A state of emergency and 12 other quick Africa stories to start your August

Ebola scares, female teenage bombers and contrasting fortunes for opposition leaders are among this week's features.

Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over Ebola

President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared a state of emergency over the deadly Ebola virus, also cancelling a planned trip to the US-Africa summit next week to deal with it. 

“Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures. The Ebola virus disease poses an extraordinary challenge to our nation,” the president said in a televised address to the nation. 

Some 233 Sierra Leoneans have died so far from the illness, as WHO revised totals to 729 dead.

The president also announced a  raft of measures to combat the disease, including quarantining Ebola-hit areas and deploying security forces to protect medical workers.

Public meetings not related to Ebola have also banned, while house-to-house searches to trace and quarantine suspected patients in Ebola hot-spots will be launched.

Ministers and other government officials cannot also go on foreign trips, apart for only “absolutely essential engagements”.

In addition, Monday August 4 will be “National Stay at Home Day.” 

West Africa afraid: The numbers you don’t want to know about Ebola

Uganda activists go to court over anti-gay law

Ugandan petitioners have gone to the country’s Constitutional Court in an attempt to overturn tough anti-gay laws. 

Signed in February, the law calls for homosexuals to be jailed for life, outlaws the “promotion” of homosexuality and obliges Ugandans to denounce gays to the authorities.

The activists argue the law was passed without the necessary quorum in parliament, and that it violates the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, as well as the right to be free from discrimination, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Rights groups say the law has triggered a sharp increase in arrests and assaults of members of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Western nations have also made a raft of aid cuts to Uganda in protest since the law was passed. In what is seen as a sign that the cuts are biting, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and his ministers lately have been saying the “law has been misunderstood”.

Senegal’s flamboyant ‘super-minister’ goes on trial

The flamboyant “super minister” son of former Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade went on trial Thursday accused of accumulating a multi-million dollar fortune through corruption while in office.

Karim Wade, 45, is alledged to have acquired by corrupt means companies and real estate worth almost $240 million (178 million euros) and has been in custody in Dakar for more than a year. Wade, dressed all in white, told the packed Dakar anti-corruption court in his opening statement that he was a “political prisoner”. 

Prosecutors claim the money he made is in tax havens Monaco and Singapore, although his defence claim to have demonstrated that almost half is in a Singapore account which doesn’t belong to Wade. 

His lawyers say the real amount linked to Wade is closer to $2.7 million, a sum he earned legitimately as a European trader before entering government.

Teenage bombers on the rise in Nigeria

A female suicide bomber killed six people at a college campus in Nigeria’s Kano city on Wednesday, the fourth time Boko Haram Islamists were suspected of using a female attacker in as many days.

The latest violence came as the government announced the arrest of a 10-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her chest in a neighbouring area.

Boko Haram is blamed for killing more than 10,000 people since 2009, and their extreme tactics have been denounced worldwide, including on some jihadi websites.

But what appears to be a new tactic of deploying young women and girls as bombers will spur further outrage as Nigeria seems unable to contain the violence.

The chilling trend of deploying young women and girls as bombers comes three-and-a-half months after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok in the northeast.

President Goodluck Jonathan was Thursday set to launch a fund in support of “all those who have been adversely affected by terrorism and insurgency in the country.” He hopes to raise $500 million.

S.Africa shantytown forces anti-apartheid museum to close

South African shantytown residents have forced the closure of a museum honouring anti-apartheid heroes, accusing the authorities of building “a house for dead people” while they live in squalor.

Once a tourist magnet, The Red Location Museum in New Brighton outside the southern city of Port Elizabeth houses hundreds of “memory boxes” containing the life stories of anti-apartheid activists, including the late liberation icon Nelson Mandela.

The modernity of the 22 million Rand ($2 million) building, which won several international architectural awards, stands in total contrast to the plastic and corrugated iron structures which serve as houses for the neighbouring community.

The museum closed nine months ago in the face of threats by residents to assault visitors and efforts to reopen it have been met with violent protests, while it is steadily being looted.

Its website says only that it “is closed due to community protests”, in what is one of the oldest settled black townships of Port Elizabeth.

Like many of the poor around South Africa, the New Brighton residents feel they have not benefited enough from the end of apartheid and the rise to power of the  African National Congress (ANC).

Cameroon leader Paul Biya wields the axe

Cameroon’s president has dismissed two senior army officers deployed in the country’s restive north after at least 15 people died in attacks blamed on Nigeria’s Islamist Boko Haram movement, state radio reported Wednesday.

Paul Biya on Tuesday sacked Lieutenant-Colonel Tchanuo Ngongang, commander of the 34th motorised infantry battalion based at Kousseri, in a region where the armed Islamist group has carried out a series of attacks against Cameroonian civilians and the military.

A presidential decree read by the radio station said Colonel Gedeon Youssa, a gendarmerie commander in the north, was also fired. The two officers had no responsibilities in the town were Sunday’s attacks took place.

No reason was given for Biya’s decision which came after at least 15 people were killed in the two attacks blamed on Boko Haram in Cameroon’s north which borders Nigeria.

The wife of the country’s deputy prime minister was among a dozen people reportedly kidnapped, a security source had said Monday.

Tunisia army chief resigns after deadly attack on soldiers

The head of the Tunisian army, Mohamed Salah Hamdi, has resigned from his position as the highest commander, the Ministry of Defence confirmed Wednesday.

Hamdi’s leaving was for “personal” reasons, according to Defense Minister Ghazi Jeribi. His resignation had been denied by the ministry earlier after several media sources reported the news. 

The army head will be temporarily replaced by the second in charge, following the approval of both President Moncef Marzouki and Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa.

According to private radio Mosaique FM, Hamdi could have left due to the lack of coordination between the army and the air force, especially during recent raiding and sweeping operations against armed “terrorists” near the borders with Algeria.

Two weeks ago, 15 Tunisian soldiers were killed and more injured in an armed attack by a group of gunmen in Kasserine, near the Algerian border, making it one of the country’s deadliest attacks in recent years.

UN backs Somali deal over new administration

The UN secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has welcomed an agreement in principle to form a regional administration in central Somalia.

Under the leadership of the Somali Federal Government, representatives from the region signed a document Wednesday in which they said they would work together to establish a new administration in central Somalia.

The signing was witnessed by envoys and senior representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the Eastern and Horn of Africa regional group Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations. The agreement contains 11 points that pave the way for the creation of new regional state in central Somalia, reports said.

“Kay called this move the first step in a process of state formation in central Somalia and a sign of the country’s progress towards meeting the goals set out in Vision 2016 and the Provisional Federal Constitution,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Kenya takes blood donation to the digital level

Kenyans will soon be aware of their blood donation suitability through an electronically generated short message, as a blood agency readies to monitor its banks using a digital mechanism .

The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS) will from November operate on a digital system that stores donors’ details and their blood safety status.

The software will automatically generate an electronic message that will inform the donor on her or his blood donation status and remind one when to donate, staffers said.

Persons with rare blood groups and who can be contacted during the emergency needs for their particular type of blood will also be identified.

Facebook unveils Internet app, starting in Zambia

Facebook on Thursday unveiled an app to allow people around the world with mobile phones but no Internet access to access online services for health, education and basic communications.

The Internet.org app is being released first in Zambia, and is to be rolled out in other countries where Internet access is lacking or unaffordable, Facebook said.

“Over 85 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30% of the total population accesses the Internet,” Facebook’s Guy Rosen said in a blog post.

“Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to Internet adoption for many and today we are introducing the Internet.org app to make the Internet accessible to more people by providing a set of free basic services.”

The app allows people with Android-powered mobile phones to get free access to services including Wikipedia, Google Search, Facebook, AccuWeather and websites offering health and other services.

Ghana opposition leader launches third presidential bid

Losing 2012 Ghana presidential election candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has promised to rescue the nation from what he calls “the incompetent hands of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC).”

The leader of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) was speaking in Accra at a well-attended launch of his campaign for the party’s presidential ticket for the 2016 elections, his third straight bid.

The former foreign affairs minister said two years into the second term of the NDC government, the “Better Ghana Agenda” promised to Ghanaians by the governing party remained an empty and cynical slogan.

The economy was in a coma and only NPP rule would energise it, he said. The NPP governed Ghana for eight years (from 2001-2009) under former president John Agyekum Kufuor.  

Botswana opposition leader dies in car accident

Botswana opposition party leader Gomolemo Motswaledi died in a motor vehicle accident on Wednesday, police confirmed.

The 44-year-old was a leader of the country’s main opposition party the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a splinter of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

BMD secretary general Wynter Mmolotsi said Motswaledi was travelling alone from South Africa by car when he overturned near the border.

Motswaledi used to be a key member of the ruling BDP until his departure in 2010 to form the BMD. His death comes just three months before Botswana’s national elections in October.

According to the official daily DailyNews on Thursday, Botswana’s President Ian Khama has passed a message of condolences to the Motswaledi family, saying he was shocked at the tragic death of Motswaledi whom he described as “young and full of promise.”

South Africa’s unemployment rate edges up

South Africa’s unemployment rate increased to 25.5% in the second quarter of this year, a 0.3% point rise in comparison with the previous quarter, data showed.

The number of unemployed people increased by 87, 000 over the same period, to 5.2 million, the highest level since the inception of the Statistics South Africa in 2008.     

In the previous three months, there were 5.067 million unemployed people. The expanded definition of unemployment, including people who have stopped looking for work, was at 35.6% in the second quarter from the 35.1% in the first quarter. 

But there was also good news as South African trade unions and employers signed a wage deal this week, with both sides claiming victory.

The agreement, inked in Johannesburg, would see workers get wage increases of between 8-10% depending on whether they were high or low earners.

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