Africa at a glance

Tuesday May 14 2019

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introducing new

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introducing new Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram privacy features at the Facebook F8 Conference at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019. Facebook has asked WhatsApp users to upgrade to a newer version after detecting an Israeli spyware targeting human rights lawyers was monitoring calls in the current version. PHOTO | AMY OSBORNE | AFP  

  • Facebook asks WhatsApp users to upgrade over spyware

Facebook is urging WhatsApp users around the world to upgrade to the latest version of its messaging service following the discovery of spyware that can monitor people's calls.

The company confirmed that 10 days ago it discovered that malicious software developed by an Israeli company was being transmitted to people's phones through WhatsApp calls.

Facebook says the surveillance technology was mainly being used to spy on the calls of human rights lawyers. It says it has warned United States law enforcement of the breaches.

It's understood that the spyware could be installed even if people didn't answer the calls.

  • Monsanto ordered to pay $2bn in new Roundup trial

A jury in California on Monday ordered Bayer-owned Monsanto to pay more than $2 billion damages to a couple that sued on grounds the weed killer Roundup caused their cancer, lawyers said.

The award was the latest in a series of court defeats for Monsanto over Roundup, which is widely used in Africa.

The company insists the glyphosate-based product is not linked to cancer. Bayer said it would appeal the verdict.

  • Somalia cancels national exams over leaks

Somalia has cancelled national secondary school examinations after papers were leaked via social media and sold.

Students have been sitting their final year of school exams since Saturday but the leakage of papers at one examination centre forced Education Minister Abdullahi Godah Barre to go on national television on Monday night to announce the cancellation of the exams.

The exams would now be retaken from 27 to 31 May, and social media would be shut during the five days to to curb the illegal circulation of papers, the minister added.

  • US court allows lawsuit on Apple's App Store monopoly

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that a consumer lawsuit accusing Apple of illegally monopolizing the company's App Store may proceed, opening a new avenue of antitrust litigation against the iPhone maker.

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices rejected Apple's argument that consumers lacked standing to proceed with their lawsuit because the tech giant was merely an intermediary with app developers.

The class-action lawsuit from 2011 maintains that Apple, which takes a 30 percent commission on app sales, abuses its monopoly position, resulting in higher prices.

  • History made as women to referee men's AFC Cup clash

The Asian Football Confederation announced Tuesday that for the first time an all-female referee team will take charge of a men's continental club cup clash.

Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi will officiate the AFC Cup match between Myanmar's Yangon United and Cambodia's Naga World at the Thuwunna Stadium on Wednesday.

The AFC Cup is the second-string Asian club competition, a rung below the AFC Champions League.

Women officials have only previously been employed as assistant referees in AFC Cup matches, with Australians Sarah Ho and Alysson Flynn becoming the first in 2014.

  • CO2 levels hit historic high

Scientists in the United States have detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere since records began, sounding new alarm over the relentless rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The 26 Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has tracked atmospheric CO2 levels since the late 1950s, on Saturday morning detected 415.26 parts per million (ppm).

It was also the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm.

The last time Earth's atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest.

Earth's average surface temperature has already increased 1.0C since pre-industrial times due to man-made emissions and the past four years were the hottest on record.

  • Cameroon crisis risks spiralling out of control: UN aid chief

The crisis in Cameroon is worsening and threatens to spiral out of control, the UN aid chief warned Monday during a first informal meeting of the Security Council on the conflict.

At least 4.3 million people are in need of aid -- a 30 percent increase from last year in what Mark Lowcock described as an "under-reported" crisis in the central African country.

Cameroon is wracked by a conflict between separatists and government forces in its English-speaking west, combined with an influx of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

African countries in the council and Russia, however, say the crisis is not a threat to international peace and the international community should only support Cameroon in tackling it.

More than 560,000 people have been driven from their homes since 2017 including 32,000 who have fled to Nigeria. The violence from the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has spilled over to Cameroon.

  • UN chief worried by arms flows to Libya

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told the Security Council he is deeply concerned by reports of fresh weapons supplies flowing into Libya.

Guterres reported to the council on the European Union's Operation Sophia to inspect vessels off Libya's coast to shore up the arms embargo.

That military operation was authorized by a council resolution in 2016.

EU vessels conducted three vessel inspections in September, November and January, but no arms were found onboard those ships, the report said.

However, Libyan port and custom authorities, who are trained by the EU, seized armored vehicles in the port of Misrata in February and weapons in Khoms in January, according to the document.

  • Togo navy foils oil tanker attack by pirates

Police have arrested six Nigerian and two Togolese pirates over a foiled attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Guinea, Togo's security minister said Monday.

The pirates boarded the GDona1 tanker flying a Togolese flag from a dugout canoe and tried to divert it from its destination," Security Minister Yark Damehame said in a statement.

The Gulf of Guinea is a hotbed of sea piracy with 38 incidents including 10 kidnappings reported between January and April.

Most of the incidents have been blamed on armed Nigerian groups off the Niger Delta.

  • Gabon threatens crackdown over theft of sacred wood

The Gabon president Ali Bongo on Monday threatened to come down heavily on anyone found responsible for the theft of hundreds of seized containers of kevazingo, a wood considered sacred.

Customs officers had discovered the collection of rare hardwood worth millions of dollars in February and March at two Chinese-owned depots at the Owendo timber port on the Libreville peninsula.

But later more than 350 containers confiscated by the authorities "curiously disappeared", according to the Libreville prosecutor.

The wood had allegedly been loaded into containers bearing water and forestry ministry labels, falsely describing it as okoume - a kind of timber cleared for export.

Kevazingo, also known as bubinga, takes many years to mature, and the wood is highly valued in Asia where it can fetch up to $2,000 per cubic metre.