Tens of thousands of children in Ethiopia are suffering from the "most deadly" form of malnutrition as a prolonged drought ravages the east and south of the country, British charity Save the Children said Thursday. Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in the Horn of Africa, with a fifth also expected to fare poorly, causing the worst drought in 40 years and a major hunger crisis spanning Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Over one million people need urgent food aid across the Ethiopian regions of Oromia, SNNP (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples), Somali and South West, the charity said in a statement. "About 185,000 children (are) now estimated to be suffering from the most deadly form of malnutrition," it said. "Children -- especially small children -- are bearing the brunt of a harrowing and multifaceted crisis in Ethiopia," said Xavier Joubert, the charity's country director in Ethiopia. "A prolonged, expanding, and debilitating drought is grinding away at their resilience, already worn down by a gruelling conflict and two years of the Covid-19 pandemic," he added. In the Somali region -- one of the worst affected -- the malnutrition rate jumped 64 percent in the past year, according to Save the Children. During the same period, more than 50,000 cases of severe acute malnutrition, which requires emergency treatment to prevent death, were recorded, the non-profit said. Much of the region's pastoral nomadic community was on "the brink of starvation", it said, with families reporting "that many children are only being fed one meal per day." - Lack of funding - The record drought has affected about 8.1 million people in Africa's second most populous nation, which has also been suffering the consequences of a 19-month conflict in the north. About 30 million people or a quarter of Ethiopia's population need humanitarian assistance, Save the Children said. Insufficient rainfall has destroyed crops, killed livestock and forced huge numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The dire conditions have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has contributed to soaring food and fuel costs. Meanwhile, the humanitarian response is suffering from a lack of funds, with a February appeal by the UN's World Food Programme raising less than four percent of the cash needed. East Africa endured a harrowing drought in 2017 but early humanitarian action averted a famine in Somalia. When a famine struck the country in 2011, 260,000 people -- half of them children under the age of six -- died of hunger or hunger-related disorders. Experts say extreme weather events are becoming more common and more intense due to climate change.
Fifteen people were killed and 37 injured Friday when a bus and a truck collided on a South African highway near the capital Pretoria, an emergency services spokesman told AFP. "The death toll is now 15 dead, and 37 people have been injured, some of them critically," spokesman Thabo Charles Mabaso said. The accident happened before dawn, and rescue workers were called at 5:05 am. "Emergency services arrived on scene to find a bus and truck that collided head-on, with multiple patients lying around and some still trapped inside both vehicles," emergency services said in a statement. Eight women and seven men died at the scene, while 37 others were taken to hospital. Seven were in critical condition, the statement said. The road was closed throughout the morning. An investigation into the accident's cause has been launched. South Africa's roads are among the most developed on the continent, but safety remains an issue. Nearly 1,500 people died on the roads during the last Christmas holidays, which is South Africa's peak summer travel season.
Somalia’s newly-elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, used his inauguration speech yesterday to appeal to the diaspora and international community to help stave off the famine that threatens his drought-stricken country. Aid agencies have warned of an approaching famine as cases of severe malnutrition among children shoot up in the troubled Horn of Africa nation, which is battling a record drought following four failed rainy seasons. “There are fears that starvation may strike in some areas,” Mahmoud said, urging “the diaspora and the world to play a role in saving our people who were affected by the drought.” “These conditions were caused by accumulated problems including climate change, destruction of our economic resources and the weakness of our government institutions. Therefore, my government will establish an agency for environmental matters,” he said. Multiple appeals for aid have gone largely unnoticed so far, with nearly half the country’s population going hungry and more than 200,000 people on the brink of starvation, the United Nations said Monday. The drought crisis has also hit Somalia’s neighbours, Ethiopia and Kenya, whose presidents were among the foreign leaders attending Thursday’s ceremony, held under heavy security in the Mogadishu airport complex. In addition to tackling the looming famine, Mahmoud —who previously served as president between 2012 and 2017 — faces a grinding insurgency in parts of the country, making humanitarian access a challenge. In a sign of the lingering threat, militants fired several rounds of mortar shells in neighbourhoods near the airport in an overnight attack. A former academic and peace activist, Mahmoud’s first term was dogged by high-profile corruption scandals and political turmoil, with two of his three prime ministerial appointees forced out, and two central bank governors resigning. The first Somali leader to win a second term, he has promised to transform Somalia into “a peaceful country that is at peace with the world” and repair damage inflicted by months of political infighting, both at the executive level and between states and the central government. He vowed Thursday to foster “political stability through consultation, mutual endorsement, and unity among... the federal government and federal member states,” striking a contrasting tone to his confrontational predecessor Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo. Somalia’s international partners have welcomed the election of President Mahmoud, with many hoping it will draw a line under a long-running political crisis that has distracted the government from tackling the Al Shebaab insurgency and the devastating drought. Meanwhile, calls for international aid have raised less than 20% of the money needed to avert a repeat of the 2011 famine that killed 260,000 people — half of them children under the age of six.
Two Indian-born brothers who allegedly wove a web of corruption across South Africa have been arrested in Dubai and face extradition, in a landmark step in Pretoria’s anti-graft fight. Dubai police confirmed yesterday they had arrested Atul and Rajesh Gupta after receiving a so-called red notice from Interpol, and were co-ordinating with the South African authorities for their extradition. South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority confirmed the contact but gave no details, saying extradition processes were complex and involved heads of states. The arrests took place on June 2, according to the UAE’s state news agency. They bring a glimmer of hope that the alleged masterminds behind South Africa’s darkest corruption scandal will face prosecution after years of legal fog and delay. The two tycoons are accused of paying bribes for state contracts and wielding influence over ministerial appointments in a scandal that clouded former president Jacob Zuma’s administration and eventually forced him from office. By one estimate, several billion dollars were lost to the South African economy as a result of their activities. After Zuma resigned in February 2018, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa took over. Ramaphosa vowed to make the fight against graft the cornerstone of his presidency. But prosecutions have been rare, public scepticism runs deep and Ramaphosa himself is now fighting accusations of scandal. The Guptas came to South Africa in 1993, eventually building a sprawling empire in mining, computer technology and media. Some members of their family were granted South African citizenship. But the pair and other family members fled the country shortly after a judicial commission, launched in 2018, started probing “state capture” — the alleged looting of state assets — and the brothers’ influence over the ruling African National Congress (ANC). After arduous investigations, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo this year published a report that described how the brothers became intertwined with the highest levels of government and the ANC. The family befriended Zuma to the point where they influenced cabinet appointments and infiltrated state-owned enterprises, where they secured some of the juiciest contracts, it said. Zuma “would do anything that the Guptas wanted him to do for them”, Zondo said in his report published this year. Zuma was last year jailed for 15 months for refusing to testify before the investigators. He was released on parole, having served just two months. An independent investigator estimated that the cost of the Guptas’ alleged illicit activities in South Africa could be as much as 50bn rand ($3.2bn) over the years. Their current arrest is however for fraud and money laundering in connection with a 25-mn-rand contract paid to a Gupta-linked company for an agricultural feasibility study. Their arrests came almost a year after Interpol issued a red notice — a global alert enabling law enforcement to arrest a person sought for prosecution or to serve a custodial sentence and hold them pending extradition. A third brother, Ajay Gupta, is not cited in the current case, but has been named in another embezzlement and corruption case. The ANC lauded the arrests, calling for the extradition to be expedited. “The latest developments underscore the commitment of the ANC-led government to rigorously root out all forms of corruption,” it said in a statement. The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said it hoped the detentions marked “the beginning of arrests and prosecution of those who have... looted our country for years and are directly responsible for the hardships that millions of South Africans face today”. Ramaphosa, meanwhile, is enmeshed in a growing scandal centred on the theft of cash from his sprawling cattle and game farm. He is accused of buying the silence of the burglars, who were allegedly detained on his property. He fiercely denies the allegations, which have surfaced as he vies to stay on as ruling party leader when his term expires in December. “The ones who are pursuing the corrupt also have skeletons in the cupboards,” said Sandile Swana, an independent political analyst, who believed Ramaphosa would probably retain his presidency despite the “Farmgate” scandal. Julius Malema, leader of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters, wants Ramaphosa “to step aside with immediate effect” over the farm scandal.
South Africa said on Monday the United Arab Emirates had arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta, brothers who face charges of political corruption under former South African president Jacob Zuma. Confirming South Africa's statement on Tuesday, Dubai police said on Twitter that it had coordinated with South African authorities "regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures". South Africa's Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services said on Monday there were discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa "on the way forward". The two nations agreed an extradition treaty last year. The brothers are accused of using connections with Zuma, who ruled from 2009 to 2018, to win contracts, misappropriate state assets, influence cabinet appointments and siphon off state funds. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing. The Indian-born brothers left South Africa after Zuma was ousted in 2018. An inquiry was established in 2018 to examine allegations of graft during Zuma's years in power. The UAE ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa in April 2021, a move that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's government hoped would lead to the return of the Guptas to face charges. South Africa's largest opposition party welcomed the arrests. "We hope that this is indeed the beginning of arrests and prosecution of those who have - locally and abroad - looted our country for years and are directly responsible for the hardships that millions of South Africans face today," the Democratic Alliance said in a statement.
The bodies of two men were found in the hold of an Air Algerie plane at Algiers International Airport on Saturday, Algerian police said. "Two lifeless male bodies aged between 20 and 23 years were discovered on Saturday at 5:00 am (0400 GMT) in the hold of an Air Algerie plane which was parked at Algiers airport," the police said in a statement. It did not specify where the plane came from or where it was going, but said an investigation had been opened. According to Algeria media, the two victims were Algerians seeking to reach Europe clandestinely. In March, a 16-year-old managed to get into the baggage hold of an Air Algerie plane at Constantine airport and safely reached France, Algerian media reported.
Security forces shot a protester dead in Sudan’s capital yesterday, medics said, as pro-democracy demonstrators demanded justice for those killed in a bloody crackdown three years ago to the day. Thousands took to the streets in Khartoum and other cities to commemorate the 128 people who medics say were killed when armed men in military fatigues violently dispersed a months-long sit-in outside army headquarters. The latest demonstrations came as UN human rights expert Adama Dieng visited Sudan and urged authorities to “refrain from use of excessive force”. The protests in 2019 were crucial to pressing the military into sharing power with civilians in the wake of the ouster in April that year of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir. But a military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in October last year derailed that fragile political transition, and protesters have returned to the streets at least weekly since then — often in the face of renewed deadly force. “Blood for blood,” protesters in Khartoum chanted, while others urged the military “to go back to their barracks”. The police released a statement accusing demonstrators of attacking police stations, wounding policemen and causing damage. Amna Behiri, whose son Abdel Salam Kesha was one of the demonstrators killed three years ago, joined one of the rallies yesterday wearing a shirt emblazoned with a print of her son’s face. “We want justice before anything else,” she said. “Without justice, we can’t have a democratic state.” An investigation was launched into the June 2019 crackdown later that year, but even before last year’s military power grab, it struggled to make headway and it is still to announce its findings. “We lost youth who were dear to the people of Sudan,” said Diaa Eddine, whose nephew was also killed in the crackdown three years ago. “With this anniversary, God willing, the Sudanese revolution will win.” Britain, Norway and the United States issued a tripartite statement yesterday “calling for the prompt resolution of the government-appointed investigation into the (2019) massacre and disclosure of findings to the public.” A bloody crackdown since last year’s coup has killed nearly 100 more people, according to pro-democracy medics. Dieng’s visit is his second since Burhan’s power grab. Burhan has said some security force members have “misused” their weapons during demonstrations since October, but no trials of personnel have been publicly announced. Yesterday, UN special representative Volker Perthes announced the Security Council had voted to extend by one year the United Nations’ mission in Sudan. The UN, along with the African Union and regional grouping IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis. On Wednesday, military officials met with UN, AU and IGAD representatives and agreed to launch “direct talks” among Sudanese factions next week. On Sunday, Burhan lifted a state of emergency in force since the coup to set the stage for “meaningful dialogue that achieves stability for the transitional period”. Since April, Sudanese authorities have released a several civilian leaders and pro-democracy activists.
As South African artist Fhatuwani Mukheli paints a portrait of a woman at his Johannesburg studio, he is creating not only the work before him but also a digital asset destined to adorn a virtual world. Mukheli uses “The Tree”, an online marketplace for South African artists to promote and sell their art as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). “There’s a virtual world where people are buying land in it,” said Mukheli. He is referring to the metaverse, a three-dimensional digital reality that tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook say is the future of the Internet. “People have properties there ... and your art can be on those walls.” Mukheli’s customers receive both the actual canvas and the NFT, while other artists on The Tree sell up to five limited edition NFTs for each piece, akin to digital prints. Mukheli has already made thousands of dollars by using the platform. “I think it’s important as an artist and a creative to always play where the ball is going and not necessarily where it’s at,” said Trevor Stuurman, one of the four other artists currently showcasing their work on The Tree. Critics say blockchains, digital ledgers used to store information, are not climate-friendly because they guzzle computing power. The Tree says it saves energy by running on Polygon, a blockchain that uses a fraction of the power, and offsets each transaction by sending money to Greenpop, an environmental organisation that plants trees across Sub-Saharan Africa. “It’s not just about art and artists and the story, it’s about making sure that this growth in technology for artists doesn’t come at a cost to the planet,” said Dan Portal, co-founder of The Tree.
* Mohamud elected by lawmakers, faces drought and insurgency * Meeting former rivals and regional leaders * Biden authorised return of US troops to fight al Shabaab Somalia's new president has applauded the return of US troops to help fight a deadly insurgency and says delivering security depends on reconciliation with other Somali leaders, after a power battle splintered the security forces into rival factions. US President Joe Biden this month authorised the redeployment of hundreds of US soldiers who will help train, equip and support the military's elite Danab special forces fighting the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants. President Donald Trump withdrew them in December 2020, leaving them flying in and out for missions from neighbouring Kenya, a move experts described as costly and dangerous. "We are very much grateful for President Biden to send back some of the forces ... they always have been playing a role in war against al Shabaab," President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Reuters, adding that he wanted US support to continue. Al Shabaab has killed tens of thousands of Somalis in bombings in Mogadishu and elsewhere as it seeks to topple the government, as well as civilians in neighbouring countries in attacks on a shopping mall, hotel, university and restaurants. Somali legislators selected Mohamud as president this month - the country has not held one-person-one-vote elections since civil war erupted in 1991. Legislators foiled attempts by the previous president to extend his term, but the issue deeply divided security forces, who battled each other in the capital's streets. The protracted crisis drained attention from a growing humanitarian emergency forcing more than 6 million Somalis to depend on food aid. James Swan, the top UN official in Somalia, praised Mohamud's appointment of a prominent politician to handle the emergency, triggered by the worst drought in 40 years. Since Mohamud's win on May 15, official government social media accounts have pumped out images of him welcoming former political rivals and beaming Somali regional leaders, many of whom fought armed clashes with his predecessor. "The people have to reconcile," former educator Mohamud said from a gilt chair in Villa Somalia, a government complex painted in the national colours of white and sky blue. Mohamud's words have encouraged allies frustrated by slow progress under his predecessor, which allowed the insurgency to amass a huge warchest. Lieutenant General Diomede Ndegeya, commander of African Union forces in Somalia, said he hoped local forces and administrations could help secure roads for AU and Somali forces to make progress against al Shabaab. "It's important for us to all work together," he said. The last major offensive against al Shabaab was in 2019. The insurgents still control swathes of the country but African Union peacekeeping forces are due to leave in three years. This month, al Shabaab overran an AU peacekeeping base, killing dozens of soldiers. Burundi put the death toll at 10. "Our top priority is the security," said Mohamud, although he listed other urgent matters, including building institutions and codifying election laws and government powers. When Mohamud previously served as president, from 2012-2017, rampant corruption packed the military with ghost soldiers. Those that did exist often sold their guns when their wages were stolen. Since then, the United Nations has set up a long-planned biometric database. Soldiers and civil servants now receive their salaries directly to their bank accounts. Mohamud acknowledged the repeated complaints of corruption, but hailed digitalisation and said he planned to continue a financial reform package he had previously helped negotiate with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. "We are all ... for the economic reforms," he said. Campaigners say the proof will be whether backers receive plum procurement contracts or top posts they use for kickbacks. "We need an audit for all the taxes raised in Mogadishu, we need to pay salaries on time and we need avoid cronyism," said Mohamed Mubarak, founder of anti-corruption group Marqaati.
Sleep is something that the inhabitants of Zingqolweni abandoned many months ago. Tucked in a remote corner of South Africa, this frightened village of 3,000 people has suffered a murder almost every month, occurring with clockwork regularity for a year. The brutal series of killings has earned Zingqolweni a chilling moniker: "The Village of Death." All 11 victims have been elderly people, most of whom were women and most of whom lived alone. They have been stabbed to death in their homes after nightfall, when pitch darkness falls over a village where the unpaved roads are unlit. Nobongile Fihla, 50, spoke to AFP as she walked back from the cemetery. Her mother was among the first victims, killed in May 2021. "I found my mother there, next to the door, lying in a pool of blood. Her throat was slit," Fihla told AFP. Her aunt was then found stabbed to death in the same thatched round hut where the two sisters lived. No-one saw or heard anything. The homes, known as rondavels, are far apart from each other in Zingqolweni, a Xhosa-speaking community lying three hours from the nearest large city of East London. Here the sun sets behind the green mountains of the Eastern Cape province by 6pm (1600 GMT) in the winter months. South Africa is one of the world's most violent countries outside a war zone, with a murder committed every 20 minutes on average. But even hardened police have been taken aback by the gruesomeness of this killing spree. All the victims were brutally stabbed. Some also had their throats slit. "They literally bleed to death," a senior police investigator told AFP. "A series of murders of elderly people with a psychological motive. No, not seen before in South Africa," said the investigator, who asked not to be named. Six men have been arrested over the killings, and their trial is set to begin in June. Local police believe the murders are simply burglaries that have gone wrong. But local official Gcinikaya Koki, 64, is among those who doubt that thieves are to blame. "After the killings, when people were searching the house they found the money in the house," he said, adding that other valuables were also untouched. "Now, you then ask yourself, 'What is it that they want from this person that they killed?'" The only clue ever found has been a piece of clothing. Fears of a serial killer on the loose have swept the village. Some have fled and women have started sleeping together at night. A special police unit that investigates serial crimes has visited the area several times. The murders, the investigator told AFP, share hallmarks that fit the narrative of a lone killer. In each killing, there is a single modus operandi; the murders occur regularly at the start of each month; and there is no evidence of a criminal motive. The murderer must be young and strong enough to overpower his victims, according to this scenario. And given the remoteness of the village, he probably lives nearby, and possibly harbours a hatred of the elderly. "The person must have known the people living there and who was living alone," the investigator said. Husking maize on a stool in front of her home, 82-year-old Nontukunina Mbenyana says she is afraid but she will not leave. "If they come for me, I am prepared," she said. "I will die in my own house." Authorities had for months kept silent on the killings, so vigilantes stepped in. Seven suspects, all men aged 21 to 27, were found dead. Some were burned alive, others hanged in the nearby forests. Twelve men have been arrested, but then released for lack of evidence. So the investigation continues, amid a code of silence in the village. "Nothing happened here," a man climbing into his pickup told AFP. Lately, the grisly crimes have halted, deepening the mystery. Increased police patrols and media attention may have deterred the murders "for a while," the investigator said. "We sometimes see that serial murderers who begin to be uncovered move away. We might come across him again somewhere else..."
Charities running migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean faced a pre-trial hearing in Sicily yesterday over alleged collusion with people traffickers after a controversial probe that involved mass wiretapping. Twenty-one suspects, including crew members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Save the Children and German NGO Jugend Rettet rescue ships, are accused of “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry into Italy” in 2016 and 2017. “Our crews rescued over 14,000 people in distress from unseaworthy and overcrowded boats... and are now facing 20 years in prison,” Kathrin Schmidt, who sailed with Jugend Rettet’s ship Iuventa, said ahead of the hearing. Trapani judge Samuele Corso must rule whether or not to proceed to trial after a five-year investigation mired in controversy for the mass wiretapping of charity workers, lawyers and journalists in what critics say is a politically motivated bid to stop sea rescues. Italy has long been on the front line of seaborne migration from Africa to Europe, with a record 180,000 arrivals in 2016, dropping to 120,000 in 2017. It has registered some 17,000 arrivals so far this year, according to the interior ministry. Prosecutor Brunella Sardoni told AFP she expected the preliminary hearings process to last “several months, considering the complexity” of a case file with some 30,000 pages and hundreds of CDs. Corso set the date for the next hearing as June 7. Supporters of the rescue Charities held a sit-in at the port in Trapani featuring large paper boats bearing the date and location of shipwrecks, and the number of victims. The Charities are accused of co-ordinating their actions with smugglers just off Libya, returning inflatable dinghies and boats to them to be reused, and picking up people whose lives had not been in danger. The rescuers say anyone attempting the central Mediterranean crossing to Europe — the “world’s deadliest” according to the UN — on rickety boats or unseaworthy dinghies is at risk, and should be saved. At least 12,000 people have drowned on this route since 2014. Many shipwrecks go unrecorded. The Charities also deny ever communicating with smugglers, who are sometimes armed and can be spotted loitering near rescues in the hope of retrieving valuable engines from migrant boats. Save the Children told AFP it “strongly rejects” the accusations, as did MSF, which slammed a “period of criminalisation of humanitarian aid” it hoped would soon end. The Iuventa was impounded in 2017 shortly after Jugend Rettet and others refused to sign a new and contentious interior ministry “code of conduct” accord, and as the European Union scaled up surveillance and policing in the Mediterranean. “Despite the fact that mobile phones and computers were seized and analysed, not a single contact with Libyan smugglers... has been found,” said Nicola Canestrini, lawyer for the Iuventa crew members. Pre-trial hearings are held behind closed doors, but representatives from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Amnesty International have requested the judge allow them to sit in for transparency.
As a disabled child growing up in Nigeria, Joshua Anum did not see Internet stardom in his future. He and his eight siblings, abandoned by their father, barely had enough to eat. Now the 15-year-old, who lost his left arm at age five after falling out of a tree, is part of a dance group called “The Incredible Kids” that has a growing Instagram following and a packed performance schedule. In one of their most popular videos, with 55,000 views, the six children dance in a yard with palm trees behind them. Led by a five-year-old girl, they do fast-paced routines to popular Nigerian songs. The children live with dancer Maliki Emmanuel, the group’s founder, on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja. Most came from difficult family situations and found refuge with him. On a recent afternoon, the children gathered around Emmanuel as he sat in an armchair in their living room, watching music videos to get ideas for new routines. “Before I came here I used to go to parties, I used to fight anywhere I went and I was not going to school,” said Joshua. “Since coming here I have started school and I read and dance.” The group has performed in Abuja and Lagos, and as their fame grows Emmanuel said he hopes their numbers will too. “When we have created a brand...then we can recruit more kids, kids that are on the street...that love dance,” he said. “I can teach them then we will bring them to the crew.” The proceeds from performances cover school fees for Joshua and the other dancers. Joshua’s mother, Vera Anum, said she despaired when his arm had to be amputated, but was now proud of his success. “Everybody thought...he will not be useful in life. Our people at home said he is finished because somebody whose hand has been amputated from childhood, what can he do?” she said. “See him today, at least the whole world is seeing him, watching him how he is performing.”
From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, swathes of land across the Horn of Africa are being ravaged by a drought that has put 20mn people at risk of starvation. A donor conference last week raised almost $1.4bn for the region, which the UN says is facing its worst drought in 40 years. In the afflicted areas, people eke out a living mainly from herding and subsistence farming. They are experiencing their fourth consecutive poor rainy season since the end of 2020 – a situation exacerbated by a locust invasion that wiped out crops between 2019 and 2021. “The number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14mn-20mn through 2022,” the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said last month. Six million Somalis – 40% of the population – are facing extreme levels of food insecurity and there is “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions prevail, the UN humanitarian response agency OCHA said last week. Another 6.5mn people in Ethiopia are “acutely food insecure”, it said, as well as 3.5mn in Kenya. Across the region, 1mn people have been driven from their homes by a lack of water and pasture, and least 3mn head of livestock have perished, OCHA said. “We must act now ... if we want to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s representative to the African Union, Chimimba David Phiri, said at a UN briefing in Geneva in April. Experts say that extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change. Dire conditions in the Horn of Africa have been amplified by the war in Ukraine, which has contributed to soaring food and fuel costs, disrupted global supply chains and diverted aid money away from the region. Unicef executive director Catherine Russell said 10mn children in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of urgent life-saving support because of the crisis. “Overall 1.7mn children are severely malnourished across the sub-region,” she said in a statement after a four-day visit to Ethiopia last week. Russell said a lack of clean water was increasing the risk of disease among children, while hundreds of thousands had dropped out of school, many having to travel long distances in search of food and water. East Africa endured a harrowing drought in 2017 but early humanitarian action averted a famine in Somalia. However, in 2011, 260,000 people – half of them children under the age of six – died of hunger in the troubled country, partly because the international community did not act fast enough, according to the UN. Beyond the direct and potentially deadly consequences on the people affected, the shortage of water and grazing land is a source of inter-communal conflict, particularly among herders. The drought also threatens the animal world. Livestock such as cattle – an essential source of subsistence in the region – are dying en masse. Wildlife is also at risk. In Kenya, there have been many cases of wild animals such as giraffes or antelopes perishing for lack of water and food, their carcasses rotting on barren scrubland. In drought conditions, wild animals will leave their usual habitat for water or food, often straying closer to developed areas. In central Kenya, big cats have attacked herds of livestock, while elephants or buffaloes have taken to grazing in farmland, angering the local inhabitants.
A lollipop dangling from his mouth and two silver chains from his neck, Valentine Ndalo threw his hands in the air and swung his dreadlocks as Octopizzo, one of Kenya’s hottest artists, rapped about the celebrity high life. The concert in the western Kenyan city of Eldoret was part of Octopizzo’s “Umechukua” campaign, aimed at convincing young people to vote in August elections that will choose a successor to outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and thousands of local and national representatives. Ndalo, a 26-year-old performing artist, isn’t interested in the poll. “I voted during the last elections but since then, it has been very disappointing because they [the politicians] never kept their promises.” East Africa’s economic powerhouse has been one of the region’s most vibrant democracies. However, voters are disillusioned after years of broken promises, corruption scandals, and allegations of vote rigging. Registration drives have so far netted only 2.5mn new voters, fewer than half of the 6mn targeted, in one of the worst performances since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992. The two main presidential candidates, Deputy President William Ruto and former prime minister Raila Odinga, are veteran politicians from a system that enriches the wealthy, critics and many young people say. Ruto has sought to break Kenya’s traditional ethnic voting blocs by appealing to the poor and casting the vote as a “hustler” versus “dynasty” election. Odinga is the son of the country’s first vice-president and is supported by Kenyatta, son of the first president. Some voters also fear Odinga – a prominent opposition leader known for his left-wing policies – has become the establishment candidate after the president’s endorsement. Apathy may reduce the risk of election-related violence, which has blighted Kenya in the past. In 2007 the country saw clashes that left 1,300 people dead after disputed polls. However, others fear there could be trouble and that the disenfranchised may revolt. Rapper Octopizzo – legal name Henry Ohanga – grew up in the patchwork of rusted corrugated iron shacks of the giant Kibera slum in the capital Nairobi. He sympathises with voter frustration but still pleads: vote! “There is not any other time they (the politicians) will beg,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “This is the most power you will ever have.” Domestic worker Saumu Juma, 26, registered to vote outside the concert. “I am optimistic my vote will make a difference,” she said. “The economy is difficult to bear. There are no jobs.” Few of the 500-plus concertgoers shared her enthusiasm. Only 101 people registered; it wasn’t clear how many had already done so. Voters say some apathy is down to uneven economic growth. The gap between Kenya’s richest and poorest is one of the highest in Africa, government statistics show. Rising prices and a severe drought are squeezing poor Kenyans. Joshua Ogeto, 22, sells perfumes door-to-door. He says voting only helps politicians. “We don’t get any benefit,” he scoffed.
A young chimpanzee wrapped its arms around the neck of its rescuer in a brief hug as it was released from a wooden cage to scamper off to play in its spacious new enclosure. The chimp was captured from an illegal owner by staff from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo)’s nature conservation agency who brought it more than 600km (373 miles) by road, boat and plane to the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Centre. The new arrival joined 111 other chimpanzees staying at the centre, a sanctuary for orphaned primates which opened 20 years ago in a village about 40 km north of the provincial capital Bukavu in eastern Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring Congo Republic are home to the largest number of great apes in Africa, but most species are declining in population due to factors such as forest loss, hunting and trafficking, based on the latest report by the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP). Poachers seek out young primates to sell to zoos or as pets and they often kill a young chimp’s family to capture it, conservationists say. “It’s horrible because the year 2021 was the worst year in the history of our centre, we had 15 arrivals. And you have to think that for every chimpanzee that arrives here at the sanctuary, there are ten more that died in the forest,” said Itsaso Velez del Burgo, the centre’s director. “The situation is serious. If we don’t act to protect the forest, soon it will be empty.” A poacher may sell a live chimpanzee for $50-$100, while a middleman can re-sell that same chimpanzee at a mark-up of as much as 400%, a United Nations report on the illicit trade in apes said. In eastern Congo, militia violence has made it hard to release the apes back into the wild, which is the sanctuary’s ultimate goal, Claude-Sylvestre Libaku, manager of the centre, said. “There are already groups (of apes) that are ready to be reintegrated, but the presence of armed groups in the forest is blocking us,” he said. Eastern Congo has been beset by militia violence for decades, but there has been a resurgence of some armed groups in recent years, leading the government to declare martial law in some parts of the east. Although there’s no evidence that the illegal trade in great apes is linked to armed groups, their presence in the forest still constitutes a threat, Johannes Refisch, co-ordinator of the United Nations-led GRASP, said. “I would agree that (the apes) are more at risk when there are more guns around,” he said. “There is a higher risk for wild meat hunting, and even in areas where great apes are not targeted, hunters might bump into a gorilla and kill the animals because they feel threatened.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited yesterday a camp for displaced people in Niger, where he appealed for humanitarian and military aid for an impoverished country battling religious militants. Guterres travelled to the camp at Ouallam in the southwest of the country on the fourth day of a trip to West Africa delayed by the crisis in Ukraine. He met with several dozen displaced people and refugees from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in a school courtyard at the camp. Guterres said he had chosen to end his two-day visit to Niger “with the martyred population of Ouallam”, a town in the Tillaberi border region which has been badly hit by religious militants. “You can count on me to call on the international community to provide strong support for the Nigerien army so that it is better able to protect you,” he said. He also appealed for help for the Nigerien people and refugees, providing resources that opened the way for “schools for everyone and hospitals which work”. Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali are struggling with a religious insurgency that erupted in northern Mali in 2012 and spread to its neighbours three years later. Thousands of people have lost their lives and more than 2mn have fled their homes, in three countries that rank among the poorest in the world. In the case of Niger, the country is facing a dual security crisis. The southwest has been hit by religious militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, while the southeast is suffering from raids from northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009. Guterres noted that Mali and Burkina Faso had suffered military coups in 2020 in 2022 – events triggered by deepening anger at failures to end the insurgency. “Niger must be a wall that the terrorists cannot cross,” he said. Reiterating remarks he made on Monday, he called for “investment” in the country’s armed forces, which he said were not sufficiently equipped to fight the religious militants. Guterres, this time without being escorted by journalists, paid a long visit to Nigerien special forces at their base in Ouallam, who are being helped by the French and US military. Niger has around a quarter of a million of internally-displaced people, in addition to 264,000 Nigerian and Malian refugees and 13,000 from Burkina, according to UN figures. The country is also struggling from food shortages as a result of a drought and the impact from religious militant attacks on village farming. More than 4.4mn people, or around one-fifth of the population, are likely to experience severe food insecurity from July, according to the authorities. Guterres began his African tour on Saturday in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. He winds it up today with a visit to Nigeria.
Clashes between rival groups in Sudan's Darfur killed at least 168 people on Sunday, an aid group said, in the latest bout of deadly violence to hit the restive region. Darfur, which was ravaged by civil war that erupted in 2003, has seen a spike in deadly conflict since October last year triggered by disputes mainly over land, livestock and access to water and grazing. The latest fighting erupted on Friday in the Krink region of West Darfur, said Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, an independent aid group. "At least 168 people were killed on Sunday and 98 wounded," said Regal, voicing fears that the death toll could rise. The violence broke out when armed tribesmen attacked villages of the non-Arab Massalit minority in retaliation for the killing of two tribesmen, the aid group said. At least eight people were killed on Friday, it added. On Sunday, a tribal leader from the Massalit minority described seeing multiple bodies in villages of the Krink region, which lies some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from West Darfur's provincial capital, Geneina. Medics from the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors warned of "catastrophic" health conditions in West Darfur, saying that several hospitals were attacked in the violence. - 'Janjaweed' blamed - The International Committee of the Red Cross called on authorities to ensure the safe arrival of the wounded to hospitals. The United Nations special representative Volker Perthes condemned the killings and called for a probe. Images posted online on Sunday showed burning houses sending plumes of thick black smoke to the sky, while others showed round patches of scorched earth where huts had stood before they were set alight. AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the images. On Sunday, the aid group accused the Arab Janjaweed militiamen of orchestrating the latest attacks. The mainly Arab militia gained notoriety in the early 2000s for its role in the repression of an ethnic minority rebellion in Darfur. Many of its members have since been integrated into the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, de facto deputy leader of Sudan, according to rights groups. Regal said the militiamen had in recent weeks "committed killings, burning, lootings, and torture without mercy". The conflict that erupted in 2003 pitted ethnic minority rebels who complained of discrimination against the Arab-dominated government of then-president Omar al-Bashir. Bashir's government responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, who were blamed for atrocities including murder, rape, looting and burning villages. The fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to UN figures The main conflict has subsided across much of Darfur but the region remains awash with weapons and deadly clashes often erupt mainly over access to pasture or water. Bashir was ousted in April 2019 following months-long mass protests against his rule. He remains wanted by the International Criminal Court over his role in the Darfur conflict. In recent months, scores of people have been killed and hundreds of houses torched in several bouts of violence in Darfur, according to the UN and medics. The latest violence has reflected a broader security breakdown in Darfur following last year's military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, that derailed a transition to full civilian rule following Bashir's ouster.
Former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, who led the East African nation for more than a decade, has died, his successor Uhuru Kenyatta announced yesterday. He was 90. “It is a sad day for us as a country. We have lost a great leader,” Kenyatta said in an address on state television. Kenyan politicians, African leaders and former colonial ruler Britain were among those to send their condolences. Kibaki, a veteran politician whose career dated back to the birth of independent Kenya, served as the country’s third president from December 2002 to April 2013, taking over from the authoritarian rule of Daniel Arap Moi. His rule saw the most violent election in Kenya’s history when more than 1,100 people died in bloody ethnic battles after disputed 2007 polls, but he also oversaw the adoption of a new constitution with reforms aimed at preventing such unrest. Kibaki left a legacy of strong growth in the regional economic powerhouse, launching major infrastructure projects and boosting the struggling health and education sectors. But his rule was also marred by rampant government corruption and his lavish spending on flagship projects contributed to the country’s debt mountain. Kibaki had kept a low profile since leaving office, making few public appearances. Details about his death have not been officially disclosed. However his health had fluctuated since a serious car accident in 2002 and he had been in and out of hospital in recent years. Kenyatta said a state funeral would be held, without giving a date. He also ordered a period of national mourning from yesterday until sunset on the day he is buried, with all flags on public buildings to be flown at half-mast. “As a leading figure in Kenya’s post-independence history...Kibaki earned the biding respect and affection of the people of this nation,” Kenyatta said. “President Kibaki will be forever remembered as the gentleman of Kenyan politics, a brilliant debater whose eloquence, wit, and charm won the day time-and-time again.” Tributes also came from across Kenya and the African continent, from Burundi to Zambia, as well as regional blocs.
A tanker carrying 750 tonnes of diesel fuel from Egypt to Malta sank yesterday off Tunisia’s southeast coast, but officials said a large spill would likely be avoided. The crew of the Xelo vessel had issued a distress call on Friday evening and sought shelter in Tunisian waters from bad weather before going down in the Gulf of Gabes in the morning, the authorities said. Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui, who travelled to the port of Gabes yesterday to help oversee the response, said the situation was “under control”. “We think the hull is still watertight and there is no leakage for the moment,” she said. “We think that the means we already have at our disposal will allow us to limit the accident,” she said, adding that the government would not hesitate to appeal for foreign assistance if necessary. The district court in Gabes said it had opened an investigation into the accident. Court spokesman Mohamed Karray said the tanker had issued a distress call before it “sunk this morning in Tunisian territorial waters”. The Equatorial Guinea-flagged Xelo was headed from the Egyptian port of Damietta to Malta when it requested entry to Tunisian waters. The tanker is 58 metres long and nine metres wide, according to ship monitoring website vesseltracker.com. It began taking water around seven kilometres offshore in the Gulf of Gabes and the engine room was engulfed, according to the Tunisian environment ministry. It said Tunisian authorities evacuated the seven-member crew. The environment minister said authorities were waiting for the “weather to improve in terms of both the wind and the swell before sending down divers to check with more certainty on the state of the hull”. The weather was still too poor to start yesterday, Chikhaoui added. As a precaution, protective booms to contain any oil slick have been placed in the water around the wreck under the supervision of the military. Court spokesman Karray said the Georgian captain, four Turks and two Azerbaijanis were briefly hospitalised for checks and were now in a hotel. The defence, interior, transport and customs ministries were working to avoid “a marine environmental disaster in the region and limit its impact”, the environment ministry said. Before the ship sank, the ministry had described the situation as “alarming” but “under control”. The Gulf of Gabes was traditionally a fishing area but activists say it has suffered from pollution from phosphate processing industries based nearby and the presence of a pipeline bringing oil from southern Tunisia. The last maritime accident involving the country was in October 2018, when Tunisian freighter Ulysse slammed into the Cyprus-based Virginia anchored about 30 kilometres off the northern tip of the French island of Corsica, sending hundreds of tonnes of fuel spilling into the Mediterranean. It took several days of maritime manoeuvres to disentangle the boats and pump some 520 cubic metres of propulsion fuel, which had escaped tanks.
Rains that have killed around 400 people and left thousands homeless in South Africa this week began pounding the east coast again yesterday, threatening more flooding and forcing many to take refuge in community centres and town halls. The heavy downpours in Kwazulu-Natal Province have already knocked out power lines, shut off water services and disrupted operations at one of Africa’s busiest ports of Durban, the main eastern coastal city. In Umlazi, one of the country’s largest townships, south of Durban, flood victims huddled under blankets in a community hall, while others formed long queues for handouts of food and water donated by charities. “What makes me angry is that this situation is always happening,” Mlungeli Mkokelwa, a 53-year-old man who arrived at the settlement a decade ago to look for work that he never found, told Reuters TV. “Our possessions keep getting destroyed by continuous floods that should be addressed by authorities. No one ever comes back with a plan to solve it.” Climate change activists are calling for investments to help communities around the world better prepare for worsening weather, as Africa’s southeastern coast is expected to see more violent storms and floods in the coming decades linked to human emissions of heat-trapping gases. While the east coast suffers more violent rainstorms, other drier parts of the country have in recent years been hit with devastating floods, also blamed on climate change, that have wiped out crops and led to water rationing. The latest rains, which have left at least 40,000 people with no shelter, power or water this week, are expected to continue until early next week. “We’ve got no water, no electricity, even our phones are dead. We’re stuck,” said Gloria Linda, sheltering under a large umbrella by a muddy road in her Kwandengezi township, about 30 kilometres inland from Durban, before meandering down a dirt track to a funeral of a friend killed by the floods. Elsewhere in Kwandengezi, a family stood in the rain looking at their collapsed metal shack, one of several homes that lay in ruins. State broadcaster SABC said yesterday the death toll was now 398, with 27 people still missing. In places wrecked by flooding, many relatives were searching only to recover victims’ bodies for burial.