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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Africa Africa News From the Associated Press


Relatives of Flight 370's missing seek help in Madagascar

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 21:59:01 UT

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Relatives of some of the 239 people who were on a Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished in 2014 arrived in Madagascar on Saturday to ask for help in the search for debris from the missing aircraft that may have drifted across the Indian Ocean. Nathan and her fellow travelers plan to talk to church leaders and non-governmental groups that can spread the word in rural communities that are "not so savvy with the Internet" and might not even have heard about the missing plane. Malaysia, Australia and China are close to suspending a search of a vast area of seabed in the southern Indian Ocean, but relatives of the missing believe the discovery of debris in Africa by Gibson and others justifies calls for officials to keep looking.

AP INTERVIEW: Leader promises 'a new Gambia' after upset win

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 17:58:48 UT

YUNDUM, Gambia (AP) — Gambia's newly elected president on Saturday vowed to free all political prisoners and urged exiles who fled the 22-year reign of Yahya Jammeh to return from abroad and help him reform the tiny West African country. A former businessman and now real estate mogul who became the unlikely head of a formidable opposition coalition, Barrow, 51, said he plans to preside during a three-year transition before another presidential election is held. The streets were calmer on Saturday, but Gambians still were clearly excited about the pending transfer of power, marveling at the fact that Jammeh had conceded defeat in a phone call aired on state television Friday night. While officially elected to a five-year term, Barrow noted that he had agreed to serve only three years with a goal of repairing Gambia's democracy before making the way for new leadership. The United States was among the many countries critical of the human rights situation under Jammeh, who stood accused of heading a government that tortured opponents and silenced all dissent.

Gambia leader's hold on power ends with surprising speed

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 12:17:07 UT

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — In July 1994, three days after Gambia's first president was toppled by military officers, the local Daily Observer newspaper featured a front-page photo of coup leader Yahya Jammeh under the headline: "We Will Never Introduce Dictatorship In This Country." Hours after the election commission declared he had lost Thursday's vote, state television showed footage of Jammeh placing a concession call to the winner, opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow. A tiny country of 1.9 million people surrounded almost entirely by Senegal, Gambia under Jammeh became notorious for its abysmal human rights record as well as the president's erratic behavior. Two years later, his government rounded up nearly 1,000 people in a literal witch hunt, forcing the supposed witches to drink a hallucinogen that caused diarrhea and vomiting. He issued increasingly virulent statements against sexual minorities, vowing to slit the throats of gay men and saying the LGBT acronym should stand for "leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis." Once voting was underway, on-the-spot counting at polling stations — a new feature for this cycle — made the process more transparent and would have complicated any attempt by Jammeh to contest his defeat, Grey-Johnson said.

Gambia's president concedes defeat after election loss

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 00:31:26 UT

With cameras rolling, Yahya Jammeh called the winner, opposition coalition leader Adama Barrow, on a mobile phone to praise the election and vow not to contest the result. Jammeh, a man long accused of heading a government that tortures opponents and silences all dissent, was jovial on the call, promising to help Barrow through the transition period before retiring to his home village to begin a new life as a farmer. According to the electoral commission's tally, Barrow received 45 percent of Thursday's vote compared to Jammeh's 36 percent. Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 and then swept elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits. Jammeh's ouster demonstrates that even Africa's most entrenched leaders can be brought down if opposition politicians overcome their divisions, said Jeffrey Smith, a human rights activist and founding director of Vanguard Africa, a U.S.-based group that worked with Gambia's opposition coalition.

Gambia's longtime president says he will step down after surprise election defeat

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 20:34:44 UT

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Gambia's longtime president says he will step down after surprise election defeat.

Court orders release of Nigeria's detained Shiite leader

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:20:48 UT

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's federal high court Friday ordered the intelligence agency and justice minister to free the country's detained Shiite leader and his wife, pay damages of 50 million naira (167,000 dollars) and provide a home to replace their bulldozed property. Nigeria's military has claimed the raid came after Shiites blocked a military convoy and attempted to assassinate the chief of army staff — a suggestion rejected by human rights groups. Officials have charged the Shiites are plotting a Boko Haram-type Islamic extremist uprising but the group insists it is peacefully pursuing the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria, a country of 170 million people almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims.

Rape used for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan, says UN team

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 16:33:43 UT

"There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape, and the burning of villages," said Yasmin Sooka, the lead U.N. investigator, earlier this week. Rape is "one of the tools being used for ethnic cleansing," the U.N. investigators said Friday, adding that sexual violence in the East African nation "has reached epic proportions." A U.N. survey found that 70 percent of the women in Juba, South Sudan's capital, had experienced sexual assault since the country's civil war began in December 2013, the team said.

Pirates seize Russian captain, 2 crew in waters off Nigeria

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 14:14:35 UT

WARRI, Nigeria (AP) — The Russian Embassy in Nigeria says pirates have kidnapped the Russian captain and two crewmen off a ship in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea. Bandits usually target oil tankers and sell the crude but the Saronic Breeze is listed as a refrigerated reefer.

Mandela Children's Hospital opens in Johannesburg

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 14:10:25 UT

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nelson Mandela's dream of a hospital to provide specialized care for children has opened in Johannesburg on Friday. The hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and will provide child-centered treatment for cancer, kidney, brain, lung and heart ailments. Video equipment has been installed in the operating rooms to send live broadcasts of surgeries to educate doctors in remote areas across southern Africa.

Gambian election commission head says president has "accepted defeat" after 22 years in power

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 12:12:23 UT

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Gambian election commission head says president has "accepted defeat" after 22 years in power.

Gambia ruler predicts landslide; internet blocked amid vote

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 22:24:33 UT

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Voters in the tiny West African nation of Gambia cast marbles Thursday in an election widely expected to keep the country's ruler of more than two decades in power despite a unified challenge from the opposition. Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 and then swept elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits. Critics say those elections were not free and fair and accuse his regime of corruption and flagrant human rights abuses. "In the run-up to the election, we did have some concerns about undue pressure, intimidation," as well as the disruption of internet services, phone services, and other factors that may have disrupted the flow of information to voters, Mark Toner, deputy State Department spokesman, told reporters Thursday.

Ethiopia arrests opposition figure for violating emergency

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 20:12:28 UT

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The Ethiopian government says it has arrested an opposition figure for violating the terms of a state of emergency declared in October. Merera has been a government critic for more than a decade and hails from the restive Oromia region, which has seen anti-government protests since November 2015.

Senegal mourns world-renowned sculptor Ousmane Sow

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 17:20:58 UT

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Ousmane Sow, a Senegalese sculptor whose work celebrated African tribes along with historical icons such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., has died at 81, the culture minister said Thursday. In a separate statement, President Macky Sall credited Sow with producing "characters and scenes that bear witness to the long history of Africa, its identity and its relationship to the rest of the world." In 1999, an exhibition on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris drew so many visitors that local media warned the crush of people could undermine the bridge's security.

2 Iranians charged in Kenyan court with terrorism

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 15:45:59 UT

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Two Iranian men were charged Thursday in a Kenyan court with collecting information to facilitate a terrorist act after they were allegedly found with video footage of the Israeli embassy. In June 2013 a Kenyan court convicted two Iranian nationals of being Quds agents plotting attacks against Western targets in Kenya and they were sentenced to life in prison. In November 2015, two Kenyans admitted assisting Iranian state intelligence to plot attacks on western targets in Kenya, according to the country's police chief.

Gambia polls open as internet, phone service cut

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 09:26:31 UT

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Voters in the tiny West African nation of Gambia are taking part in an election widely expected to keep the country's ruler of more than two decades in power.

Somalia delays presidential election for the third time

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:34:01 UT

Presidential polls had been scheduled to take place Nov. 30 but Omar Mohamed Abdulle, Somalia's electoral commission chairman, said this week that the presidential election would likely be held in December. Allegations of corruption and manipulation abound, leading to warnings by the electoral commission that some elected seats may be nullified because of allegations that candidates paid bribes to sway voters. Opposition leaders insist that the ongoing process to elect lawmakers is marred by massive fraud in favor of the current administration's hand-picked members.

Gambia's president warns against protests after elections

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:55:22 UT

Jammeh's supporters praise his efforts to boost economic development in the tiny country that is dependent on tourism and agriculture. Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994, and then swept elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits. Critics, though, say those elections were not free and fair, and they accuse his regime of corruption and human rights abuses. Jammeh faces off against Adama Barrow, a former businessman and United Democratic Party leader, who emerged as the candidate for an alliance of eight opposition parties. Two main opposition party members died in detention after the protests, and 15 opposition supporters are now serving three-year prison sentences.

Ex-Mali coup leader goes on trial on killing charges

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 14:52:45 UT

SIKASSO, Mali (AP) — The coup leader blamed for destabilizing Mali went on trial Wednesday with 17 co-defendants, accused of kidnapping and killing members of the presidential guard whose remains were later found in a mass grave. Human rights groups say the victims, known as the red berets, were accused of trying to mount a countercoup against Sanogo a month after he seized power. While many other human rights abuse cases have not yet been pursued in Mali, Corinne Dufka called Wednesday's trial "clear progress in tackling the culture of impunity."

Zimbabwe police disperse protesters rejecting new currency

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:43:07 UT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse scores of activists protesting the introduction of a new currency in the capital, Harare. Protesters carried placards on Wednesday and chanted slogans denouncing the new currency, called bond notes, which they fear will become worthless because of economic mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe's government.

Gambia opposition coalition hopeful in elections

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 21:02:25 UT

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Gambia's opposition parties are rallying together behind a single candidate for the first time in decades, forming a coalition they hope will oust longtime President Yahya Jammeh, who has been accused of human rights abuses throughout his 22-year rule. United Democratic Party candidate Adama Barrow faces Jammeh in Thursday's vote, and his supporters say their social media campaign is drawing younger voters frustrated with the corruption and violence that has marked Jammeh's time in power. Rights groups accuse Jammeh of corruption and accuse him of human rights violations against political opponents, journalists, and gays and lesbians. While they have some access to state media during the two-week campaign, the ruling party's domination of state media in the lead up to the campaign and the government's longstanding intimidation of independent journalists and opposition activists — exemplified by the jailing of 30 opposition members in July — remains a clear threat to the fairness of the election, said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Hoping to preserve democracy, Tunisia woos foreign investors

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 18:01:10 UT

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — International investors pledged billions of dollars on Tuesday as the Tunisian government tries to drum up funds at an investment conference to keep its young democracy from falling into economic collapse. Investment Minister Fadhel Abdelkefi called on international investors to help anchor Tunisia "definitively in the ranks of democratic countries."

Ugandan tribal king charged with murder after 62 killed

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:43:11 UT

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan traditional king has been charged with murder and sent to a high security prison Tuesday, a government official said, following clashes between his guards and the army in which at least 62 people were killed. Most of those killed or in detention are guards who protected Mumbere, who is accused of harboring rebels in his hometown of Kasese, a stronghold of the political opposition near the border with Congo. Weapons, including automatic guns and a cache of spears and machetes, had been seized following the assault on the palace, which followed two days of deadly skirmishes with the tribal militia, Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo told reporters Tuesday. In March, amid clashes between Mumbere's supporters and security officials, Museveni vowed to defeat the separatists, who complain of marginalization by the central government 340 kilometers (211 miles) away in the capital, Kampala. Amnesty International said there were shocking examples of unlawful killings and a complete disregard for human rights during the arrests, and that many victims seem to have been summarily shot dead and their bodies dumped.

South Africa's president survives vote to oust him

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:36:20 UT

Many ANC members have blamed Zuma's corruption scandals for the party's poor performance in local elections in August in which it lost the key municipalities of Johannesburg and Pretoria to the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. Three weeks ago Zuma survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament that was raised by the Democratic Alliance after the state corruption watchdog issued a report which alleged that he may have abused his position to win state contracts for his friends, the wealthy Gupta family.

Burundi presidential aide wounded in assassination bid

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 12:25:36 UT

Nkurunziza eventually won re-election in polls criticized by the U.S. and rights groups for not being free and fair. Since the elections, hundreds of people have been killed in ongoing violence and the U.N. is investigating reports of extra-judicial killings, torture and rape.

South African president in battle to continue in office

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 19:59:59 UT

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Whether or not Jacob Zuma will continue as South Africa's president will be announced Tuesday afternoon when the ruling African National Congress party makes public the outcome of a motion by the party's leaders to remove the president. Earlier this year he survived being recalled after South Africa's highest court ruled that he violated his oath of office by refusing to refund public money spent to upgrade his rural homestead. [...] Zuma has come under mounting pressure to resign in recent months after allegations that he was using his position to benefit the wealthy Gupta family, Indian immigrants who are in business with members of his family.

Uganda: Rights groups urge restraint in rebel crackdown

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 18:29:48 UT

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Rights groups on Monday urged Ugandan security forces to show restraint as they violently crackdown on tribal militia in a remote area near Congo. The militia, armed with modern weapons as well as spears and machetes, have killed more than a dozen police officers in an escalation of a long-simmering conflict between the central government and a remote kingdom known as Rwenzururu. The Ugandan security forces "must not jettison human rights in their handling of the clashes" in the western Kasese district, said Amnesty International in a statement Monday. "The full picture of the weekend's events is yet to emerge, but there appears to be shocking examples of unlawful killings and a complete disregard for human rights during the arrests," said Abdullahi Halakhe, Amnesty's East Africa researcher.

Silent victims of violence: 4 million kids orphaned in Congo

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 17:20:33 UT

GOMA, Congo (AP) — More than 4 million children have lost at least one parent in Congo over the past two decades, the silent victims of continuous cycles of violence. The violence and displacement are eroding the tradition of families caring for their own. Some are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. [...] many also face sexual exploitation, in a country where rape has become commonplace on the streets. "They are the orphans with a story of violence since 1994 — it's a generation of victims that continues," says Francisca Ichimpaye, a senior monitor at the En Avant Les Enfants INUKA center. The bullet wounds and the vine-like surgery scar on the 6-year-old's pudgy belly have only recently healed. Whenever another child at the INUKA center needs medical attention, Alpha cries and screams. Armed fighters stormed her home, hit her in the leg with a shovel and nearly killed her sister. In the next village, she hid in a toilet enclosure with wooden plank floors for three days to save herself from another attack. [...] she fled the family. At the Children's Voice Virunga Centre in Goma, where Moise and his sister Agata gather during the day, at least 30 children were born of rape. Agata sleeps in the living room, which has several posters of Jesus Christ lining the walls. Moise has his own room, where his two book bags hang from nails on the wooden planks. Malimewa sells bed covers in bright pinks and whites that hang over her black lava rock gate, and makes about $5 a week. [...] since no one wanted me, when I grow up they better not come and ask me for any help, she said, grinning widely, and then covering her face and laughing. [...] if she ever got the conversation she wants with the men who killed her parents, she solemnly reveals the one thought that won't leave her mind. Rwanda's 1994 genocide pushed fighters into Congo, and multiple rebel groups now fight over the mineral-rich region. Wh

Residents in Somali town resist al-Shabab taxes, 10 dead

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 16:59:57 UT

Villagers ambushed al-Shabab fighters traveling near Harardhere on Monday afternoon, and destroyed one battlewagon, another resident, an elder in the area, told The Associated Press by phone. Despite being ousted from most of its key strongholds in south and central Somalia, al-Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks against the Somali government and African Union forces across large parts of the horn of Africa nation.

Controversial Kenyan railway plan divides conservationists

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 12:30:36 UT

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A controversial Chinese-designed railway that would go over a beloved protected wildlife park in Kenya's capital has divided conservationists in this East African country known for its safari tourism. The project's engineers say the most affordable route will bring the railway across Nairobi park and are building a 6-kilometer (4-mile) bridge over the national reserve, at an elevation that they say will not interfere with wildlife movements. Amid protests over the railway, a coalition of Kenyan conservationists has obtained a court order stopping construction within the park until an environmental impact assessment is completed by Kenya's National Environmental Management Authority, or NEMA, and is considered by the court. A preliminary report by NEMA said the railway will have no adverse effect on the park and its wildlife, drawing the ire of independent groups that accused the government agency of corruption. Akshay Vishwanath, chairman of Friends of Nairobi National Park, which is part of the coalition of conservation groups hoping to stop the railway from proceeding through the park, said they are concerned any incursion into the protected area will compromise the park's integrity. The Chinese ambassador to Kenya told The Associated Press that his country is not responsible for the decision to route the railway through a protected area.

Zimbabwe issues new currency, bond notes

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:40:11 UT

The new bond notes sparked a mix of hope and apprehension among a population desperate for a solution to the cash crisis but also skeptical of the ability of President Robert Mugabe's government to manage a currency. In 2008 and 2009 the state's central bank printed so much of its currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, that the country experienced mind-boggling hyperinflation that reached 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The inflation was only brought under control when the government abandoned the Zimbabwe currency and began using the U.S. dollar and several other foreign currencies as legal tender. [...] this year the government has not had enough U.S. dollars to make timely payment of the salaries of civil servants, police and army.