Troop withdrawal: French leave Mali


BAMAKO, Mali - Since its liberation from Islamist militants, the central Malian town of Douentza no longer has its dusty streets full of the usual young boys, begging for coins from passing cars.

Some of those youths became soldiers fighting for jihadists. They died in firefights as their Islamist leaders tried to make a push toward Mali's capital, Bamako. Others who survived are too scared to come home, fearing retribution for collaborating with the enemy.

Read more at USA Today

Oil talks: President Bashir arrives in South Sudan

Sudan's President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir CC Andrew HeavensSudan’s President Umar al-Bashir arrived in South Sudan to discuss improving ties after disputes over oil exports and the countries’ shared border.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir met Bashir and his ministers of defense, foreign affairs and oil today at the airport in Juba, the capital, Suna, Sudan’s state news agency, reported. The leaders agreed in March to create a demilitarized zone on their border and restart shipments from South Sudan’s oil fields via a pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Read more at Bloomberg

South Sudan: May take year to reach pre-shutdown oil output

b_172_129_16777215_00_images_SSD130415AA002.jpegSouth Sudan, which is resuming oil output halted 14 months ago, may take as long as a year to reach pre-shutdown production levels because of possible damage to equipment, said analysts including Paul Tossetti at PFC Energy.

South Sudan on March 12 agreed to restart pumping crude and exporting via neighboring Sudan after the two countries resolved a dispute over transit fees that halted the flow of 350,000 barrels a day. Oil in South Sudan is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPZ), Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. (PET), known also as Petronas, and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

Read more at Bloomberg

Sudan security: Attacking Darfur civilians, says Amnesty

CC Steve EvansMembers of Sudan’s security forces have participated in large-scale attacks that killed more than 500 people since January near a gold-rich area of the western region of Darfur, Amnesty International said.

Border Guards, part of Sudan’s military intelligence, are involved along with armed militias in the region’s “worst instance of violence in recent years,” the London-based rights group said in a statement late yesterday. Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior official in the ruling National Congress Party, denied the government ordered the attacks.

Read more at Bloomberg

Gum arabic: South Sudan boosts exports by 20%

Gum arabicSudan will boost exports of gum arabic, used in the manufacture of soft drinks, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, by 20 percent this year as demand from Far Eastern markets grows, the industry board said.

Shipments may climb to 60,000 metric tons in 2013 from 50,000 tons last year, Abdelmagid Abdelgadir, secretary general of the state-run Gum Arabic Board, said in an interview on March 12. China, which previously obtained most of its gum from European traders, is increasingly buying directly from Sudan, according to Abdelgadir, with Malaysia also showing interest.

Read more at Bloomberg

African Catholics: Gain prominence


YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast — On the day Pope Benedict XVI gave his final weekly address, Catholics who came to pray at Yamoussoukro's Our Lady of Peace Basilica had no problem finding a seat.

The basilica is one of the largest churches in the world — larger even than St. Peter's in the Vatican. The sanctuary alone seats 7,000, and the entire space can accommodate 150,000 people standing.

Read more at USA Today

Steenkamp murder: Reactions to Pistorius bail decision

Oscar Pistorius, CC: Global Sports ForumJOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- When news spread that Oscar Pistorius had been granted bail, some in South Africa said they were not surprised by the judge's decision.

Bail was set at 1 million rand ($112,803) and a court date was set for June 4. Pistorius has been ordered to surrender his passport and refrain from contact with any witnesses for the prosecution. He has to turn in any other guns he owns and is not allowed to use prohibited substances or alcohol.

Read more at USA Today

Steenkamp murder: Pistorius released on bail

Oscar Pistorius, CC: Global Sports ForumJOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius was granted bail, allowing him to go free while awaiting trial in the shooting death of his girlfriend, a magistrate ruled Friday.

Pistorius, an Olympic and Paralympic track star, is charged with premeditated murder in the death of Reeva Steenkamp.

Read more at USA Today

Pistorius case: Lead investigator replaced

South African flagJOHANNESBURG, South Africa — In a dramatic twist in the murder case involving Oscar Pistorius, the lead investigator has been replaced after it was revealed that he himself faces attempted murder charges.

The decision came a day after detective Hilton Botha appeared to bungle the prosecution's case against the Olympic and Paralympic track star. Botha is facing seven counts of attempted murder and is expected to stand trial in May in relation to a 2011 shooting. Botha and two other police officers allegedly fired at a minibus during an arrest attempt.

Read more at USA Today

S.A. police: No inconsistencies in Pistorius' story

Oscar Pistorius, CC: Global Sports ForumJOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- In a blow to the prosecution, a detective testified Wednesday that the police have found nothing inconsistent with how South African Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius has described shooting and killing his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

In the second day of a bail hearing in nearby Pretoria, new details in the case emerged as Pistorius' defense team argued that the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp was an accident. Pistorius, charged with premeditated murder, said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired through the toilet door.

Read more at USA Today

Pistorius' image: South Africans divided

Cape Town residents conflicted over Pistorius' imageCAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Everyone who walked into the Cape Town salon where stylist Marlene Solomon was busy trimming hair has the same question:

"Did you hear, did you hear?"

And though common reaction was "shocked," many locals expressed difficulty reconciling the conflicting images of Oscar Pistorius, who became an icon for overcoming physical challenges, with past disputes that made him seem like a sore loser.

Read more at USA Today

Africa's hero? French intervention in Mali

French Flag, CC fdecomitThe end of a week of bloody chaos in northern Africa brought with it few certainties. Yet, through the miasma of Mauritanian news agencies and Algerian state television, you can discern several clear facts.

Firstly: The number of dead hostages at that now infamous gas plant in Algeria just kept rising.

Read more at New Matilda

Malian cries: 'Vive la France!'


BAMAKO, Mali -- In the dusty, noisy streets of the Malian capital, symbols of former colonial ruler France, once eagerly torn down, have been popping up everywhere since French fighters began bombing Islamist-held areas a week ago.

"I decided to hang a French flag next to the Malian flag to show I'm in favor of the military intervention by France," said Abdourahamane Abidine, 50, a local tailor, sitting on a sofa in his downtown shop. "It's a way to support the French troops."

Read more at USA Today

Ghana Arrest: Ble Goude

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GHA131804AA001.jpegABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Authorities in Ghana on Thursday arrested Charles Ble Goude, the former leader of an ultranationalist youth movement in Ivory Coast wanted in connection with violence linked to its disputed presidential election two years ago, officials said.

Ble Goude, who has been hiding for the last 20 months, has been implicated by Human Rights Watch in grave crimes as the West African nation was roiled by bloodshed over a months-long election dispute between allies of former President Laurent Gbagbo and the current President Alassane Ouattara. Ble Goude, 40, has denied playing any role in the violence that left at least 3,000 dead.
Read more at The Big Story


UN report: Gbagbo allies reached out to Islamists


ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — A new report from U.N. experts accuses exiled allies of Ivory Coast's former president of trying to recruit Islamist rebels who took control of the northern half of neighboring Mali in a campaign to destabilize the volatile West African region, a U.N. diplomat and a Western official familiar with the document said Monday.

The experts also accuse supporters of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo of trying to recruit Mali's military junta, which controls the other half of the country, to the destabilization campaign – and of trying to seize power from Ivory Coast's current President Alassane Ouattara, the two officials said.

Read more at The Huffington Post

Ivory Coast: Detainees charge torture by military


SAN PEDRO, Ivory Coast (AP) — The soldiers lined up the detainees in a row on the grass in the middle of the night and beat them with sticks. Other times, soldiers struck the prisoners with belts and rifles so hard the welts lasted for weeks.

Cedric Bao, a 33-year-old who was held for two weeks in August on suspicion of hiding weapons, said soldiers also attached wires to detainees and administered electrical shocks as they writhed on the ground.

Read more at The Associated Press

Ivory Coast: Motives questioned in genocide charges


ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Ivory Coast prosecutors are pursuing genocide charges against eight top allies of former President Laurent Gbagbo in a move analysts called an apparent attempt to demonize the old regime and demonstrate that local courts can try the most serious cases stemming from post-election violence that ended last year.

At least 3,000 people died in violence that erupted after Mr. Gbagbo tried to cling to power despite having lost the November 2010 election to current President Alassane Ouattara. The Gbagbo allies charged with genocide include former first lady Simone Gbagbo, former Cabinet ministers and the feared former head of the regime's Republican Guard.

Read more at The Washington Times

Ivory Coast: Victor's Justice


ABIDJAN - It was long past midnight when a truck belonging to the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI) pulled up to a small, open-air restaurant in Duékoué, a town of 75,000 in the country’s west. The crowd that night in March was mostly young men, many of them drinking and dancing to club tracks played by a local disc jockey. Not long after the soldiers’ arrival, 16 of the men, including the DJ, were rounded up for arrest. Although no reason was given, the men went willingly, even helping to push the truck when it would not start on its own.

Read more at The World Policy Journal

Africa's poor: Gaining access to finances


LONDON — Vast distances, high costs and unstable incomes. Those are just some of the challenges faced by millions of Africa’s poorest trying to access financial services in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Until recently, commercial banks across the continent hadn’t bothered to reach out to impoverished Africans in rural areas because they saw little profit potential. Instead, they focused on wealthier clients with larger transactions, which had a better chance of surpassing the cost of the bank infrastructure and staff.

Read more at Global Post

Ivory Coast: Liberia border raids raise new fears


SAKRE, Ivory Coast - Issa Gnonkonte woke up early one Wednesday in April in this village near the Liberian border to find 15 men at his front door armed with machetes and Kalashnikov rifles.

Along with the 10 other people in the house, Gnonkonte, 32, was taken outside and stripped naked while the attackers began to loot.

Later, the attackers — a mix of Ivorians and Liberians believed to have crossed the border from Liberia — threatened Gnonkonte and his relatives.

Read more at Toronto Star

Ivory Coast: Violence continues after conflict end


DUEKOUE, Ivory Coast - On a Friday evening in April, two unmarked SUVs stopped Noel Glao near a hotel outside this town in western Ivory Coast where he was charging his cellphone. Nine men wearing national army uniforms got out and, without explanation, began beating the 35-year-old with their Kalashnikov rifles.

“There was blood everywhere. Noel was asking, ‘Why are you beating me? What have I done?’ The soldiers did not say anything,” recalled Glao’s cousin, Edouard Gnene, who was walking with Glao back to a camp for people displaced by the country’s post-election violence. “Every part of his body was beaten.”

Read more at The Star


Taylor guilty: Liberians have mixed emotions


MONROVIA, Liberia - Liberians in the capital of Monrovia expressed sorrow and anger over Thursday's war crimes conviction of their former president Charles Taylor, who is still considered by many Liberians to be a hero.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague found Mr. Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting crimes including murder, terrorism, rape, sexual slavery, and mutilations committed by rebel forces during Sierra Leone's civil war. The 11-year conflict, which ended in 2002, killed more than 50,000, and left many traumatized and maimed.

Read more at The Christian Science Monitor

Tanzania education: English key to success?


DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania - Before class starts, the schoolyard at Gerezani Secondary School is typically noisy; but inside the classrooms, where only English is allowed, students are reluctant to speak.

It is not just shyness that keeps them quiet. Few of the children speak English with confidence, and many have problems understanding the teachers because the classes are held in what is to them a foreign language.

Like the majority of Tanzanians, these students were taught in the Kiswahili language throughout seven years of primary school.

Read more at The Washington Times

Liberian trial: Victims see little justice


MONROVIA, Liberia - As judgment day nears in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, many Liberians are wondering whether he will ever face justice for brutality in his own country.

“There were more atrocities that occurred in Liberia under [his] leadership as compared to that in Sierra Leone,” said Nathan F. Gull, a 33-year-old businessman in Monrovia.

Mr. Taylor, a former rebel leader, is best known internationally for his bands of drugged-up child soldiers who terrorized Liberians throughout the 1990s until 2003.

Read more at The Washington Times

Ghanaian amputees: Soccer team unites Africans


ACCRA - Sani Boubakar, 28, lost his right leg 10 years ago in an auto accident in his hometown of Doutchi, Niger. “On that day, I knew I would be disabled forever,” he said. He moped around his family’s home for two years until he discovered other young men missing legs but playing soccer in a new national team for the Amputee Football Federation of Africa.

Read more at The Washington Times

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