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AFRICAN NEWS & INFORMATION
Lesotho 'Military Coup' Failed, South African Police Guard PM Tags: Lesotho South Africa News War Coup Politics

South African police are guarding the prime minister of Lesotho, who has returned to the country after an alleged military coup, officials confirmed on Thursday.

Jeff Radebe, minister in the South African presidency, described the protection for Tom Thabane as a transitional measure until the political crisis in the tiny mountain kingdom was resolved.

It is not the first time that South Africa, which surrounds Lesotho and its population of 2 million, has had a hand in its affairs, including a military invasion in 1998 that met unexpected resistance.

Pretoria has ruled out a repeat this time, but analysts warn that South Africa's dependence on Lesotho for water security could raise the stakes.

South Africa has invested billions in a dam system which supplies it with 780m cubic metres of water a year, most of it destined for the economic hub of Gauteng that contains Johannesburg and Pretoria.

"There's a built-in incentive for it to become a military matter because of the strategic importance of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project," one political source said. "When there are considerations like that, the situation could escalate faster than it would in normal circumstances."

Thabane, 75, fled Lesotho for South Africa on Saturday, hours before the military surrounded his residence and attacked police headquarters, killing one officer and injuring others. He held emergency talks with the president, Jacob Zuma, and regional mediators.

South African police escorted him back to Lesotho's state house on Wednesday. His aide, Samonyane Ntsekele, told Reuters: "He's in state house. He's the one in charge. South African police are with him and he is well secured. He saw the king today and we hope they will work together as a team. I don't know what has been agreed."

Convoys of South African police, including heavily armed members of the special taskforce in combat fatigues, could be seen patrolling the streets of the capital, Maseru, the Times of South Africa reported. Units were also deployed to guard senior officials at their residences, including the newly appointed military chief Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao.

Mahao survived an assassination attempt soon after Thabane appointed him to replace the sacked Tlali Kamoli. "Security measures were in place and so far we are fine," Mahao told Agence France-Presse. "The prime minister is fine. He's already at work."

He added that efforts were under way to ensure that Kamoli handed over command of the army to him. Kamoli has been named by Lesotho intelligence officers as orchestrating the "coup" along with the deputy prime minister Mothejoa Metsing, who is locked in a power struggle with Thabane.

The army has denied staging a coup. It said it acted to disarm the police, alleging they had planned to pass an assortment of weapons to unspecified political radicals.

But according to the Times, police said the army units had opened fire on them without warning and seized at least 100 weapons, including AK47s, M16 rifles, handguns and "five cases of Savanna, two cases of Coke and four cell phones".

The police commissioner, Khothatso Tsooana, also fled the country and returned in a South African police car with South African escorts. He ordered police back to work after they had abandoned their duties. "All police officers are ordered to report for duty immediately," he said. "The situation in the country has gone back to normal and my being in the country shows that."

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has sent an observer team to the "kingdom in the sky". Thabane had asked the regional bloc to send peacekeeping troops but was denied. SADC did, however, force the country's rival parties to agree to a deal that called for Thabane's return and the reopening of parliament.

Lesotho has endured several coups since it gained independence from Britain in 1966. At least 58 residents and eight South African soldiers died during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting in 1998, when Pretoria sent in troops to avert a revolt.

Britain urged parties to work together to peacefully resolve the crisis. James Duddridge, its Africa minister, said: "The UK is deeply concerned by the current political situation in the kingdom of Lesotho. I welcome the Southern African Development Community's ongoing engagement and hope all parties will now work together to implement the Windhoek agreements and ensure all disputes are settled in a peaceful manner, and in line with Lesotho's constitution and principles of the rule of law."

Source: theguardian

US Gives Ambulances To Sierra Leone To Fight Ebola (PHOTOS) Tags: Sierra Leone News Ebola West Africa World

As the U.S. government and the United Nations both stepped up giving Wednesday to quell the Ebola epidemic sweeping through several West African countries, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will spend $50 million on the international effort seeking a vaccine and other therapies.

The United States donated five ambulances Wednesday to help Sierra Leone's fight against Ebola as the West African government acknowledged it can take up to 24 hours to pick up bodies in the spiraling crisis.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's donation is the U.S.-based group's largest to a humanitarian effort. The $50 million includes $10 million the foundation previously committed for emergency operations, treatment and research. The money will be used to purchase supplies and to develop vaccines, therapies and better diagnostic tools.

More than 2,200 deaths throughout West Africa have been attributed to Ebola amid the worst outbreak of the disease in history. The sick have been using motorcycle taxis and other public transport to get to hospitals, further increasing the risk of transmitting the disease that kills about half its victims.

Kathleen FitzGibbon of the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone handed President Ernest Bai Koroma the keys to five ambulances Wednesday. The U.S. has spent more than $100 million responding to the outbreak.

Sierra Leone's president Ernest Bai Koroma inspects an ambulance, one of five donated by the U.S. 


"Together we will win this fight," Koroma told her.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the three countries hit hardest by the outbreak — are also in need of more protective gear for health care workers and more treatment beds for Ebola victims. The World Health Organization says about 1,000 more beds in isolation centers are needed.

Also on Wednesday, the United Nations allocated $3.8 million from an emergency fund to support a U.N. air service operating in the Ebola-struck region. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said reduction in commercial air flights as a result of the outbreak has hindered the deployment of health workers and supplies.

Doctors Without Borders has said bodies are being left to rot in the streets of Sierra Leone, a claim the country's health officials have rejected. But Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, an adviser to the president, did acknowledge that it can take up to a full day to retrieve a dead body because it must first be tested for Ebola.

Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids. Dead bodies are particularly contagious and must be buried with extreme care. Experts say traditional burials that wash the dead have been a significant source of Ebola transmission.

Senegal, meanwhile, announced that its only confirmed Ebola patient has recovered. But Dr. Moussa Seydi told Senegalese radio the young man is still suffering psychologically after losing several relatives to the disease.

Source: AP

Niger: The Most Fertile Nation On Earth Tags: Nigeria Africa News

This story from the Economist is about Niger – the largest country in West Africa (by size) – and the country with the highest fertility rate in the world (7.6 children per woman).  Although Niger does not have a large population by world standards (17 million) this number is set to more than triple between 2014 and 2050.  That wouldn’t be such a problem were it not for the fact that the country cannot feed itself even now and even when there are no droughts. Unfortunately, there are consistently droughts and the harvest regularly fails:

“Niger is, by the reckoning of the UN’s Human Development Index, the poorest place on earth…An estimated 2.5m people out of a total of 17m have no secure source of food. When harvests fail, which they do almost annually, that number shoots up. In 2012, when the worst of the recent food crises ravaged the Sahel region, almost a quarter of Niger’s population was said to be going hungry…”

The reality for poor, undernourished children is heartbreaking. The Economist introduces Haowa, a mother of eight children (her last pregnancy resulted in triplets) who cannot feed her children:

“Now, when her babies scream for food she often finds herself helpless. ‘If they cry and I have nothing to give them, then I must let them cry,’ she says, cradling two infants who bear the hallmarks of malnutrition. Their hair is yellowing, their bellies are distended and their expressions glazed. They lack the energy to shake the flies from their faces.”

I can’t imagine the pain that that mother must go through – knowing that her children are hungry and unable to do anything about it. My heart breaks every time my son bangs his head and starts crying – but at least then I know that I can comfort or distract him and he will be off and running again in a couple of minutes. I have never known what it is like not to be able to feed my family. Not only does that make me extremely fortunate but it means that the suffering that mothers like Haowa go through is incomprehensible. The poor, poor woman.

So why do Niger’s population continue to have so many children when its current population cannot be fed?  The Economist points to a number of factors:

“Poverty, ignorance and poor access to contraception are contributing factors, as are cultural issues like competition between wives. Men in Niger tend to be polygamous, and local doctors note that their spouses often try to prove their value by outdoing each other in child births.”

The UN is seeking to change this:

“At present the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the only importer of contraceptives, flying in millions of dollars’ worth this year. It runs a ‘school for husbands’ which teaches men, who traditionally tended to obstruct women seeking birth control, about family planning. The schools hope to dispel wild rumours about contraception. One woman living outside of Zinder, the country’s second-biggest city, used to believe the pill would cause haemorrhages or make her unborn child anaemic. ‘I was scared for the first two months,’ she says.”

While it is good that Nigeriens are being informed so that they can make choices about their families, it appears as if Nigeriens may not want to change their current family structures:

“And the appetite for change among the population is limited. Only about a quarter of women express any desire to space out their births, let alone reduce their number.”

If that’s the case, if three-quarters of Nigerien women want to have eight children despite the misery being suffered by Haowa mentioned above, then what on earth can the UN do about it? Set up schools to re-educate women about how 2.1 would be a much better number of children to have? If this mindset largely comes about through the polygamous practises, then what should the UN do? Ban it? Do we then get back to the argument about which is more paternalistic: should we ban an apparently mysognistic practice even though women might want to be part of it? (See for example the hijab debate…) What do you, dear readers, think about this all?

PS Before we look down at the ignorance of Nigeriens about contraceptives and the pill, what do we in the west generally know about it? What do girls (I use the term deliberately) know when they are put onto the pill by their doctors? What are they told about the long term effects? The risks etc? Do we even know the longterm effects of it? Or are there none? As a final aside, I smile to think about how we are so keen to have “organic” food and to make sure no additives/chemicals are in our food and yet we take (or ensure our girlfriends/wives take) a pill every day that is pure hormone and tricks a woman’s body into thinking she is pregnant.  But I’m sure there is a difference there somewhere. 

Source: mercatornet

Liberian Ebola Survivor Praises Experimental Drug Tags: Ebola News Health West Africa Liberia

A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug urged the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa, while crowds celebrated in the streets Saturday after authorities reopened a slum that had been barricaded for more than a week to try to contain the disease.

Physician's assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from hospital Saturday after she survived Ebola, which has been fatal in more than half the cases sweeping West Africa. Kobbah contracted the disease while working at a government-run hospital north of the capital.

In an interview with The Associated Press before her release, she said when she informed her family that she had been cured, the home exploded with joy "and the house is on fire right now" with celebration.

"I am very fine and all right, glory be to God," she said. "I trusted God that I was going to be healed."

Kobbah urged the manufacturer of the experimental drug known as ZMapp to step up production. The company has said that all its supplies are exhausted and it will take months to make more.

"They need to make more Zmapp and send to us," she said.

Doctors have said there is no way to know whether ZMapp made a difference or if survivors like Kobbah recovered on their own, as about 45 percent of people infected in this outbreak have. The drug had never been tested in humans before it was given to two Americans who were infected with Ebola in Liberia. They survived Ebola and were released from an Atlanta hospital.

However, a study released online Friday by the journal Nature found that ZMapp healed all 18 monkeys infected with the deadly virus.

Meanwhile, tensions diminished Saturday in the West Point neighborhood of Liberia's capital after authorities lifted a blockade that had sparked unrest. Residents living in the area had feared running out of food and safe water on the peninsula.

Liberia's president had ordered the barricade on Aug. 19 after West Point residents stormed an Ebola health center several days earlier. Residents said they did not want sick people being brought into the community, although those staying at the center were only under observation during a 21-day incubation period.

Amid the melee, some protesters made off with blood-stained mattresses and other materials that could potentially spread the Ebola virus.

Lifting the quarantine Saturday morning doesn't mean there is no Ebola in the West Point slum, said Information Minister Lewis Brown. Authorities, though, are more confident now that they can work with residents to screen for the sick, he said.

"They're comfortable with the way the leadership and the community is working with the health team to make sure that the community remains safe," he said.

Liberia has been the hardest hit of the five countries with Ebola cases in West Africa, reporting at least 694 deaths among 1,378 cases. More than 3,000 cases have been reported across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and on Friday Senegal announced its first case.

A student from Guinea who had been missing for several weeks showed up at a hospital in Dakar on Tuesday, seeking treatment but concealing that he had been in contact with other Ebola victims, Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck confirmed.

The next day, an epidemiological surveillance team in neighboring Guinea alerted Senegalese authorities that they had lost track of a person they were monitoring three weeks earlier, and that the person may have crossed into Senegal.

The student was tracked down in the Dakar hospital where he was confirmed with Ebola and immediately put into isolation where he is reported to be in satisfactory condition, Seck said. Authorities also sent out a team to disinfect the home where he was staying in Senegal.

Source: AP

Cameroon Repatriates 480 Absconding Nigerian Soldiers Tags: News Cameroon Nigeria War

About 480 government soldiers, who had previously fled into Cameroon after heavy fighting with Boko Haram insurgents are currently being repatriated to Nigeria by Cameroonian Authorities.

As previously reported by an AP news article, civilians fleeing into Cameroon gave accounts of being joined by Nigerian soldiers who were retreating from heavy fighting with Boko Haram insurgents in the border town of Gamboru.

The Nigerian army had previously referred to the unscheduled arrival of 480 Nigerian troops into Cameroonian soil as a “tactical maneuver."

A SaharaReporters source has revealed that’s the troops re entered Nigeria on a longer route through Adamawa state, rather than Borno state, after being transported in a long convoy under tight security escort.

The source said a long convoy transporting the troops entered Nigeria through a longer route from Adamawa state, rather than Borno state, and will soon join their units to continue operations against the Boko Haram militant fighters.

A security source based in the Maidugiri had previously informed SaharaReporters that Boko Haram sought to control the expansive areas of the Gamboru-Ngala for the strategic location and vibrant commercial infrastructure conducive for establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

Despite Nigeria’s government’s imposition of a State of Emergency in the Northeatern state of Borno late last year, Boko Haram has wreaked havoc in many areas of the region with hi-profile activities including successfully capturing the Gwoza Training camp of the Nigeria Police Mobile Force (PMF) last week and several army barracks and police installations, and towns.

Boko Haram has also successfully conducted cross border raids into neighboring Cameroon including the highly publicized kidnapping of the wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali in Kolofata in late July.

The group has increasingly developed a violent nature in its operations since the killing of its founding leader, Mohammed Younus, in 2009.

Source: Sahara

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