Voices: Ebola establishes dictatorship in Sierra Leone

SLE140411AK002FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE — Since the Ebola outbreak began in May, Sierra Leone has become an authoritarian state. It's not one dominated by politicians, religious leaders, the army or the police – it's a dictatorship by virus. Ebola has taken over everyone's thoughts, actions, just about everything.

This notion struck me as I washed my hands. Authorities have wisely set up hand-washing stations everywhere to prevent the spread of Ebola. The stations reinforce the new codes of behavior that dominate what was once an easygoing, multicultural country — avoiding handshakes, avoiding crowded spaces, avoiding family, avoiding friends.

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Liberian slum: Ebola quarantine magnifies misery

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR141104aa001.jpegMONROVIA, Liberia — Emily Abaleo, 38, sits on a narrow bench, squashed between her snoring son and two younger daughters who pass the time by elbowing one another in this city's West Point slum. She recalls better times there, before a deadly virus hit, before a quarantine to stop it and before it killed her husband.

B.E., or Before Ebola, was a time just a few short months ago before everything changed and life here in the slum became even harder.

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Boko Haram: Denies truce, says kidnapped girls married

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR141023aa001.jpegABUJA, Nigeria — The leader of Nigeria's Islamist extremist group dashed hopes for the release of 200 kidnapped girls Saturday, denying reports of a truce with the government.

In a new video message, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says the schoolgirls have converted to Islam and married off. "The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off," he says, laughing.

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Ebola: nations' neighbors enact preventions amid worry

NGA Ebola Infection ControlDAKAR, Senegal – Everywhere in this capital city, signs are on display exhorting people to wash their hands with soap. In Ivory Coast, the government has asked residents to stop their customary three-kiss hello. In Mali, travelers entering the country have their temperatures taken. In Guinea-Bissau, the Red Cross broadcasts a weekly radio program on how to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Because all four nations border the three West African countries hit by the worst Ebola epidemic in history, each is taking extraordinary measures to prevent its spread within its territory.

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Ebola's spread: To Mali sets back effort to halt virus

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegBAMAKO, Mali — The first death from Ebola in this West African nation raised concerns Friday about whether the country would have more success in stemming the deadly virus than its hard-hit neighbors in the region.

The 2-year-old female Ebola patient — who died Friday — traveled from neighboring Guinea, one of the most devastated countries in the crisis. Because Mali borders that nation, health officials had warned it was particularly vulnerable to the virus' spread.

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Oscar Pistorius: Sentenced to five years in prison

b_160_0_16777215_00_images_ZAF130225AA001.jpegJOHANNESBURG — South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to prison for five years Tuesday for the 2013 killing of his girlfriend, less than half the time he could have received following his manslaughter conviction last month.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said a long sentence would show a lack of mercy toward Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner" for racing on prosthetic legs. She suspended a separate three-year sentence for an unrelated firearms charge.

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Boko Haram: Agrees to cease-fire, may release schoolgirls

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR141023aa001.jpegLAGOS, Nigeria — More than 200 missing schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram may be released as part of an immediate cease-fire agreement with Nigerian officials, the government said Friday.

"The insurgents have assured the government that all those in their captivity, including the missing Chibok girls, are well and alive," Mike Omeri, the government spokesman, said in a statement. "They have also promised to release them without attaching any condition."

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Orphans abandoned: Shunned in Africa's Ebola crisis

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MONROVIA, Liberia — Ever since Frank Mulbah's mother died of Ebola in August, no one will go near him.

"I went to my relatives after my mother died, but they chased me away, even after I told them that I didn't have Ebola," said Frank, 12, who tested negative for Ebola at the hospital where his mother died.

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Nigeria succeeds: In containing Ebola

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegLAGOS, Nigeria — People here are shaking hands again, kissing, hugging, touching. These days, shops are open, people are working, and children are finally going back to school.

That's because Nigeria — Africa's most populous country — is officially Ebola-free, the health ministry said, even as the deadly virus rages on in neighboring countries, where lockdowns and quarantines are common and death rates are rising.

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Ebola burial: Teams in Sierra Leone go back to work

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Burial teams responsible for collecting the corpses of Ebola victims in Sierra Leone returned to work Wednesday, one day after going on strike because of a delay in receiving hazard pay.

Members of the teams receive $100 a week on top of their regular salary for working under extremely dangerous conditions but say they had not been paid in weeks. The Ebola burial teams are comprised of 600 workers in groups of 12 per team.

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Ebola also: Killing West African commerce

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SSD130415AA003.jpegFREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Mabinty Suma sells fish, vegetables and cooking oil along the once-packed Lumley Beach here in Sierra Leone's capital. Business is usually brisk, but not lately.

"The Ebola situation has made things difficult for me," said Suma, 34, who supports her family selling food items. "I can't move as usual across the border. In fact, business is just static, as customers are few these days — some of my most reliable customers have left the country."

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West Africans: Welcome U.S. effort to fight Ebola

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegFREETOWN, Sierra Leone – West Africans expressed gratitude for President Obama's pledge to send U.S. troops to fight the Ebola outbreak, but some feared that countries on the periphery of the crisis would be overlooked.

When Ibrahim Moiwo heard of Obama's announcement that he will send troops and other aid to fight the disease, "I felt relieved that the disease will soon be a thing of the past," said the Freetown mechanic, 45. "No support is too small in the fight against Ebola, which is gradually destroying our country."

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Oscar Pistorius: Found guilty of 'culpable homicide'

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JOHANNESBURG — A South African judge on Friday convicted athlete Oscar Pistorius of "culpable homicide" in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

A conviction of culpable homicide, the term for manslaughter in South Africa, carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. Pistorius had already been cleared of murdering Steenkamp.

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Somalis wary: Of attacks as new terror leader chosen

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — A year ago, Somalis dared to hope this troubled east African country had turned a corner, leaving behind the chaos and violence of a past marred by terrorism.

Now, residents are bracing for fresh attacks as extremists seek revenge following the death of Ahmed Abdi Godane — leader of the militant group al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked organization in Africa — this week by a U.S. airstrike.

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Nigeria scrambles: To contain Ebola

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LAGOS, Nigeria — Africa's most populous country is scrambling to avoid the fate of nearby nations that have failed to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

An epidemic could devastate Nigeria's economy and overrun its meager health facilities. That's why the country has taken drastic measures to contain the spread of Ebola since Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer brought the virus to Lagos on a flight from Liberia on July 20.

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Ory Okolloh: 'Transparency advocates must learn from gay rights movement

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_KEN140814aa001.jpegThe U.S. wants transparency.  It says governments that post all their data online are more prosperous and stable than their opaque, Kafkaesque counterparts. But after the stage lights in Washington DC's Foggy Bottom district are dimmed on the US-Africa summit this week, and African leaders have jetted back to their respective capitals, the question on everyone's mind might be: will African leaders really sit around a table with NGOs and heed their calls? 

One of Africa's thought-leaders says she isn't so sure and thinks African open‑government activists might need to adopt a new strategy. "We need to learn from the gay rights movement," Ory Okolloh told me when we met on the sidelines of the Open Knowledge festival in Berlin last month.

Read more at The Guardian

Ebola: May expand its deadly reach beyond Africa

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DAKAR, Senegal — The deadly Ebola virus outbreak sweeping West Africa would likely expand farther because it's killing key medical professionals who are treating patients sick with the disease, health experts say.

"This outbreak is not showing any signs of slowing down," said Unni Krishnan, a doctor with the British relief agency Plan International, which is active throughout West Africa. "It is gaining more speed in some locations and killing even more people and now is affecting even more countries. It is all quite worrying."

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Nigerian schools: Remain closed amid Boko Haram threats

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ABUJA, Nigeria — Three months ago, Nigeria closed schools in the northern state of Borno to protect students from bombings by Islamic terrorists who later abducted 300 girls. Amina Gambo attends class behind closed doors in a friend's house.

ill try and cover the remaining syllabus at home with the help of my teacher," the 15-year-old says. "I have not gone to school for the last two years."

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South Sudan: Refugees flood into Kenya only to face starvation

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TURKANA, Kenya - The refugees stream over Kenya's border by the hundreds, desperate to escape the horrific violence plaguing South Sudan.

But their safe haven is stalked by another killer, with drought and famine contributing to a hunger crisis that has forced the living to eat stray dogs roaming northwestern Kenya's region of Turkana in order to survive.

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Ebola outbreak: Now most deadly ever in West Africa

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegDAKAR, Senegal — West Africa's first-ever Ebola outbreak in humans is now the most deadly and geographically widespread outbreak on record and is threatening to spread, health officials say.

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been more than 635 cases of Ebola across three countries in the region since the outbreak was first declared in southeastern Guinea in March. It has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. At least 399 people have died.

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Kenya fights: Custom of female mutilation

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegKISII, Kenya — Thirteen-year-old Mercy Kemunto had a choice: Obey her parents and undergo the ritual female cutting as custom dictates or shame them by refusing the procedure.

" 'Don't worry, my daughter, you'll get a better husband,' " Mercy said her parents told her, hoping she would take what's considered a fundamental step in becoming an adult in her ultratraditional Kisii tribe in southern Kenya.

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U.N. sanctions: Boko Haram over girls

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegAJUBA, Nigeria — The U.N. Security Council has approved sanctions against Boko Haram, the Qaeda-linked terror organization that has killed hundreds in Nigeria and abducted more than 300 school girls last month.

Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, welcomed the council's action, calling it "an important step in support of the government of Nigeria's efforts to defeat Boko Haram and hold its murderous leadership accountable for atrocities."

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Congolese struggle: To start their own businesses

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BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo — A man walks alongside a busy street, past cars stuck in traffic and the packed sidewalk. He pulls a heavy cart laden with garbage, his progress slow as he avoids pedestrians stepping out in front of him.

The man is one of many who pull these carts — called pousse-pousse — for a living in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. And it's backbreaking work.

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A morning: No one can forget in Nigeria

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ABUJA, Nigeria — It was the middle of an April night and the girls at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School were exhausted, asleep after a long day of prepping for physics exams.

It was quiet around the dormitory, deep in the heart of Borno in northern Nigeria, where the landscape is barren and life hard.

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New video: Shows missing Nigeria schoolgirls

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ABUJA, Nigeria — More than 100 of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped a month ago are shown dressed in full-length, black veils in a video released Monday by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

The authenticity of the 17-minute video, released to French newswire Agence France Presse and the Associated Press, has not been confirmed, and it is not clear when the footage was taken. It shows the girls – about half the number of students still missing – praying in hijabs at an undisclosed location.

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