Ivory Coast closes land border because of ebola

BBC

Ebola crisis: Ivory Coast closes land borders

A man with a placard writing "Ebola go away" in Abidjan on 19 August.Already more people have died in this outbreak of Ebola than in any other

Ivory Coast has become the latest African country to close its land borders to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on to its territory.

Days after banning flights from three countries, it said land borders with Liberia and Guinea were being shut.

Gabon, Senegal, Cameroon and South Africa have taken similar measures. The World Health Organization says such restrictions are counterproductive.

So far 1,427 people have died – more than in any other Ebola outbreak.

The number of cases now stands at 2,615. The speed and extent of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are “unprecedented”, according to the WHO.

The Philippines has ordered 115 troops to return home from peacekeeping operations in Liberia due to the outbreak.

Ivory Coast, the largest economy in francophone West Africa, had previously imposed a ban on flights to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

“Faced with new outbreak sites and the reactivation of old sites… the Ivorian government decides to close its land borders with sister republics Guinea and Liberia,” it said in a statement on Friday.

A Liberian policeman, right, speaks with residents of the West Point in MonroviaFood was distributed in the West Point area of Monrovia, where some residents have expressed anger over a quarantine
Members at the French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) Elwa hospital in MonroviaThe WHO has said more medical resources are needed to halt the spread of the virus
line

WHO says Ebola outbreak underestimated because:

  • Many families keep sick people at home, as there is no cure
  • Many health centres have closed because medical staff have fled
  • In Liberia, treatment centres are overwhelmed
  • The existence of “shadow-zones”, areas where there are reports of Ebola but which cannot be accessed because of local resistance or lack of staff

Read more from the WHO

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The WHO says travel bans do not work, and that what is needed is more doctors and officials to help trace those infected with Ebola, as well as more mobile laboratories.

On Friday, the WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda expressed concern over so-called “shadow zones”, areas which cannot be reached and where patients are not being detected.

The organisation confirmed 142 new cases of the disease had been reported since 19 August, as well as 77 deaths.

Speaking at a news conference in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Dr Fukuda said combating the disease would take “several months of hard work”.

“We haven’t seen an Ebola outbreak covering towns, rural areas so quickly and over such a wide area,” he added.

Ebola has no known cure but some affected people have recovered after being given an experimental drug, ZMapp. However, supplies are now exhausted.

On Thursday, two US doctors were discharged from hospital after being given the drug, while three Liberian medics are also recovering well.

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Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

A fruit bat is pictured in 2010 at the Amneville zoo in France. Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • 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, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host
  • BBC

Zimbabwe sells out to China in return for funding

Mail and Guardian

President Robert Mugabe will allow Beijing to bypass state tenders for big projects in return for funding from the Chinese government.

Chinese parastatals dealing in road construction and power generation are set to benefit in return for funding. (Aaron Ufumeli)

Desperate for funding from the Chinese government, Zimbabwe is planning to sideline the State Procurement Board and award government infrastructure projects to Chinese state companies without going to tender, the Mail & Guardian has learned.

The board, which some government officials believe is riddled with corruption, is in charge of all tenders for every government ministry.

Government officials have this week, ahead of a state visit by President Robert Mugabe to China, made the offer to the Chinese state companies, particularly in power generation, in return for funding.

Zimbabwe urgently needs a $27-billion cash injection to implement its ambitious five-year economic development plan, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).

But the government is struggling to raise cash, even for civil servants’ salaries, and is seeking a $4-billion rescue package from Beijing.

Despite three visits to China by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the Chinese have been reluctant to release funds because of the risk associated with the country.

Rescue package
Officials in the ministries of finance and economic development and foreign affairs told the M&G this week that the new plan was devised after they realised China was reluctant to release a rescue package.

The country is now asking the Chinese to fund new and existing capital projects under a build, operate and transfer basis, or other methods that would ensure the country pays for the projects over a long period, and made assurances that the State Procurement Board would not be involved.

The Zimbabwean government will push the plan when the Joint Zimbabwe-China Permanent Commission meets in China next week. Senior government officials said Mugabe would attend some high-level meetings to seek the package.

The permanent commission is headed by the two countries’ foreign ministers and discusses issues of mutual interest including security, politics, trade and economic matters.

The Zimbabwean half of the commission, part of which is already in China, has resolved to ask their Chinese counterparts to assist in brokering a deal that would see the tender process being skipped and Chinese state companies taking over the funding and implementation of the country’s major projects.

Some of the existing projects earmarked for takeover were previously awarded to companies – including some from China – but have not progressed amid allegations that the State Procurement Board had awarded tenders to companies without the capacity to see them through.

It is in this context that Zimbabwe will push for China to take over the implementation of the projects.

Officials said Mugabe would still push for the $4-billion rescue package, as he sees a financial package as being crucial for stabilising Zimbabwe’s worsening economy.

“Zimbabwean officials in the Joint China-Zimbabwe Commission have resolved to seek the assistance of their Chinese counterparts in bringing that country’s state companies to take over some of the tenders that have been awarded to companies who have so far failed to implement the projects,” said a senior official in the ministry of finance.

He added: “The immediate focus is on the proposed solar power projects that were awarded to three companies at the beginning of the year.

“Zimbabwean officials want the Chinese state companies to take over the construction of the solar power projects given by the board because of fears there is all likelihood of collusion between the board and the winning companies, which will result in the government being prejudiced [fleeced] of millions of dollars. There is also a growing belief that the companies have no capacity to carry out the projects, but will simply subcontract to others.”

Chinamasa and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi could not be reached for comment. Chinamasa was said to be already in China to negotiate the deals and prepare the groundwork for Mugabe’s visit.

The foreign affairs permanent secretary, ambassador Joey Bimha, confirmed the joint commission would meet soon. He did not confirm whether there were moves to get the Chinese to take over the solar projects, but said the Zimbabwean delegation and their counterparts would identify projects the two countries could co-operate on.

“As you know, the Chinese do not give money directly, but they can assist by undertaking projects in Zimbabwe. So this is what the ministers will be negotiating for,” said Bimha.

Zimbabwe relies on hydroelectricity generated at Lake Kariba as well as coal-powered plants in Harare, Bulawayo, Hwange and Munyati. But the plants are not producing enough electricity and in some cases consumers have to endure up to 12 hours of load-shedding a day.

Tenders for solar plants
The State Procurement Board awarded tenders to three companies – Intratrek Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd, owned by Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo, ZTE Corporation and China Jiangxi Corporation – to construct three solar power plants that would generate a combined 300 megawatts.

But there are concerns that the three companies have no capacity. The companies have also pushed up the project cost to $240-million from $183-million, which the government says is too expensive.

Only last month, the government cancelled a billion-dollar tender awarded to China Machinery Engineering Company for the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station. It was subsequently given to Sino Hydro, also a Chinese company, after the board realised a year later that the first company did not have funds to implement the project.

Zimbabwe Power Company is a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, charged with electricity generation. Its spokesperson, Fadzai Chisveto, failed to respond to questions from the M&G.

State Procurement Board’s executive chairman Charles Kuwaza’s phone went unanswered, and he did not respond to emailed questions.

‘Capital city of corruption’
Three weeks ago, Chinamasa told a procurement conference in Harare that the State Procurement Board was “the capital city of corruption” because it has a habit of awarding tenders to “briefcase companies” that have no capacity to implement projects.

Government officials this week said Chinamasa’s attack was informed by his desire to justify the awarding of projects to Chinese state companies.

“When it comes to tenders, something which I have noticed and which worries me is the dominance of briefcase businesses in the tender system,” Chinamasa said.

“People come to bid yet they do not own anything … We have to do due diligence on those who tender and find out where they are going to find their supplies. We have to enhance the public procurement legislation and governance structures to minimise distortions, that is, the role of middlemen and collusion [with the State Procurement Board] that increases the cost of doing business and also reach out to a broader supplier base.”

Earlier this month, the comptroller and auditor general exposed in a report that all employees at the board have no contracts, and are employed on the basis of offer letters alone.

South Africa – how long can Zuma delay his day in court?

Mail and Guardian

Zuma’s strategy when it comes to his legal woes can seemingly be summed up in the well-known bumper sticker, ‘Don’t talk to me, talk to my lawyer’.

President Jacob Zuma has relied on his lawyers to stall and delay cases against him. (David Harrison, M&G)

NEWS ANALYSIS

Over the past 11 days President Jacob Zuma has had his legal hands unusually full, even for a president who has spent his entire term in office fending off such challenges. Since August 11:

  • His personal architect has been singled out as responsible for R155-million of state money wasted on Nkandla;
  • His choice to have the police minister determine how much he may owe on Nkandla has drawn fierce criticism;
  • His counsel has admitted to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) that there were no grounds on which to argue against the release of the infamous spy tapes; and
  • He has been accused, in the Constitutional Court, of presiding over a failure by the state to establish an effective corruption-busting organisation.

As a result, he faces new questions not only about Nkandla and the legality of what he has done about it, but also the prospect of a new attempt to overturn a 2009 decision not to charge him with corruption, as well as the likelihood that the Constitutional Court will again criticise his government for some of the structural failings in its efforts to combat corruption.

Such questions will be vexing to Zuma’s substantial legal team, among whom the most prominent and apparently most influential is Michael Hulley. At the end of 2013 the department of justice said it had paid Hulley R8.8-million in the previous four years for work on, among other things, the spy tapes saga.

The timing is not under Zuma’s control, and the pace of events is quickening. By the end of this week lawyers for Zuma and the Democratic Alliance must come to an agreement on how to sort the confidential from the nonconfidential in documents relating to a 2009 decision to drop corruption charges against him. Should the parties fail to reach agreement, the SCA will most likely step in. Either way, the DA should be in a position to renew its efforts to have those charges reinstated, efforts to which Zuma will have to respond.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday reserved judgment on whether the police’s priority crime unit, the Hawks, is sufficiently out of political reach to investigate corruption, even if that investigation may cause the executive discomfort. The last time the court ruled on much the same issue, it delivered a bombshell, a scathing indictment of how the Hawks had been structured, alongside a stern lecture on the importance of combating corruption.

For the time being, Nkandla is the domain of Parliament, where the ANC has a great deal of sway over events. Opposition parties, however, have proven themselves eager to be seen as the champions of the Nkandla issue: the DA in the courts, and the Economic Freedom Fighters in a more spectacular public fashion. Undue delays or a sidelining of Nkandla will almost certainly trigger such actions again, with unpredictable consequences.

For Zuma, each of these three long-running issues poses a serious risk to reputation, legacy, finances and even freedom.

But he has proven himself to be someone who does not lightly yield, either in politics or in court. Fired as deputy president, he ultimately ousted Thabo Mbeki. Found to have been the other half of a corrupt relationship that sent Schabir Shaik to prison, he nonetheless fended off prosecution for close on a decade and counting.

There are strong arguments that it is time for Zuma to change his legal strategy, and that a more forward-thinking president, concerned with the administration to follow his, would do so.

“It’s not working,” says political analyst Ralph Mathekga of Zuma’s approach since 2003. “Here is a president who has had more and more sustained contention with the judiciary than any other, on two levels: in the exercise of his executive prerogative, and also personally. The one colours the other, forcing us to ask questions every time he makes a decision.

“Any appointment now to the judiciary or the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] is a poison chalice, because we are wondering whether he is preparing the way for possible prosecution after his term ends.”

If Zuma was concerned about the long-term health of institutions – and with the perception problems that the next ANC leader could face – he would not delay any possible reinstatement of corruption charges against him, says Mathekga.

The same opinion, for different reasons, can be found in legal circles.

“I would say that the president should set an example and should not play the process, and make technical points to avoid the merits of the cases in which he is involved,” says senior advocate Wim Trengove. “Delinquent debtors are allowed to play the system, to play the rules to their best advantage. Presidents shouldn’t.”

What a more presidential approach would be, though, Trengove cannot say. “His lawyers seem to have served him well so far.”

Though a broad causal link is impossible to prove, some officials suspended on full pay for months or years while fighting disciplinary action against them have privately pointed to Zuma’s example as proof that they were entitled to explore every available avenue.

Should Zuma not change his strategy – and there is nothing to suggest that he will – a mass of filings and statements by and on his behalf over the past decade points to three broad approaches that will come into play over the coming months.

Delays deny him a fair trial
Zuma’s legal team has often been accused of delaying tactics to slow down action against and relating to him. The team has often angrily denied, yet the denials have become harder to swallow since last week, when Zuma’s legal team stood before the SCA, unable to point to a basis for the appeal they were engaged in.

Legal experts say there are many ways for him to delay any attempts to recover money spent on Nkandla from him, as well as reviews of a decision to reinstate corruption charges, even though his options for delaying the production of evidence necessary to initiate a review of the decision not to charge him now appear exhausted. One novel approach would be to argue that the delays to date have denied him the opportunity to a fair trial.

Playing the rural victim
Despite being the undisputed incumbent of the most powerful office in the land, Zuma has claimed victimhood in the political and legal arenas. He twice suggested to Parliament that the Nkandla scandal was propelled by discrimination against those from rural areas (Zuma being one of them) or at the very least by a lack of understanding of the challenges of rural areas.

In representations on charging him with corruption, the same approach – claiming there was a political conspiracy against him – saw prosecution halted. He has also claimed that attempts by the DA to have corruption charges against him reinstated were politically motivated, and so should not be entertained.

A bid for immunity
The legal theory was most controversially stated by lawyer Michael Hulley on Zuma’s behalf in court papers in 2009: a South African president, “like the president of the United States, cannot be charged with criminal conduct (or continue to be prosecuted) during his incumbency. Charges can only be brought if he is successfully impeached in terms of the Constitution, or after his term of office ends.”

Zuma will be 77 when his term ends, and a hypothetical prosecution would take several years.


BBC

DR Congo woman ‘saw Col Egangela order gang-rape’

Lt Col Bedi Mobuli EngangelaLt Col Bedi Mobuli Engangela was a militia leader before joining the army

A woman who was gang-raped and burned in her house has told a military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo she saw an army colonel give the orders.

She is one of some 1,000 people who have named Lt Col Bedi Mobuli Engangela, who is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He has denied all the charges.

The UN says the trial is a test case for the Congolese military, which has often failed to convict high-ranking officers accused of sexual violence.

The woman, whose name was not disclosed, insisted on showing her wounds to the judges.

Woman who was allegedly rapedThe woman covered up her entire body and face…
Judges looking at the woman's injuries while she sits in a boxBut showed her injuries to the judges through a hole in this box

But she did not want Col Engangela to see her, so she entered the courtroom wearing an outfit that covered her whole body, including her face. She sat in a box with a hole on one side.

Only the judges peered in as she removed her veil. They flinched.

She told the court in the town of Kalehe, South Kivu province, she was raped four times during an attack from Lt Col Engangela’s troops on her village.

The men then set her straw hut on fire with her and her son still inside, she said.

Col Egangela started his career in the army under former President Joseph Mobutu, before deserting to join a militia.

He was reintegrated into the army as part of a peace deal in 2005 and became commander of the 106 battalion in South Kivu, and is often known as Colonel 106.

But between 2005-2007, he is accused of deserting again, recruiting child soldiers and ordering attacks on several villages. He also allegedly collaborated with the Rwandan FDLR rebel group, based in DR Congo.

Sexual violence is a major problem in eastern DR Congo, where several armed groups still operate more than a decade after the official end of its conflict.

Both militias and the army have been accused but few senior officials have been convicted.

Two soldiers were convicted of rape earlier this year, both of them low-ranking. BBC

Ugandan government under fire over controversial AIDS bill

The Observer/allAfrica

Uganda: HIV Law – After Assent, Museveni Under Fire

Photo: Marlies Pilon/RNW

HIV/AIDS in Uganda: abstinence, condoms and side dishes

Even after the presidential assent, health rights civil society organisations want amendments to the contentious provisions in the 2014 HIV Prevention and Control Act.

The law has been publicly criticised by officials leading HIV response in the country such as the Aids Control Programme and Uganda Aids Commission. They say the law will take the country’s HIV/Aids campaign in the wrong direction. The CSOs are wary of several provisions that breach the right to confidentiality such as Clause 18, which makes HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners mandatory and allows medical providers to disclose a patient’s HIV status to others without consent.

“Because of this, we are likely to see people, especially pregnant mothers, failing to turn up for testing. Thus, we shall have more babies born with HIV. How can we achieve an Aids-free generation when Uganda adopts such a law?” Lillian Mworeko from the International Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids told journalists at Fairway hotel on Wednesday.

Mworeko said the absence of specific mention of consent suggested that testing would actually be implemented as mandatory. The health rights groups further argued that permitting disclosure of HIV status without consent contravened international human rights standards, which require states to ensure the confidentiality of medical information.

The international guidelines on HIV/Aids and human rights recommend voluntary partner notification and set a narrow set of circumstances under which health care provider disclosure is permissible.

“Forced disclosure to male sexual partners could expose women to violence and other abuses,” Prof Vinand Nantulya, the chairman of UAC, told The Observer.

The act also criminalises HIV transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour which might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status. Under Clause 43, ‘a person who willfully and intentionally transmits HIV to another person commits an offence, and on conviction shall be liable to a fine of not more than one hundred and twenty currency points or imprisonment for a term of not more than ten years or both.’

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to establish in court who between two partners was infected first or who caused transmission, limiting the feasibility of prosecution,” said Stella Kentutsi, the executive director of the National Forum of People Living with HIV/Aids Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU).

Kentutsi added that because transmission must be willful and intentional, criminalisation of transmission could act as a deterrent for individuals to seek testing, making ignorance of one’s status an effective defence. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids, there were about 1.5 million people living with HIV in Uganda by the end of 2012, some 190,000 of them children.

President misled:

Prof Nantulya says the legal experts, led by the attorney general, should have done sufficient research outside Parliament to consider other voices opposed to the law’s contents.

“Those that the president entrusted with the responsibility of guiding him did him a disservice because some of the provisions therein are vague such as ‘intentional or attempted transmission’,” he said.

The act was passed by Parliament on May 13, 2014 and signed by the president July 31.  allAfrica

South Africa – accused in rhino horn theft case get bail

City Press

Rhino horn theft accused get bail

23 August 2014 9:32

Four Mpumalanga men arrested in connection with the theft of 112 rhino horns were each released on R20 000 bail in the Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court.

The four were Gideon Mtshali (51), Sizwe Leonard Malatjie (34), Selby Khoza (39) and Veli William Zwane (43) a Sapa correspondent reported yesterday.

Prosecutor Ansie Venter told the court that the state would no longer oppose bail, and had come to an agreement with the accused’s legal representatives for them to be released.

Venter also asked the court to set the accused’s bail at R20 000 each and have strict bail conditions instructing them to report to their local police stations once every day between 5am and 7pm.

She said the accused should also report when leaving their home address, even if it’s for work.

They were also required to hand over their travelling documents to the investigating officer by 4pm on Monday.

Mtshali and Malatjie were arrested on June 6 and 7 respectively, while Khoza was arrested on June 23 in Pretoria, where he works.

Zwane was arrested on July 2 after handing himself to the police.

Both Mtshali and Malatjie have pleaded not guilty to housebreaking and theft charges, while Khoza and Zwane have not been asked to plead to the same charges.

They are accused of breaking into the safe house of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency’s offices in Mbombela and stealing rhino horns which were confiscated from rhino poachers by the police and rangers.

Magistrate Christa du Plessis warned the accused not to jeopardise investigations, threaten witnesses, stage public disorder, or contact any witnesses indirectly or directly.

The case was postponed to October 15 for the state to finalise the investigations.

- Sapa  city press

Uganda – army to take over Miss Uganda contest and play a role in farming

Daily Monitor

Army to take over Miss Uganda beauty contest

Gen Salim Saleh addresses UPDF officers during the passing out of soldiers who are going to monitor Naads projects at Makerere University in Kampala. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA .  

Strategic. The move is aimed at interesting more young people into agriculture.

The army will take over the Miss Uganda beauty contests in order to attract young people into the agricultural sector so as to solve problems of hunger and poverty among the youth in the country.
This was revealed by Gen Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh, the presidential adviser on military matters.[Museveni's brother - KS]

“We are almost signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Miss Uganda Foundation because we want to choose the next Miss Uganda basing on agriculture and this is intended to interest the young people into the sector,” Gen Saleh said.

He made the statement on Tuesday while passing out 300 army officers who have completed agricultural production induction training at Makerere University as the Force prepares to takeover the Naads programme.

Naads, an agricultural programme that seeks to spur the sector growth had allegedly been mismanaged by civil servants which forced President Museveni to say he was going to deploy soldiers in every constituency across the country to take agriculture to a new level.

The President’s decision however, raised mixed reaction from the public with the Opposition members and opinion leaders accusing the President of politicising and militarising the agricultural sector

The State minister for Luweero Triangle, Ms Sarah Kataike, warned the officers against indulging themselves into corruption tendencies and appealed to them to remain non-partisan as they carry out their work countrywide.

“Such corruption tendencies would not only tarnish the name of the UPDF but also that of government in general,” Ms Kataike said.

Mr Okasai Opolot, the Director Crop Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, said they plan to integrate police and prisons officers in agriculture to increase food production but also boost their incomes.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

BBC

Uganda: Army takes over Miss Uganda beauty contest

Ugandan armed forces on paradeThe UPDF is moving into farming and beauty pageants

The Ugandan army has said it plans to take over the country’s Miss Uganda beauty contest, it appears.

Kampala’s presidential adviser on the military Gen Caleb Akandwanaho – who is widely known as Salim Saleh – says the move is intended to “attract young people into the agricultural sector”, adding that it may help to solve the “problems of hunger and poverty among the youth of the country,” the Daily Monitor newspaper reports. Akandwanaho explains that the military is also in the process of taking control of the country’s agricultural production scheme, which is meant to move farmers over from subsistence to commercial farming. To achieve the transition, more people need to get interested in agriculture, he says.

But the move by Uganda People’s Defence Force into commercial agriculture and beauty contests has raised a few eyebrows. One minister is warning army officers newly trained in agriculture not to become involved in corruption. Social media users think the beauty contest decision defies logic. “So how is this going to work? Will the girls be perched on top of tractors?” one post asks. BBC