12 African stories this week that you will not enjoy reading

From aborted presidential meetings and shocking airport battles, to spoilsport militants and railway thieves: the continent's best of the worst.

176 teachers killed by Boko Haram since 2011

The merciless Nigerian militants came to international notoriety in April after they abducted 276 school girls from the north-eastern Chibok area, most of whom remain missing. 

The group, whose name loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden”, has set about living up to it, with a senior politician laying bare the horrifying statistics before a committee attempting to make school’s safer. 

Some 900 schools have been destroyed by the militants since they intensified attacks in 2011, and 176 teachers killed, the governor of the troubled Borno state Kashim Shettima told the Safe Schools Initiative this week. 

Read: Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants boost the one thing they hate most: Western education

Ethiopian bloggers near three months in jail

The lawyer for six Ethiopian bloggers and three journalists is filing a civil suit against the country’s police for holding them without charge since April. 

The government accuses them of “serious crimes” including, allegedly, having links with outlawed groups and planning attacks in the country. 

The bloggers are part of the collective Zone Nine, proclaiming “we blog because we care!” 

Ethiopia holds national elections next May and critics accuse the authorities of working to silence dissent.

The trial for the bloggers and journalists is expected to resume on August 4.

Fourteen Tunisian troops killed in deadliest attack on army

Suspected jihadists killed 14 Tunisian soldiers near the Algerian border, in the worst such attack in the army’s history as it presses a crackdown on radical Islamists.

The attack took place in the Mount Chaambi region on Wednesday evening as the soldiers were breaking their day-long Ramadan fast.

The defence ministry said 40 to 60 “terrorists”, a term used to refer to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, opened fire on twin army posts with machine-guns and grenade launchers.

Fourteen soldiers died, 18 were wounded and another went missing, making it the heaviest toll inflicted on the army since Tunisia’s independence in 1956, the ministry said.

Goodluck Jonathan’s long-awaited meeting aborts

A long-anticipated meeting between Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan and parents of missing school girls failed to take place this week. 

The meeting had been brokered by Pakistani teenage star girl education campaigner Malala Yousafzai who met the under-pressure Nigerian leader to press for their release. 

It was unclear what happened, with some reports suggesting the parents refused to meet Jonathan, demanding he either meets all of them or travels to the hostpot Chibok area. 

Jonathan claimed the meeting had been politicised by activist elements of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. He is now seeking to borrow $1 billion to upgrade the country’s security forces to help battle the marauding Boko Haram extremists, who have launched several attacks this year.   

READ: 17-year-old Malala wades into Nigerian girls saga, and into Jonathan’s grateful hands

Libya airport fighting stokes failed state fears 

Nothing shocks Libyans much these days, but five days of heavy fighting for control of the country’s main airport has left many blinking in disbelief.

All through the week rival militias turned Tripoli International Airport into a battlefield, fuelling fears that the fragile country was at the point of turning into a failed state. 

Rattled Tripoli authorities have loudly hinted at seeking the support of international forces to help restore order following the weak central government’s fledgling efforts to maintain control in the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s fall and demise in 2011. 

One militia group has offered peace talks, with Libyans hoping its rival takes up the offer.

South Sudan leaders attract UN Security Council wrath

Warring rivals President Salva Kiir and his former deputy-turned-foe Riek Machar only last month signed an agreement that agreed to end fighting, complete peace negotiations within two days and form a transitional government. 

But the talks have since stalled, and the reports to the UN said both parties were recruiting and acquiring weapons in violation of the June 10 deal. 

The UN Security Council says it’s now ready to consider “appropriate measures” against the two sides if they do not stop the violence.  Thousands have died since fighting broke out in December, with an estimated 1.3 million displaced and facing famine. 

Only 8,100 peacekeepers are on the ground against an agreed 12,500. 

READ: Despite talks, in South Sudan both leaders believe each could win on the battlefield

Islamic militants threaten to rain on Hollande’s party

France President Francois Hollande is in Africa for a three nation tour that takes him to Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and Niger. 

The trip has been packaged as being heavy on economic ties, but the French leader will be as much on a security mission, with a 3,000 strong counter-terrorism force recently launched in the region, as France reorganises its Mali troops.

The continuing challenge will have been presented by the killing of a French soldier in northern Mali, for which the Al-Qaeda spin off Al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility.

Hollande said the attack proved there were still risks in the area. It was the ninth death of a French soldier since Paris intervened to chase back Malian serparatists at the beginning of last year. 

Read: Hollande’s Africa tour could extend sphere of influence into Nigeria

Ugandan street kids ‘abused by policemen’, Kenya’s cops torment Somalis

new Human Rights Watch report says street children in the east African country are victims of constant abuse, from beatings and extortion to sexual assault.

HRW urged Uganda authorities to instead focus in improving the lives of the street children, who fear the police instead of looking up to them for protection. 

Ugandan officials in reaction said police only used minimum force despite some of the children being “hard-core criminals”. 

One study estimates there are 10,000 street children in Uganda.  HRW called on the government to treat them with dignity and seek ways to safely get them off the streets.

The Ugandan Police counterparts in Kenya, were equally as bad. The Kenyan police too came in for a rapping from the pressure group, following the release of an oversight report that documented widespread abuses during “Usalama Watch”, a counter-terrorism operation that came in the wake of a spate of terror attacks but that HRW says targeted the Somali community. 

HRW said the report, while “not perfect”, underscored the need for police reforms and an end to impunity within security forces.

South African thieves pinch railway track

South African thieves have been hard at work over the last few months, stealing close to 10 kilometres of working railway track, the country’s media reported. 

The damage caused is estimated at $2.3 million, with authorities terming the robbers  “experts” given the need for specialised machinery in carrying out rail line theft.  

The most affected route is one used by trains from Johannesburg to the town of Nigel. Some 34 spanking new train cars have been left stranded, with wider fears of job losses in the hundreds. 

READ: Sometimes, to understand Africa, you need to study what its thieves steal the most

Africa outflows—legal or not—reach $58 billion annually

A new report by a group of non-governmental organisations has attempted to put a figure to the amount lost from the region either as debt repayment or through illicit activities. 

It found that while $134 billion came into the continent each year, mainly as loans and Foregn Direct Investment FDI), some $192 billion went out through transfer pricing, profit repatriation by multinationals and climate change mitigation costs.

Martin Drewery, the director of Health Poverty Action, one of the report authors, said the figures exposed the “gross misconceptions about aid and charity” in Africa, preferring to call it “sustained looting”.

The study wants an overhaul of the aid system. 

Millions unaware of HIV-positive status

The United Nations this week released the first ever UNAIDS Gap Report.  The report had a number of good things in it, including the fact that almost 90% of sub-Saharan Africans who tested positive had access to life-prolonging treatment.

It also said that the Aids epidemic could b “history” by 2030, while showing a downward trend in AIDS-related deaths. 

It however also warned that 19 million of the 35 million people living with the virus globally do not know, and changing this would be crucial to this effort. 

“Whether you live or not should not depend on access to an HIV test, “ Michel Sidibe, the UNAIDS executive director said. With just three countries—Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda accounting for half of all new infections on the continent, this needs to change. 

READ: African can win HIV/AIDS war: Epidemic could be history by 2030

Central Africa could be worse than we thought

At some point agencies stopped counting the number of people killed in the conflagration in the Central African Republic: it was either too dangerous or too grim. 

A new survey by Doctors Without Borders (MSF-Medecins San Frontieres) showed just how bad it was—nearly 2,600 people were killed in the six months to April this year. 

Earlier estimates had talked of under half of this count in fighting pitting mostly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and mostly Christian anti-balaka militias. 

The number of internally displaced is now at 600,000. The Muslim population in Bangui alone has dropped from 138,000 to 900. 

In some good news of sorts, the peacekeeping force for the country is set to rise to nearly 10,000, and will beef up the 6,000 African troops already there, working at a “significantly superior” level. 

READ: CAR peaceforce rises to 10,000 as new survey says deaths ‘underestimated’  

Footnote: You would think it easy to find “bad” African stories. It is not—preparing this list took some rummaging and scrounging around. Who said Africa is all about bad news?


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