Al-Shabab disrupts Somalia’s effort to hold ‘free and fair elections’

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SSD130415AA003.jpegMOGADISHU, Somalia — Staring at trucks festooned with campaign signs winding their way through the streets of the capital, Hawa Mahamoud was disappointed that she would not have a chance to directly vote for her candidate for president in November.

“I don’t like the way we are going to vote,” said the mother of five who owns a hotel business on the outskirts of the capital. “We should be given the opportunity to elect the president of our choice rather [than] using parliamentarians to impose leaders on us.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram now threatened by famine

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_NIG151119AA001.jpegMAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Buji Abdullahi and his family managed to escape the deadly attack on his village by the militant Islamic group Boko Haram, but then he lost his young son to another scourge sweeping through the relief camps in northeastern Nigeria: a desperate lack of food.

In a land where people have endured more than their share of tragedy and loss in recent years, the specter of famine is posing a cruel new threat. “I watched my 2-year-old son, Hashimu, die from hunger,” said Mr. Abdullahi. “It was sad, but there was nothing I could do to save him.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Kenyan tribal warriors join movement to end ‘beading’ of girls for sex

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_KEN161616aa001.jpegSAMBURU, Kenya — In this remote, deeply traditional corner of north-central Kenya, Faith Lekupanai sits on a stone, her baby ensconced in her arms, resting her tiny frame against the only tree stump on her homestead and talking about her child.
Miss Lekupanai, 14, has a baby as a result of being “beaded” — a common practice among the Samburu community living in this region.                                                                                                                                                                            In the semi-nomadic tribe’s tradition, a close family relative will approach a girl’s parents with red Samburu beads and place the necklace around the girl’s neck on behalf of a warrior from the tribe. When that happens, the warrior can engage in sexual intercourse with the girl — some as young as 6 — even when the warrior does not intend to marry her.                                                                                   

Read more at The Washington Times

How mobile banking brought water back to Nairobi's slums

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegNAIROBI — In Kayole, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, Joab Omondi has been selling water from a cart since the government connected his neighborhood to the local water system. Two years ago, water was a scarce commodity here. Residents used to have to hunt around to buy a 5-gallon can of water for 30 shillings—about 30 cents. Now the situation has changed since the World Bank and the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Co. started allowing residents to pay their water bills by mobile phone.

“This new initiative has really changed our lives,” says Omondi. “Our water cannot be disconnected again, as it used to be. We can now request and pay our bills through our own mobile phones instead of queuing at the banking halls.”

Read more at Newsweek

Post-election strife shows no signs of easing in troubled Gabon

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR151515aa002.jpegLIBREVILLE, Gabon — Carrying a sign reading “Shame on you Ali Bongo, you raped our democracy,” Jeangini Geyzaah said he was determined to protest until Gabon’s incumbent president is driven from office. “Bongo must go to save this country,” said Mr. Geyzaah. “We will continue to demonstrate to ensure our voices are heard. Bongo has the police and soldiers. But the will of [the] people will finally prevail.”

Geyzaah and many other Gabonese believe Mr. Bongo, the son of a longtime former president who has been in office since 2009, rigged federal elections on Aug. 27, and the ensuing unrest, violence and charges of vote-rigging are seen as yet another stress on the campaign to shore up democratic rule across the continent.

Read more at The Washington Times

Five decades of one-family rule at stake in Gabon election Saturday

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegLIBREVILLE, Gabon — Sitting outside his small food shop, Edwige Mbadinga can't wait until Saturday's election to finally see a new face govern this oil-rich African nation after five decades of one-family rule.

“We cannot have a single family ruling us forever. We need to change the leadership of this country in order to ensure prosperity for the Gabonese,” Mbadinga, 37, said as he held up his phone's calendar to show the day he will vote to oust the incumbent.

Read more at USA Today

Social unrest rises against Mugabe in Zimbabwe

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR151515aa001.jpegHARARE, Zimbabwe — President Robert Mugabe has faced down opposition before, but with the Zimbabwean economy tanking, his party divided and security forces unpaid, a new cadre of protesters is daring to hope for change after 36 years of rule by the aging strongman.

“The man is now very old and tired,” Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said of the 92-year-old Mr. Mugabe, the world’s longest-serving chief executive. “What we are seeing today is a frail Mugabe whose party has no future after him. The people are saying ‘no.’”


Read more at The Washington Times

Fighting and fear in South Sudan, despite fragile cease-fire

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SSD130415AA003.jpegJUBA, South Sudan — Felix Abdalla has been in a makeshift refugee camp at St. Joseph Catholic School here since last weekend, after fleeing with his wife and sister when fighting erupted between government and rebel troops in this capital city.

Abdalla, 35, said supplies are scarce at the shelter, including the lack of drinking cups, as thousands of South Sudanese try to evacuate to escape more violence.

Read more at USA Today

Solar power promises to brighten prospects in East Africa

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130531AA003.jpegJacinta Auma shuffles slowly into her dim, mud-walled house, sits down, kicks off her sandals and switches on a light and a small television—a little miracle in this rural, deeply traditional corner of western Kenya. An estimated two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa's population lack electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

To cope, many have long used kerosene-powered generators, but they are not only unhealthy and environmentally destructive, but also unsustainable.Auma’s house is powered by an alternative source of energy: Every day, she lines up a solar panel outside her home, where it soaks up sunlight. The energy the panel gathers charges the batteries that power all her electrical devices.

Read more at Newsweek

Kenya tells: Longtime refugees living in camps to go home

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR130326AA001.jpegDADAAB REFUGEE CAMP, Kenya — Standing inside his clothing shop in this dusty, sprawling settlement of 330,000 people, Deq Yussuf smiles politely even though he's angry.

Yussuf, who has lived here most of his life, has to leave by November because Kenya is shutting all its refugee camps, displacing 600,000 people. The government said the camps have become infiltrated by terrorists

Read more at USA Today

Abducted Nigerian: Schoolgirl found two years after taken by Boko Haram

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegABUJA, Nigeria — One of the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants two years ago has been rescued along with her young child, activists and relatives said Wednesday.

The 276 girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok on April 14, 2014. Some escaped, but 218 remained missing. The young woman is believed to be the first to be rescued.

Read more at USA Today

For children: Of war-torn South Sudan, education is a rarity

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SSD130415AA003.jpegJUBA, South Sudan — James Ukongo Uber, 13, is an orphan who works as a shoeshine boy to pay for his uniform, paper and pencils and other fees to attend school. He raised $1 from panhandling to buy black polish and a brush to "polish big people's shoes."

It’s a desperate life, but James is one of the lucky children in this poor, war-ravaged East African nation. South Sudan is home to the world's highest proportion of children without an education. Half the school-age population — more than 1.8 million children — doesn’t attend school, according to UNICEF.

Read more at USA Today

Why do my people become terrorists on foreign soil?

MOR130531 RABAT, Morocco — Whenever terrorists strike and kill innocent people, my first instinct is to feel deeply sorry for the victims. My second, as a Muslim, is to hope the attack won’t spike hate against the billion people who practice Islam.

But when the terrorists are Moroccan — like those who staged last week’s attacks in Brussels — my third is to wonder why someone from my country is again terrorizing people on foreign soil.

Read more at USA Today

Alternative to genital mutilation emerges for Kenya's Maasai girls

KEN150915aa002ENTASOPIA, Kenya—In a remote, deeply traditional corner of southern Kenya, thousands of young Maasai girls wearing black and white robes and with blood sprinkled on their foreheads dance in the light of dawn. Loudly, enthusiastically, they sing traditional songs with the support of a choir and gifted drummers. In the town of Entasopia, the girls are undergoing a rite of passage that resembles the tribe’s customary coming-of-age ceremony—but without the usual horror of genital mutilation.

“I am very happy because I will not be married off at this age,” says 12-year-old Joan Siyuama as she drinks raw blood from a slaughtered bull to signify her ascendance to adulthood after participating in the ceremony. “I will now go to school and achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”

Read more at Newsweek

Gunmen attack EU mission in Mali capital; 1 attacker dead

AFR151515aa002 BAMAKO, Mali — Gunmen attacked the European Union military mission's headquarters here Monday evening, the apparent latest in a string of attacks on Western interests in the region.

Armed forces killed at least one man, who lay outside the hotel next to a Kalashnikov rifle, the Associated Press reported. The EU mission said none of its personnel had been wounded.

Read more at USA Today

Thieves are robbing the graves of Sierra Leone's Ebola victims

SA131208aa001 FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Salamatu Sheriff’s husband, Osman, was one of the approximately 4,000 Sierra Leoneans who died in the Ebola outbreak that erupted in West Africa two years ago.

In February, she discovered her suffering wasn’t over.

Read more at GlobalPost

Ugandan president’s: Bid to extend 30-year rule latest test of African democracy

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_NIG151119AA001.jpegKAMPALA, Uganda — As dawn broke recently, hundreds of supporters descended on the city center wearing red, yellow and green — the colors of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change — and jostled to catch a glimpse of their presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, before a day of campaigning.

“We need change, and change has finally come,” Vincent Semakula, 25, a party supporter, said amid the cheering crowd. “I have never seen another president since I was born. I think it’s time we give another leader a chance.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Refugee despair: Grows as South Sudan peace deal again breaks apart

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SSD130415AA003.jpegKAKUMA, Kenya — At the sprawling Kakuma Refugee camp here in a remote corner of northern Kenya, Jael Aluel uses an old South Sudanese folk remedy — chewing herbs — to distract herself from hunger pangs.

She waits for food. She waits to resume her life. She hoped that something would change after a peace deal was signed last week to end the civil war in her native South Sudan. But that agreement is already threatening to fall apart, just like all the previous attempts at reconciliation in the bloody two-year civil war.

Read more at The Washington Times

Ethiopia rail: System reflects growing ties with China

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Taxis and buses were once the only way to get across this teeming, ancient city of 4 million residents. But recently a light rail system provided by a new financial angel — China — is transforming how Ethiopians commute.

"This is a new Ethiopia," said Mahlet Adem, who owns a jewelry shop at the Shiro Meda textile market in Addis Ababa. "The economy of this country has grown following the completion of two rail lines. Moving goods from one place to another is nowadays very easy."

Read more at The Washington Times 

Africa visit: Pope wraps up with warning about religious conflicts


b_179_129_16777215_00_images_UGA011215aa001.jpegKAMPALA, Uganda — Pope Francis wrapped up his six-day trip to Africa in the war- town Central Africa Republic on Monday by warning that religious conflicts are spawning a civil war, terrorism and suffering throughout the continent. "Together we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, especially violence perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself," the pope said in Banhui, the capital.

Read more at USA Today

Uganda — Pope Francis wrapped up his six-day trip to Africa in the war-torn Central Africa Republic on Monday by warning that religious conflicts are spawning civil war, terrorism and suffering throughout the continent.

"Together we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, especially violence perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself," the pope said in Bangui, the capital.

Ugandans line: The streets ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_KEN151130aa003.jpegKAMPALA, Uganda (RNS) Thousands of cheerful Catholics lined the streets near Entebbe International Airport waving yellow-and-white Vatican flags, singing songs and ululating — the distinctive African trill — in anticipation of Pope Francis.

Many in the crowd had gathered before dawn, even though the pope wasn't expected to arrive until late afternoon.

Read more at Religion News Service 

Pope says: 'Catastrophic' if climate deal derailed

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_KEN15128aa001.jpegNAIROBI, Kenya — Pope Francis, speaking in Africa days before critical climate change talks in Paris, warned Thursday that it would be "catastrophic" if world leaders let special interest groups get in the way of a global agreement to curb fossil fuel emissions

Francis spoke to the U.N.'s regional office in Kenya after celebrating his first public Mass on the continent.

Read more at USA Today 

Pope Francis: Africa visit generates excitement, unrealistic expectations

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NAIROBI, Kenya — When Pope Francis begins his first journey to Africa as pontiff Wednesday, he will face a long laundry list of requests, many of them having nominally little to do with his role as spiritual head of the Catholic Church.

Peace will be among the items that locals in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic want Francis to address during his six-day visit. Good governance is a second one. Respect for human rights and a condemnation of Islamic violence are others, in addition to staying safe in a time of soaring tensions around the world with violent and spectacular terrorist attacks.

Read more at The Washington Times 

African Catholics: Call on pope to let priests marry

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KAMPALA, Uganda (RNS) Throngs of Roman Catholics are expected to greet Pope Francis when he visits East Africa this week.

But the Rev. Anthony Musaala won't be a part of the official welcoming delegation.

Read more at Religion News Service 

Boko Haram: Nigerians relish new freedoms after reign of terror by militants ends

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_NIG151119AA001.jpegMALARI, Nigeria — A year after Boko Haram terrorists ravaged this tiny community, life is returning to a semblance of normalcy as the Nigerian military makes gains against the Islamic extremists.

Schoolchildren shout and play before school begins. Ululating — a high-pitched trill — fills the air as women give thanks for the start of a new day.

Read more at USA Today

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