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Obama tour: Mandela's illness in South Africa

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_USA130629AA003.jpegJOHANNESBURG - President Obama arrived in South Africa Friday on the second leg of his week-long trip to Africa and said he'll let Nelson Mandela's family decide whether the nation 's ailing former president is up to a visit from him.

"We'll see what the situation is when we land," Obama said aboard Air Force One as he flew to South Africa from Senegal, the first stop on his trip. "I don't need a photo-op, and the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela's condition. I've had the opportunity to meet with him. Michelle and the girls had an opportunity to meet with him. Right now, our main concern is with his well-being, his comfort, and with the family's well-being and comfort.

Read more at USA Today

Obama praises democracy in Africa


DAKAR, Senegal — Posters plastered with President Obama's smiling face and U.S. flags flapping in the warm ocean breeze lined the main routes into Senegal's capital city on Thursday. Obama arrived in Senegal as part of a three-country visit to Africa on Wednesday night and residents in the West African country were on hand Thursday to offer him a warm welcome, with many taking to the streets to watch the president's motorcade drive past. "I'm not sure if it will happen but I hope to see President Obama waving to me as he drives by," said Mamadou Ndiaye, a taxi driver in Dakar. "It is such an honor, knowing that he is coming to my country." But Obama used a news conference at the presidential palace on Thursday morning with Senegal's President Macky Sall to address issues squarely on his domestic agenda. He said that Wednesday's Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage were a victory not just for gays and lesbians but for American democracy. He said different customs and religious beliefs must be respected in different countries, but states and laws should treat everyone equally.

Read more at USA Today

Michelle Obama: Senegal girls 'are role models'

USA130702AA 001DAKAR, SENEGAL -- Hundreds of students from the Martin Luther King all-girls high school in Dakar warmly welcomed first ladies Michelle Obama and Marieme Sall of Senegal on Thursday morning.

A choir of teenage girls in school uniforms sang renditions of the American and Senegalese anthems for the first ladies. A dance troupe then performed to traditional drum music, as Obama looked on smiling.

President Obama, the first lady and their daughters Sasha and Malia are visiting Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. Following welcoming remarks by Sall and the school's principal, Obama spoke to the students about the importance of girls education in Senegal and throughout the world.

"When girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous," Obama said. "By making this critical investment in your education –- and in the future of your country –- you all are serving as role models not just for girls here in Senegal, but for girls in the United States and around the world."

Read more at USA Today


Senegal visit: Obamas begin African tour

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SEN130629aa001.jpegDAKAR - A year ago, things looked bleak as fires burned in cities and police fired on protesters angry that their democratic elections were being hijacked.

Senegal overcame the crisis, and some residents said Wednesday's visit from President Obama is recognition of the country's commitment to democracy in a region where despots and civil strife are not uncommon.

Read more at USA Today

Nelson Mandela: South African president's legacy

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR130629aa001.jpegJOHANNESBURG - South Africans reacted with concern Sunday when they learned that Nelson Mandela's condition had worsened to critical, and while some said they hope the former president and national hero recovers, they also said they are tired of the circus surrounding his illness.

"He's old, he's lived a great life, they should just let him go," said Ronelle Du Toit, 27, branch administrator at a property company in Johannesburg. "Stop anticipating and asking for prayers to keep him alive. He's 94 – how many people live to 94?"

Read more at USA Today

Nelson Mandela: Speculation runs rife

AFR130614AA001.jpgJOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Will native son and national hero Nelson Mandela survive his latest bout with illness? That is the single question dominating headlines, speeches, Twitter and conversation throughout South Africa.

It's an unusual situation in a country where death is an off-limits topic due to local culture. But as locals brace themselves, anxious and hopeful, they remain stoic and protective, insisting on Mandela's privacy as he battles a lung infection.

Read more at The Washington Times

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

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