Africa at a glance

Wednesday April 24 2019

People begin to remove debris after their homes

People begin to remove debris after their homes were destroyed by torrential rains and flash floods at an informal settlement of BottleBrush, south of Durban, on April 23, 2019. The death toll from floods and mudslides that crushed homes in the South African port of Durban on April 23 has risen to 51. Floods in Uganda have also killed scores of people while Comoros is on cyclone Kenneth alert. PHOTO | RAJESH JANTILAL | AFP  

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  • South Africa president heads to floods hotspot as 51 die

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa flew on Wednesday to the eastern region of the country where flooding has killed 51 people after heavy rains in recent days.

"Our hearts go out particularly to families and communities who have been directly affected by death, injury and the loss of property," Ramaphosa said in a statement after returning from crisis talks in Egypt on the situations in Libya and Sudan.

In addition to collapsed buildings and flooded roads, sewer lines were blocked and electricity pylons had toppled over. South African military personnel have been dispatched to help rescue and evacuation efforts as more heavy rain is forecast.

  • Heavy rains in Uganda kill 17 children, one adult

Heavy rains have hit eastern Uganda destroying homes and crops, and leaving 17 children and one adult dead, the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

"Now 18 people confirmed dead," all but one of them children, in the village of Bulembo in the eastern district of Buyende, said Irene Nakasiita, the Red Cross spokeswoman.

"Many buildings are blown away, others deroofed, crops destroyed," she said but a full assessment was hindered by heavy downpours. Uganda police said there were 13 deaths in the village but Buyende district Chairman William Kiiza said up to 30 people could be dead with bodies trapped under collapsed structures. 

Uganda has two long rainy seasons, one from March to May and again between September and December.

  • Comoros closes airports ahead of Cyclone Kenneth

Comoran authorities have closed their airports for at least 24 hours as a precautionary measure against the expected arrival of a cyclone, reports privately owned Comores Infos news website.

Schools have also also been closed, it adds. 

The Comoros islands have been on a cyclone alert since Tuesday.

The north of Grand Comore island is on the path of the severe tropical storm, which is expected to turn into a cyclone later today.

AccuWeather said the storm - which will be named Kenneth - could also hit Mozambique and Tanzania.

People in parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are still reeling from the after-effects of Cyclone Idai which killed at least 960 people and left some three million in need of humanitarian assistance.

  • Tanzania digitizes 274 new historical sites to spur tourism

Tanzania has digitized 274 new historical sites in a bid to boost the national coffers through tourism industry.

Tanzanian Minister for Information, Culture, Arts, and Sports Harrison Mwakyembe said the sites include shrines of pre-colonial chiefdoms, colonial administrators from Germany and the United Kingdom, independence resistance heroes and post-colonial chiefs.

The sites include the historic Maji Maji war fighters and the source of water they used for ritual cleansing during the war.

Tanzania is targeting to have 2-million-tourist annually by next year.

  • Botswana revokes visa-free entry for South African VIP

Botswana has banned the wife of a South African minister, who is also president's Cyril Ramaphosa'ssister-in-law and a sister of a powerful mining tycoon, from entering the country visa-free, according to documents seen by AFP on Tuesday.

A document issued by Botswana's Immigration Minister Magang Ngaka Ngaka on April 17, 2019, said South African Energy Minister Jeff Radebe's wife Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe must "obtain a visa to enter Botswana".

The official reason for the move is not given, but local media have accused her of meddling in Botswana's politics.

Motsepe-Radebe, 59, is president of the South African Mining Development Association.

She is also the older sister of billionaire Patrice Motsepe, and of South Africa's first lady, Tshepo Motsepe.

Forbes says Patrice Motsepe in 2008 became the first black African on its rich list.

It estimates his wealth at $2.5 billion (2.23 billion euros). 

Motsepe-Radebe has faced allegations she interfered in the recent leadership election of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in a bid to remove President Mokgweetsi Masisi. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sent Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to Gaborone last week after the accusations surfaced in the media that his sister-in-law had meddled politically.

  • Algeria students want ‘gang’ out of government

Crowds of students gathered in the heart of the capital Algiers on Tuesday chanting "out with the government" and the "gang" ruling the country.

"Either it's us, or it's you. Out with the government!" cried the students, many of them draped in Algeria's national flag.

"We want a new system that is committed to fighting the corruption that has plagued the country," said Hamid, a finance student in Algiers.

Algeria’s richest man is behind bars over corruption while a dozen other businessman close to the deposed Abdelaziz Bouteflika are under investigation.

The head of Algeria's state-owned oil giant Sonatrach was also replaced on Tuesday.

  • Nigeria seeks release of British woman

Nigeria's government vowed Tuesday to track down gunmen who stormed a luxury hotel and murdered two aid workers, a British woman and a Nigerian man, before abducting three other people.

"The security agencies will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to apprehend the killers and bring them to justice," the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said.

Police were doing "everything possible" to secure the safe release of the three kidnap victims, he added.

The hostages are understood to be staff at the hotel.

Gunmen burst into the Kajuru Castle resort late on Friday night, spraying bullets as people relaxed at the top-end hotel over the Easter weekend holiday.

The luxury resort, built on a hilltop and resembling a medieval fort, is in Kaduna state, some 230 kilometres (140 miles) north of Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Faye Mooney, a British aid worker employed by Mercy Corps, and Matthew Oguche, a Nigerian working for the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), were both shot dead.

  • Mozambique reporter jailed over insurgency report freed

Journalist Amade Abubacar in Mozambique was released on Tuesday after 108 days in prison following his arrest in the country's north where he covered violence linked to an Islamist insurgency, a press watchdog said.

Abubacar, who works for the state-owned Comunitaria Nacedje de Macomia radio and television in the volatile northern Cabo Delgado province, had been held since January 5 on espionage charges.

He was seized by police at a bus stop while conducting interviews and taking photographs of people fleeing militant attacks.

His colleague Germano Adriano was also subsequently detained and they were initially both accused of using computers to breach state secrecy laws.

But the pair were subsequently charged on April 16 with the lesser crime of "spreading dissenting messages" against the military by posting about attacks on villages in Macomia district.

No date has been set for Adriano, who was also released on Tuesday, and Abubacar to stand trial.

  • Canadian women sentenced to lashing in Somaliland 'freed'

Two Canadian women sentenced to 40 lashes each in the breakaway republic of Somaliland after being convicted of consuming alcohol have been released from prison, Canadian media reports.

The government's Global Affairs Canada department is quoted as saying that it is aware of their release and is providing them with consular assistance. Maymona Abdi, 28, and Karima Watts, 23, were detained more than three months ago after police entered a house in Somaliland's capital, Hargeisa.

They were sentenced to two-and-a-half months in prison and 40 lashes each after being convicted of drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Somaliland.

The women denied the charge, Canada's The Globe and Mail newspaper reported. Somaliland human rights lawyer Guleid Ahmed Jama told the newspaper that the women had been released, without being lashed.

  • Egypt referendum extends al-Sisi’s rule

Egyptians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments aimed at extending the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the electoral board said Tuesday.

National Election Authority head Lashin Ibrahim told a Cairo press conference that 88.83 percent voted "yes" for changes that could keep Sisi in power until 2030, with 11.17 percent voting "no".

With almost 27 million votes cast out of an eligible base of 61 million voters, the turnout rate was 44.33 percent, he added.

The three-day vote took place "in a democratic climate powered by freedom," he added.

Rights groups have criticised the conditions surrounding the rushed vote, including the suppression of those opposing the sweeping changes that consolidate Sisi's power.

Parliament, stacked with Sisi loyalists, voted in favour of the constitutional amendments last week.

Voters were given less than a week to digest the changes to 20 articles, which include allowing the 64-year-old leader to run for another six-year term after his current term, now extended by two years to 2024, ends.

Other controversial amendments include boosting Sisi's control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in political life.

  • Trial starts in Senegal of cleric accused in double killing

A Senegalese court on Tuesday began the long-awaited six-session trial of a religious leader and 21 disciples accused in the murder of two renegade followers seven years ago.

One of the accused is Sheikh Bethio Thioune, who leads a major group in the Mouride Brotherhood, a Sufi order of Islam that wields great political influence in Senegal.

The trial, unfolding at Mbour, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Dakar, turns on the gruesome killing on April 22, 2012 of two young men, whose badly-beaten bodies were found 800 metres (yards) from Thioune's home, in Keur Samba Laobe, western Senegal.

His followers, known as "Thiantacounes", are accused of brutally killing the pair at his residence and tossing their bodies in a shallow grave.

The murder has turned a spotlight on the role of charismatic leaders in Senegal, where 90 percent of the population are Muslim and many are members of the Mouride Brotherhood.

  • African leaders urge 'peaceful' transition in Sudan, ceasefire in Libya

African leaders called on Tuesday for an "immediate halt" to the fighting in Libya and urged Sudan's new military rulers to implement "peaceful, organised and democratic transition measures" within three months, the Egyptian presidency said.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had called the leaders for an emergency meeting on the upheavals in neighbouring Sudan and Libya.

The leaders agreed on "the need for more time" for a transition, urging the African Union to extend its end of April deadline for the ruling military council to hand power to civilians or face suspension from the bloc.

An extension would ease international pressure on the council, which took power after the army's toppling of longtime president Omar al-Bashir, to yield power.

Bashir left office on April 11, but protesters have continued to hold mass rallies and world powers have backed their calls for a swift transition to a non-military government, demands the council has so far resisted.

  • Libyan PM accuses France of supporting 'dictator' Haftar

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, accused France on Wednesday of supporting his rival Khalifa Haftar whom he described as a "dictator".

The comments from Sarraj to the Liberation and Le Monde newspapers in France are his harshest criticism yet of Paris which has long been suspected of offering backing to Haftar, a former army field marshal based in eastern Libya.

Haftar, head of a self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), has gradually expanded his territorial control and launched an offensive on April 4 on the capital Tripoli where Sarraj's UN-recognised government is based.

The UN says the offensive has left 264 dead and left more than 1,200 wounded.

  • Trump boasts of helping Twitter triple profit

Twitter said Tuesday profits soared in the past quarter, and President Donald Trump immediately claimed credit for the success of the short messaging platform even as he renewed his allegations of bias.

Profits in the first quarter hit $191 million, compared with $61 million a year earlier, while revenues increased 18 percent to $787 million.

Twitter's global user base appeared to show modest growth.

Trump, arguably the platform's most prominent user, sought to claim credit for the strong Twitter results while renewing his allegations of bias.

On his Twitter feed, Trump said the results were good but could be better "if Twitter wasn't playing their political games" and argued for "more, and fairer, companies.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey said Twitter is benefiting from its moves to root out abusive and inauthentic content that had hurt Twitter's reputation.

Twitter shares rallied some six percent in pre-market trade on the stronger-than-expected results.

The messaging platform has become an important tool for celebrities, politicians and journalists, but has failed to grow as quickly as Facebook and other social media among mainstream internet users.

  • UAE launches virtual 'Ministry of Possibilities'

The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday unveiled a new branch of government, a Ministry of Possibilities, three years after launching a department in charge of happiness.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the UAE's premier and ruler of Dubai, said the "unconventional" ministry would function "without a minister" but with input from the whole cabinet.

"We launched the world's first virtual 'Ministry of Possibilities', a new government work system in the UAE," he said on Twitter. "The virtual ministry, administered by the cabinet, will address pressing national portfolios and build future government systems." It would also cut waiting times for government services, according to the Dubai government's media office. Sheikh Mohammed said: "Future challenges require the constant development of the government structure... and impossible is not in our dictionary." In 2016, the UAE created ministries of happiness and tolerance.

  • DR Congo Nobel calls for action on war sex victims

Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege called Tuesday for justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict zones, as the UN Security Council approved a watered-down resolution largely stripped of substance by the United States and Russia.

The vote on the German-drafted resolution was held after intense last minute negotiations and additional changes in wording. Thirteen countries voted in favor while Russia and China abstained.

Both those countries said they opposed sexual violence in conflicts, but denounced "lax interpretations" in the text and a "manipulated" struggle to create new UN structures and "override" mandates already approved.

France vehemently criticized the United States for threatening to use its veto over a reference in the text to reproductive rights, seen by Washington as an encouragement of abortion. 

Speaking before the vote, Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who like Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, asked: "What is the international community waiting for to give justice for the victims (of sexual slavery)?"

He also called for the establishment of national and international courts to try the perpetrators of sexual violence in conflicts

  • More than 200 rescued from human traffickers

Almost 220 victims of human trafficking have been rescued by police in Benin and Nigeria, in an operation coordinated by the International police agency Interpol.

Those affected include 157 children aged between 11 and 16 and the victims were from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.

Many of the rescued minors were moved across the border between Nigeria and Benin as "merchandise" and made to work in markets, or as housemaids, according to Interpol.

Some were the victims of sexual exploitation. 

The police found a boy who had been forced to carry bags of rice weighing up to 40kg (88lb) across the border between Nigeria and Benin.

The victims were rescued in the first half of April.  About 100 officers carried out raids and identity checks at markets, air and sea ports, as well as in settlements at the border between Nigeria and Benin.

Some 47 people have been arrested, and their possessions seized.

The operation was part of an Interpol Global Task force, set up to increase international cooperation in combating human trafficking.

  • Former Guinea president’s son sentenced to seven years for enslaving girl in Texas

A couple who enslaved a young woman for 16 years at their home in the US have been sentenced to seven years in jail. 

Mohamed Touré and his wife Denise Cros-Touré, both 58, were found guilty in January of bringing the young girl from Guinea to Texas and forcing her to work for them without pay in early 2000.

The couple, both citizens of Guinea, may lose their US immigration status, the US Department of Justice said.

Mr Touré is the son of Guinea's first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré. The pair were also ordered to pay $288,620.24 in compensation.

The girl, who has not been named, is thought to have been five years old when she arrived in the US.

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