Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Business and Economy

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The death toll from a mudslide and flooding that struck Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown has reached 441, the government said on Saturday. 

“Four hundred and forty-one corpses (were) buried as at yesterday,” the deputy minister of information and communication, Cornelius Deveaux, told AFP, adding that the number of missing was “still being calculated.”

A tally of deaths, issued on Friday by the Red Cross, had stood at more than 400, with around 600 others listed as missing.

At Connaught Hospital, morgue worker Mohamed Sinneh Kamara gave a slightly higher toll than the minister’s.

“We buried 50 more bodies on Friday. We have so far buried 450 corpses,” he told AFP. “Most of the bodies were found decomposed and families were not allowed to identify (them).”

He added: “We’re receiving calls from disaster-hit communities every three to four hours about a corpse found in a drainage or under a collapsed building.”

Three more bodies were found in a search for survivors in the Regent district, where the side of a hill collapsed, the emergency services said.

The disaster struck on Monday after Freetown, home to 1.2 million people and the capital of one of the world’s poorest countries, had been pounded for three days by torrential rain.

According to the charity Save the Children, the disaster killed 122 children and left 123 orphaned.

The Red Cross has issued an emergency funding appeal. Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, has pledged £5 million ($6.45 million, 5.45 million euros), while China has pledged $1 million (850,000 euros) and Togo $500,000.

Water-borne diseases such as cholera and malaria are a major fear.

“This is a potential health hazard. That’s why we need to continue the operations to ensure that we remove as much dead bodies as possible,” said Colonel Abu Bakarr Sidique Bah of the Sierra Leone armed forces.

But the search for victims has been arduous, especially in the Regent neighbourhood.

“It is actually thousands of tonnes of rubble that have fallen… (down) the hill… And the inclement weather, the rain, has also made it very difficult for equipment to move within the affected area,” he said.

Flooding is an annual menace in Sierra Leone, where ramshackle homes are regularly swept away by seasonal rains. In 2015, floods killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 21:20 Written by

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected back in Nigeria today Saturday 19th of August 2019.

The President had left Nigeria since May 7th to meet up with follow up consultation with his doctors in the United Kingdom.

A statement by the Special Adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, reads ‘The President had left the country on May 7, this year, after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has functioned as Acting President since then.

“President Buhari is expected to speak to Nigerians in a broadcast by 7 a.m on Monday, August 21, 2017.

“He thanks all Nigerians who have prayed ceaselessly for his recovery and well-being since the beginning of the health challenge, ” it stated

The President had left the country on May 7, this year, after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has functioned as Acting President since then.

He returned in March to announce to his countrymen that he had never felt so ill in his life.

It would be recalled that President Buhari left Nigeria on May 7 for another round of medical attention two months after his return from similar medical vacation, the same day he received 82 Chibok Girls freed by Boko Haram.

While away in London, President Buhari received a number of visitors, beginning with the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who first hinted Nigerians about the President’s massive recovery.

After him came a stream of visitors, that included leaders of the All Progressives Congress, state governors, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the leaders of the National Assembly, Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara. His last visitor on Friday was Pastor Enoch Adeboye, leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

After his visit, Saraki announced confidently that Buhari’s return was imminent.

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 11:04 Written by

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo attends the inauguration of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda in Kigali, the country's capital city, August 18th, 2017.

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 01:27 Written by

Zimbabwe's government has sought diplomatic immunity for President Robert Mugabe's wife in the assault case against her in South Africa, South Africa's police ministry has said.

Grace Mugabe was still in South Africa, it added, contradicting earlier reports that she had returned to Zimbabwe.

A 20-year-old South African model has accused Mrs Mugabe of assaulting her at a hotel in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Police expected Mrs Mugabe, 52, to turn herself in on Tuesday, but she did not.

Zimbabwe's government had invoked "diplomatic immunity cover" for her, the ministry said in a statement.

However, South Africa still wanted to make sure that she was "processed through the legal system", the ministry added.

Discussions were taking place with Mrs Mugabe's lawyers and the Zimbabwean High Commission over the issue, it said.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee earlier, South Africa's acting police chief Lesetja Mothiba said that Mrs Mugabe "must go to court".

 
Grace Mugabe is accused of assaulting a woman

She has not commented since police began investigating her over the alleged assault.


South Africa's diplomatic dilemma

Farouk Chothia, BBC Africa

South Africa's government risks a public backlash if it lets Mrs Mugabe go scot-free.

This happened in 2015, when it failed to execute an international arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir who was wanted by the International Criminal Court.

South Africa's government argued that he qualified for diplomatic immunity, but the country's judges disagreed. The government was then strongly criticised for undermining the rule of law.

It seems that the government wants to avoid a similar backlash and is therefore insisting that Mrs Mugabe must appear in court.

But by taking such an approach it risks a diplomatic row with Zimbabwe's government - a staunch ally whom it has resolutely defended over the years despite international criticism of President Robert Mugabe's human rights record.

So the two governments are bound to be in talks to resolve the crisis over Mrs Mugabe.

One option being mentioned in the South African media is that Mrs Mugabe should plead guilty during a short court appearance, and pay a fine.

But it is unclear whether Mr and Mrs Mugabe - known for their uncompromising nature - will agree to this, especially after Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party said in a tweet on Tuesday that the first lady was "attacked", contradicting the version of her accuser.


Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the first lady was a "total disgrace and a complete national embarrassment".

"She has to be brought to order and indeed she has to appreciate that she is not a law unto herself," it added in a statement.

Confusion surrounded the case, with South Africa's Police Minister Fikile Mbalula saying at one point on Tuesday that Mrs Mugabe had handed herself over to police and would appear in court.

She did not appear and police later said she had agreed to turn herself in but then failed to do so.

Police opened a case of assault against Mrs Mugabe after the model, Gabriella Engels, accused her of hitting her over the head with an extension cord.

The alleged assault took place after Mrs Mugabe found her with the first lady's two sons, Robert and Chatunga, in a hotel room in Sandton, a wealthy suburb north of Johannesburg, on Sunday evening.

Mrs Mugabe's sons, who are both in their 20s, live in South Africa.

The first lady was in South Africa to be treated for an ankle injury when the alleged assault took place, Zimbabwean media reported.

Ms Engels released an image of a head injury online.

Photo posted by Gabriella EngelsImage copyrightGABRIELLA ENGELS
Gabriella Engels says she was beaten with an extension cord

"When Grace entered I had no idea who she was," she told South African broadcaster News24.

"She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it. She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised. I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.

"There was blood everywhere," she added. "Over my arms, in my hair, everywhere."

She registered a "case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm", police said.


Who is Grace Mugabe?

Grace Mugabe addressing her maiden political rally in Chinhoyi October 2, 2014Image copyrightREUTERS
  • Began an affair with Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior, while working as a typist in state house
  • Mr Mugabe later said his first wife Sally, who was terminally ill at the time, knew and approved of the relationship
  • Married Mr Mugabe, her second husband, in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony. They have three children
  • Nicknamed "Gucci Grace" by her critics, who accuse her of lavish spending
  • Along with her husband, is subject to EU and US sanctions, including travel bans
  • Praised by supporters for her charitable work and founding of an orphanage
  • Received a PhD in September 2014, a month after being nominated to take over the leadership of the Zanu-PF women's league
Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 23:07 Written by

At least 600 people are still missing following a mudslide and flooding that devastated parts of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, a spokesman for the president has told the BBC.

President Ernest Bai Koroma earlier pleaded for "urgent support", saying entire communities had been wiped out.

Nearly 400 people are confirmed dead after a mudslide in the Regent area and floods elsewhere in Freetown on Monday.

The Red Cross has warned it is a race against time to find survivors.

A mass burial of victims is planned on Wednesday to free up space in mortuaries.

Presidential spokesman Abdulai Baraytay told the BBC that bodies were still being pulled from the mud and rubble.

"The entire community is now in mourning. Loved ones are still missing, well over 600 people," he said.

 
Sierra Leone mudslides: Rescue and recovery operation in Freetown

The UN said its teams in Sierra Leone had mobilised and were supporting rescue efforts.

"Contingency plans are being put in place to mitigate any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Homes in the hilltop community of Regent were engulfed after part of Sugar Loaf mountain collapsed following heavy rain early on Monday. Many victims were asleep in bed when disaster struck.

President Koroma fought back tears as he toured Regent on Monday and said the devastation was "overwhelming us".

"Entire communities have been wiped out. We need urgent support now," he said.

Map shows the location of the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown

He urged people to stay away from the affected areas.

"This tragedy of great magnitude has once again challenged us to come together, to stand by each other and to help one another," he said.

Flooding is not unusual in Sierra Leone, where unsafe housing in makeshift settlements can be swept away by heavy rains.

The rains often hit areas in and around Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of more than one million people.

Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 11:41 Written by

Three female suicide bombers have carried out an attack that has killed at least 27 people in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.

Dozens were injured when the women blew themselves up outside a refugee camp near Maiduguri in Borno state - a stronghold of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

There has been an upsurge in violence in the city in recent months.

Boko Haram has been fighting to set up an Islamic state since 2009.

A report published by US anti-terrorist researchers last week said it is the first insurgency in history to use more women suicide bombers than men.

Baba Kura, a member of a vigilante force set up to fight the jihadists, told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the first bomber blew herself up near the camp, triggering panic.

"People were trying to close their shops when two other female bombers triggered their explosives, causing most of the casualties," he said.

Last year, Nigeria's government said that Boko Haram had been defeated.

But correspondents say that the army is failing to stop the attacks, and people have continued to flee their homes in Borno State and poured into camps.

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Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 01:40 Written by

There was drama at the Edo State House of Assembly on Monday when the Speaker of the House, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, was impeached, following an impeachment notice signed by 16 out of the 24 members of the assembly.

Okonoboh was replaced with Mr. Kabiru Adjoto, while Mr. Victor Edoror emerged as his deputy.

The new leadership of the House said Okonoboh; his deputy, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie; and the House Major Leader, Mr. Foly Ogedengbe, were suspended for three months.

Since its inauguration in June 2015, the Edo State House of Assembly has been led by no fewer than four speakers.

But Ogedengbe rejected the impeachment, describing it as illegal, contending that the House did not form a quorum.

“An illegal impeachment was moved today by a group of 11 people parading themselves to be 16. But they did not have that number.

“The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly has made a pronouncement on those persons and they stand suspended; so, shall it be,” he added.

When asked if the development was related to an impeachment scare in May, Ogedengbe said, “Yes. Yes, it is.”

The House had only reconvened after 26 days of break for oversight functions when the incident occurred.

It was gathered that at the resumption of plenary on Monday, a member, Emmanuel Agbaje, read a letter on the floor of the House, passing a vote of no confidence in Okonoboh as the Speaker.

The member representing Etsako West II, Mr. Sylvanus Eruaga, was said to have, thereafter, asked Okonoboh to vacate the exalted seat of the Speaker, a development that was said to have led to a free-for-all among some of the lawmakers in the chambers.

Okonoboh was, however, said to have left the seat after much pressure, paving the way for Eruaga to sit as the Speaker pro tempore.

 Efforts by another member of the House, Magnus Igbas, to prevent the removal of Okonoboh was vehemently resisted by some of his colleagues, who descended on him.

It was also learnt that Adjoto was later elected as the new Speaker, after he was nominated by Eruaga.

Staff members of the Assembly were locked out while the impeachment proceedings lasted.

There was also a heavy presence of security operatives with several police Hilux vans around the premises, so as to prevent further breakdown of law and order.

Addressing journalists, Adjoto said that the decision to effect a change in the leadership of the House became necessary following the alleged incompetence of Okonoboh.

The new Speaker accused his predecessor of desecrating the state parliament by running the House as a private affair.

But Okonoboh declined comments on the matter as he was led by his aides and security details into a waiting vehicle that sped off immediately at about 11.56am.

However, Adjoto explained, “But we discovered that for selfish reasons, the ex-Speaker would adjourn proceedings in the House, either because his wife was marking her birthday or his son was graduating from the Covenant University or the son is going to the NYSC camp and he wants to throw a party for his son. Between June and July, we have worked for just three weeks; he adjourned the House for more than six weeks.

“Today (Monday) is August 14, and we are just resuming. Then, the House is expected to adjourn again next week for another four weeks for the normal holiday. Is that a normal parliament? All of us came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’

“The institution deserves to be protected above the interest of an individual. The ex-Speaker’s wife, like I said earlier, has turned herself into the 25th member of the House of Assembly to the extent that anything we discussed at the executive session, the wife would hear and start calling our wives to tell them what was discussed.

“The wife uses the Speaker’s convoy as if she is Mr. Speaker and at random. The other day, the wife and the son took the convoy to the NYSC camp. When the soldiers and policemen there saw that it was coming, they all stood, hoping that they would see Mr. Speaker, only to see the wife and the son coming out of the vehicle. That is desecration of the parliament.”

Adjoto, who also accused Okonoboh of flouting due process by allegedly awarding contracts to himself, noted that the three-month suspension of the affected members would subsist to enable a committee chaired by Edoror to investigate their conduct.

He added, “Mr. Speaker is not supposed to be a contractor at all. But we discovered that he awards contracts to himself without due process. We have cautioned him several times but he refused to listen to our advice.

 “He just came back from the United States of America where he claimed he visited eight states. He was telling us, joyfully, how he toured America, whereas, he shut down the House. We are not supposed to go on holidays, but because you were going to America to have a party for your son that graduated, you shut down the House, stopping us from working for Edo people.”

Meanwhile, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has held a peace meeting with warring members of the state House of Assembly over Okonoboh’s impeachment.

Present at the closed-door meeting, which was held at the state secretariat of the All Progressives Congress on Airport Road in Benin, were the Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu; the state Chairman of the APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua; and other chieftains of the party.

Although Obaseki did not grant any interview after the meeting which lasted for about two hours and ended at about 5.35pm, the state chairman of the APC told journalists that consultations were still ongoing.

Ojezua said that deliberations on what transpired at the House of Assembly were still on, adding that the resolution would be made public at the appropriate time.

“Let me just say that we have started talking and hope that we can resolve the issue very soon,” he stated.

 When asked if the change of leadership in the House of Assembly would remain, the APC Chairman said, “I said we are discussing. When we resolve, we will make a statement. When we finish, we will address the press.”

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 01:37 Written by

Kenya's opposition has accused the government of "state terror" and vowed to overturn a "sham" result.

Senior opposition official James Orengo said they would not go to court to achieve this. He urged people to stay calm and out of harm's way.

Mr Orengo alleged that about 100 people had been killed by the Kenyan security forces but did not offer evidence.

Official results gave President Uhuru Kenyatta 54.3%. His challenger Raila Odinga called the election a "charade".

"They knew they were going to steal an election. They knew the people would be unhappy. Therefore all the instruments of violence were put in place," Mr Orengo said.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) meanwhile said 24 people had been shot dead by police during protests.


Hope for return to normality - BBC's Alastair Leithead in Nairobi

Protester in KiberaImage copyrightEPA

What Kenya needs right now is strong leadership. From the government side, that means ensuring security forces don't use excessive force while containing protest.

The opposition National Super Alliance needs to send a clear message to their supporters not to use violence. But in a media conference, lacking the most senior alliance leaders, they said only that people should "stay out of harms way".

They seem lacking in direction and united only by the statement: "We will not be cowed. We will not relent".

They still do not accept the results of the election, but have not yet provided strong evidence for why they believe the elections was rigged, or for the large number of people they claim have been killed.

The clashes are intense but isolated. There is nothing like the level of anger or violence that sparked the killings ten years ago and many Kenyans hope they can return to normal life as soon as possible.


The victims included a nine-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet in a Nairobi's Mathere slum.

A man was also killed in Kisumu county, an opposition stronghold and the centre of post-election ethnic violence in 2007, when 1,200 people died and 600,000 were displaced.

 
The BBC's Emmanuel Igunza says there is an "uneasy calm" in Kisumu

Earlier the Elections Observation Group (Elog), which had 8,300 observers, said its projected outcome put Mr Kenyatta on 54%, just short of the official figure of 54.3%

But Mr Orengo questioned Elog's independence.

Kenya's acting interior minister Fred Matiang'i has urged people to return to their normal lives and called for Kenyans to use social media responsibly.

Mr Matiang'i said most areas were calm but there had been some violence which he blamed on criminals.

Odinga supporters in mathareImage copyrightEPA
Image captionOpposition supporters have been confronting police in Nairobi's Mathare slum
Woman shelters behind police during clashes in Kibera slumImage copyrightREUTERS
Violence also broke out in Kibera slum

Mr Kenyatta has urged peace. "We have seen the results of political violence. And I am certain that there is no single Kenyan who would wish for us to go back to this," he said.

Ahead of the results, Mr Odinga had called on his supporters to remain calm, but added that he did not control anyone, and that "people want to see justice".

Rights group Amnesty International has called for the Kenyan authorities to investigate the killings.


Kenyan media reacts - BBC Monitoring

Kenya newspapersImage copyrightEPA

All major newspapers in Kenya agreed that the president's first duty should be to heal the divisions that were exposed during the election.

The Star newspaper said the extent of Mr Kenyatta's victory "was surprising, even shocking, but we should accept it and move on. Kenya deserves peace and development".

On local radio, pro-ruling party stations hosted jubilant callers. On Radio Nam Lolwe, which broadcasts to opposition areas, a caller spoke of "heartbreaking" scenes where protests had turned violent, saying: "Let us desist from violence and preach peace".

Ramogi FM radio, which broadcasts in the Luo language of defeated candidate Raila Odinga, played gospel music - a break from the usual Saturday discussion programmes.

Posted On Saturday, 12 August 2017 20:54 Written by

 

A woman carrying her baby walks through the temporary shelters provided by the Mission for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in one of the hosting communities in Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria on December 7, 2016.Image copyrightAFP
The UN has been providing aid to those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency

Nigeria's security forces have raided a UN camp in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri and carried out an unauthorised search, a UN official has told the BBC.

Samantha Newport, of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says the search lasted nearly three hours.

The UN is urgently seeking answers from the authorities.

The base provides aid to those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Lagos says one possible reason for the search could be the camp's name - Red Roof.

Rumours have been swirling in Maiduguri that the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has been hiding out in a compound with the same name.

map

Edward Kallon, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria has expressed grave concern following the search.

Mr Kallon says that he is extremely concerned that the actions by the security forces could be "detrimental to the critical work that is being carried out every day to support the most vulnerable in the region".

The UN ordered local staff to work from home today following the incident.

It also said it grounded helicopters - which provide humanitarian assistance to far - flung camps - as a precautionary measure.

Posted On Friday, 11 August 2017 23:39 Written by
 

South Africa's main opposition party submitted a motion to dissolve the nation's parliament on Thursday, which, if passed, would require fresh national elections.

“The ANC is willing to do anything to protect President Jacob Zuma,” said John Steenhuisen, chief whip of the Democratic Alliance party. “South Africans need to be given the opportunity to make their voices heard at the polls.”

The dissolution motion comes hot on the heels of a no confidence vote which Zuma narrowly survived earlier this week.

The dissolution attempt, which requires 201 out of 400 parliamentary votes to pass, is seen as unlikely to succeed as the ANC holds a majority of 249 of the house's seats.

The motion says the some ANC lawmakers “no longer represent the earnest hopes and aspirations of the electorate” and “exhibit unquestioning fealty to President Jacob Zuma and to the organization he leads.”

The ANC blasted the DA's move as an attempt to subvert the will of South African voters by trying to dissolve a government that received 62 percent of the national vote in the 2014 polls.

Zuma has survived multiple attempts by the opposition to remove him from power, as he has faced growing anger over multiple allegations of corruption while the economy has slid into recession.

Tuesday's no-confidence motion was the first to be held by secret ballot, and more than 25 members of his ruling party revolted and supported the motion or abstained, the ANC said.

“We are deeply disappointed that some of our ANC members allowed themselves to be used by the opposition to fracture and weaken the ANC and destabilize our country,” the party said in a statement. It did not say how and if it would discipline members who did not tow the party line.

The ANC is expected to replace Zuma as party president at a meeting in December, but his term as head of state is set to continue until elections in 2019.

Posted On Friday, 11 August 2017 04:10 Written by
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