Category Archives: West Africa

Mali – thousands flock to “religious sign” on toilet wall

BBC

People in Mali
People were drawn to come the image after seeing photos of it circulated by mobile phone

Thousands of people in Mali’s capital, Bamako, are flocking to see what it believed to a religious sign on a wall that suddenly appeared last weekend.

Many believe the white image on the outside wall of a toilet shows a man praying, interpreting it as a message from God.

Riot police have been deployed to keep an eye on the crowd as people queue day and night to see the mark.

Most southern Malians are Tijani Muslims, a moderate sect of Sufi Islam.

”We believe it is a vision of our prophet,” Aliou Traore, who lives in the compound, told the BBC.

”People have come from Senegal to see it and several Malian government ministers and religious leaders have paid us a visit,” he said.

Traore family in Mali
People are coming from far and wide to see the mark

Mr Traore said the mark has been changing shape since it first appeared.

“Sometimes the white apparition leaves the wall altogether and moves around the compound. Then it goes back,” he said.

The BBC’s Alex Duval Smith in Bamako says people do not have to pay to see the mark but are leaving money in a bucket, which the Traore family say they will give to the local mosque.

People in Mali
Riot police, gendarmes and national guardsmen have been deployed to the area

When our reporter visited the compound, the mark seemed to look like a drying patch of cement in the shape of a standing woman.

Photos of the image have been circulated widely in Bamako by mobile phone since it appeared on Saturday evening, our correspondent says.

“It’s a miracle, I’ve seen it,” schoolteacher Aboubakar Diarra said after looking at the wall.

“It’s obviously true. It’s a sign from God to Mali that our nation is great.”

Followers of Tijani sect – who are mostly found in West Africa – are known for respecting “miracle” signs.

What missing oil trillions could do for Nigeria

Premium Times

What “missing” N11.56trillion excess crude fund can do for Nigeria

nigeria corruption protest

If one third of the Nigerian population were to queue up for a bonus pay cheque, no fewer than 53 million citizens will smile home with N18,000 every month for a full year from the unaccounted N11.56 trillion Excess Crude Accounts now subject of national accountability scandal.

PREMIUM TIMES exclusive investigation indicating that N11.56 trillion in oil revenues remained unaccounted for in eight years is putting fresh spotlight on the Nigerian government’s poor accountability record and underlining the human cost of Nigerian corruption.

Because a huge chunk of Nigeria’s resources are either stolen or unaccounted for, Africa’s largest oil producer has continued to grapple with devastating poverty and chronic underdevelopment, said Chibuike Mgbeahuruike, Executive Director of Nigeria’s activist group, Civic Space Initiative.

“Many people have died in recent years on account of Boko Haram, but many more have been killed as a result of public sector corruption expressed in widespread poverty, accident-ridden bad roads, poor health facilities and general infrastructure decay,” he said.

PREMIUM TIMES’ data scientists and reporters who surveyed seven key sectors of the nation’s life say in the hands of development-minded administrators, the N11.56 excess crude money so far unaccounted for could have provided at least 577,000 primary schools built for N20 million each; while 1.16 million health centres could have been built for N7million.

Still on the health track, 76 million Nigerian kids could get mosquito treated nets at N6,900 each, saving them from the scourge of malaria which today kills more than 300,000 Nigerian children under the age of five in annually and responsible for 11 per cent of maternal mortality cases yearly, according to experts at the Malaria Action Programme for States (MAPS).

With the country’s HIV population of 3.1 million, the nation would be a healthier environment caring for the ART needs of this vulnerable group for 108 years if N34,500 is spent on each patient per year.

West Africa -encouraging ebola vaccine results 

BBC

Ebola vaccine is ‘potential game-changer’

By James Gallagher

Health editor, BBC News website

  

A vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has led to 100% protection and could transform the way Ebola is tackled, preliminary results suggest.
There were no proven drugs or vaccines against the virus at the start of the largest outbreak of Ebola in history, which began in Guinea in December 2013.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the findings, being published in the Lancet, could be a “game-changer”.

Experts said the results were “remarkable”.

This trial centred on the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which was started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and then developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck.

It combined a fragment of the Ebola virus with another safer virus in order to train the immune system to beat Ebola.

A unique clinical trial took place in Guinea. When a patient was discovered, their friends, neighbours and family were vaccinated to create a “protective ring” of immunity.

Analysis
This could be the breakthrough the world has been waiting for.

There is caution as the results are still preliminary, with more data coming in.

But officials at the WHO believe the effectiveness of the vaccine will end up being between 75% and 100%.

If such a vaccine was available 18 months ago then thousands of lives could have been saved.

There are still other vaccines being trialled – notably from GSK and Johnson&Johnson – although as the number of cases continues to fall it is becoming increasingly difficult to prove how effective they are.

Ebola will inevitably come again.

The hope now is that the legacy of this unprecedented outbreak will be a vaccine that means a tragedy of this scale can never be repeated.

One hundred patients were identified in the trial between April and July and then close contacts were either vaccinated immediately, or three weeks later.

In the 2,014 close contacts who were vaccinated immediately there were no subsequent cases of Ebola.

In those vaccinated later there were 16 cases, according to the results published in the Lancet medical journal.

‘Promising

The WHO says it is so far 100% effective, although that figure may change as more data is collected.

Close contacts of Ebola patients in Guinea will now be vaccinated immediately. And since the vaccine has been shown to be safe, that process will also be extended to include children.

Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) is involved with this research, and is part of a parallel trial for frontline healthcare workers.

Medical director Bertrand Draguez said the Lancet results should spur instant action.

“With such high efficacy, all affected countries should immediately start and multiply ring vaccinations to break chains of transmission and vaccinate all frontline workers to protect them.”

Ebola vaccine

Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general at the WHO told BBC News: “It is certainly promising. We have seen that where rings have been vaccinated, the transmission has stopped.

“Prior to vaccination there were cases, cases, cases. The vaccine arrives and 10 days later the cases are flat.

“It could be a game-changer because previously there was nothing, despite the disease being identified 40 years ago.

“When there is a new outbreak this vaccine will be put to use to stop the outbreak as soon as possible to not have the terrible disaster we have now.”

Vaccine being prepared

More than 11,000 people have died from Ebola and nearly 28,000 have been infected.

The sheer scale of the 2014-15 outbreak led to an unprecedented push on vaccines – and a decade’s work has been condensed into around 10 months.

The number of cases has fallen – and in the week up to July 26th 2015 there were just four cases in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone.

Prof John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, helped design the trial: “The development has been at an absolutely unprecedented speed.

“This is very good news, these are very significant results, the epidemic is not over and this shows we have another potential weapon.

“The trial is still continuing, these are interim results which need confirming, but there’s now light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity, said this was a “remarkable result” and was the product of international collaboration.

He added: “Our hope is that this vaccine will now help bring this epidemic to an end and be available for the inevitable future Ebola epidemics.”

Chad says it has killed 117 Boko Haram in two weeks

Reuters

N’DJAMENA Chad said on Thursday its forces had killed 117 Boko Haram insurgents during a two-week military campaign aimed at clearing islands on Lake Chad used by the militants as hideouts and bases to launch attacks.

Chad has deployed thousands of soldiers alongside troops from neighbours Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger to tackle the militant group whose six-year insurgency has killed thousands.

“We killed 117 Boko Haram fighters during the two-week operation. We lost two men and several wounded,” Colonel Azem Bermandoa, spokesman for the Chadian army, said.

“We destroyed their boats and seized various weapons during the operation,” he said.

Boko Haram, which calls itself the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) since pledging allegiance to the militant group that controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, has stepped up attacks in countries around the lake in recent months in response to a regional offensive.

Last weekend, suspected militants from the group raided several remote localities around the lake.

(Reporting by Madjiasra Nako; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Outgoing Nigerian defence chief said army ill-equipped and neglected

Shouldn’t he have known this and done something about it when he was defence chief.  Another indication of the systematic looting of the huge “security vote”. What did Badeh do to earn his salary and perks?

Punch

I headed an Army with no equipment–Badeh

Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.)

The immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.), has said that the Army he headed was one with no equipment.

The former Chief of Defence Staff made the statement while delivering a valedictory speech at a pulling out parade organised in his honour at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja, on Thursday.

He said, “Permit me to also add here that the nation’s militaries are equipped and trained in peace time for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future. Unfortunately, that has not been our experience as a nation.

“Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations, deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it.

“Unfortunately, our past leaders accepted such recommendations without appreciating our peculiarities as a third world military, which does not have the technological advantage that could serve as force multipliers and compensate for reduced strength.

“Accordingly, when faced with the crises in the North-East and other parts of the country, the military was overstretched and had to embark on emergency recruitments and trainings, which were not adequate to prepare troops for the kind of situation we found ourselves in.”

He also said some previous leaders took deliberate decisions to weaken the military just for the survival of their regimes.

Bedeh said that some of the regimes acceded to the demands of foreign countries to reduce the size of the military and deprived the nation’s defence forces of the requisite funding and size.

He lamented that such leaders accepted the advice of such foreign countries without considering the nation’s peculiar characteristics as a third world country which lacked the advantages of modern technology to compensate for the costly reduction in size and strength.

Bade said that the military was overstretched to such a point that it had to resort to emergency recruitments and trainings to fight the insurgents, which he said was inadequate in the face of the level of security challenge facing the country at the time.

The former defence chief said that it was high time the Federal Government embarked on a comprehensive review of the nation’s military structure with respect to its size, capacity and the equipment that should be at its disposal to carry out its responsibility of defending the country.

Copyright PUNCH.

A great Africanist – Stephen Ellis, RIP

He will be missed by all who study and report on Africa. KS

African Arguments

Stephen Ellis – By Richard Dowden

Stephen_EllisStephen Ellis who died yesterday was one of the greatest Africanists of his generation. He was also a great friend to me and my family and also to RAS. He edited African Affairs from 1998 to 2006 bringing several bright young academics to the journal.

Stephen was a cool observer of Africa and took on the big themes that dominated Africa after the end of the Cold War. After graduating from Oxford, he was a volunteer teacher in Cameroon and then worked as a civil servant in London for a while before turning to academia to teach in Madagascar and study the rebellion in the 1890s there. He wrote his first book: “The Rising of the Red Shawls” as a result.

When he returned to London he became head of Africa at Amnesty International. This introduced him to the bad side of Africa’s politics during the Cold War. Stephen was a scrupulous researcher but he also became friends with people he had campaigned for and this introduced him to African politics.

We first met when he waited to be interviewed for the editorship of the journal, Africa Confidential. I was disappointed not to get the job but when I realised who I had been up against I realised why. We became good friends and colleagues and worked on several stories together.

But Stephen always wanted to dig deeper than journalism. He was an excellent interviewer, posing simple, almost casual, questions to find the threads that led to the truth. He meticulously unravelled them and pondered on their meaning and implications. Unlike one-dimensional journalism, Stephen hankered after the hidden and obscure, delving deep into topics such as the drug trade in Africa.

In 1991 he became Director of the African Studies Centre in Leiden in Holland and brought together several bright young researchers creating lively debates about African political power and making Leiden an important centre for African studies.

Here he wrote “The Criminalization of the State in Africa” with Jean-François Bayart and Béatrice Hibou. This exposed how the World Bank demand for the privatisation of state assets resulted in their transfer from station institutions to the ownership of the politically powerful. This grab for the national wealth by the politically powerful contributed to the wars and violence of the 1990s. In 2008 he was appointed Desmond Tutu Professor at the Vrije University in Amsterdam.

Stephen took on some of the most shocking and touchiest topics to research such as cannibalism in the Liberian civil war and the African drug trade. He also spent time exploring African traditional spirituality with his partner, Gerrie ter Haar.

Journalists like me were envious of his freedom to spend weeks, even months, in the field following one story. But he always came up with fascinating new tales and insights told with relish at dinner but treated with classic academic detachment in his writing.

This often landed him in hot water, especially when a national newspaper picked up a reference in The Mask of Anarchy to Charles Taylor’s cannibalism as part of traditional ritual practices in Liberia and Sierre Leone. Taylor sued but when several witnesses offered to testify to defend Stephen’s allegation, he did not pursue the case.

For exposing this and the shocking ritual violence deployed in those wars, he was showered with abuse by some and accused of giving Africa a bad name. This saddened him but did not deter him. Many Liberians and Sierra Leoneans were very pleased that the full horror of those wars had been made public.

In 2011 he published Season of Rains, an exploration and overview of politics, culture, and society as well as religion in Africa. But meanwhile he was delving into the secrets of the African National Congress. This infuriated many people who saw the ANC as a heroic organisation led by its saintly leader, Nelson Mandela. He exposed the ANC’s drug dealing in central Africa and also the killing of many young ANC recruits in camps in Angola.

Stephen claimed that the ANC had been run entirely by the South African Communist Party and that Mandela himself had been a member though he was never able to prove it conclusively. Although the ANC were angered by his exposure of less-then-heroic aspects of the party’s past, senior members admitted that the book was broadly accurate.

His last book, yet to be published, is on the Nigerian drug networks whose skill, power and reach across the world amazed even the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

Stephen was a very good man in Africa, positive, honest and brave.

To me he was a wonderful friend.

We have all lost a great Africanist and condole Gerrie and his family.

Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.

Nigeria – regional anti-Boko Haram force will cross borders to fight

BBC

Cameroon troops in the north of the country
Cameroon has had to increase its military presence in the north to fight Nigeria-based militants

Multinational troops fighting Boko Haram in West Africa will be able to pursue the militants across borders, Nigeria’s presidential spokesman says.

Garba Shehu told the BBC this was there was now trust between those contributing troops since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in May.

He was speaking ahead of the Nigerian leader’s visit to Cameroon.

A boosted force with 8,700 troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria is to become fully operational next month.

Relations between Nigeria and Cameroon have been fraught for years because of territorial disputes, in particular over the Bakassi peninsula.

The oil-rich region was eventually awarded to Cameroon by an international court.

BBC Nigeria analyst Naziru Mikailu says Mr Buhari is trying to smooth over these diplomatic tensions as he meets President Paul Biya as both nations now face a new enemy threatening their territorial integrity.

A banner reads
Security is reportedly tight in the Cameroonian capital for the visit

On Tuesday, Cameroon announced it would deploy an extra 2,000 troops along its northern border with Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.

It follows an upsurge in suicide attacks in northern Cameroon blamed on the Nigerian militants.

‘In disarray’

With the help of troops from Chad and Niger, earlier this year the Nigerian army managed to retake most of the areas taken over by the militants in north-eastern Nigeria.

Map

Although the militants have lost their strongholds, they are still active and there has been an upsurge in suicide attacks since Mr Buhari took office.

“Boko Haram is in disarray and it is doubtful they have any central command,” Mr Shehu told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

President Buhari has made the multinational force central to his government’s strategy in tackling the insurgency.

The force of soldiers, police and civilian personnel will be based in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, which has also been affected by the violence.

“All the countries agreed this operation will not recognise international boundaries – wherever terrorists are they will be chased to these locations and they will be fought until they are finished,” Mr Shehu said.

At least 17,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram launched its insurgency in northern Nigeria 2009, according to Amnesty International.

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Boko Haram at a glance

Boko Haram fighters
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined Islamic State, now calls itself “West African province”
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory this year