and its neighbouring states of Adamawa and Yobe. But the military’s efforts have failed to contain the emergency.

There are almost daily attacks in the north-east and New York-based Human Rights Watch says more than 2,000 civilians have been killed by the militants this year.

On Sunday, the Cameroonian military said Boko Haram members had abducted the wife of the country’s deputy prime minister in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata.

The militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers.

Who are Boko Haram?

Boko Haram loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden”
Founded in 2002
Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
Some three million people affected
Declared terrorist group by US in 2013
Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists

Kano’s durbar – a three-day horse parade – used to be huge tourist attraction