January-April 2015: The story of Africa so far this year...in 20 revealing pictures

The continent will perplex, test you to the limit, but also cheer, as the events into early April months testify.

AFRICA has in recent years been the “happening” place, the new stomping ground of investors and politicians alike - and also serving up its fair share of disappointments too. Many in the region will tell you they have seen much of it before, only the actors have changed. 

And they have—new players such as extremist militants have wreaked havoc while poachers have continued to decimate the continent’s wildlife, while conflicts remain a menace. 

Strongmen are trying to keep their business model alive, but all around, there is evidence of a new story, one of people power as protests against third terms abound, Nigeria’s peaceful election reinforcing African strides, and Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire showing the rule of law is not an alien concept in the region. 

Mother Africa’s sons and daughters have also done her proud—Angelique Kidjo remains evergreen, Tidjane Thiam is shaking up European banking, and Trevor Noah is breaking entertainment barriers.

These 18 pictures, covering some of the bigger or significant stories for the first quarter of 2015, capture part of that journey—both triumphs and challenges. Like the year, much more is yet to come. 


1—Boko Haram terror

The year opened in the worst possible way—-news of a January 3 massacre in north-eastern Nigeria that may just have been the worst ever by terrorists (though not rebel or government armies) on the continent. The jury remains open if 2,000 people were killed, but it is clear that the death toll in Baga ran into the hundreds, victims of Boko Haram militants. It seems it was the attack that finally got the federal government in Abuja to wake up, and take the battle to Boko Haram.

A satellite image of the town of Doro Gowon shows the town before and after the January 2015 Boko Haram attack. Unburnt trees and bushes are shown in red. Photo/ Amnesty International

2—Africa against Charlie Hebdo killings

Six African presidents joined hundreds of thousands others in a unity march against terrorists who struck in Paris in January, starting with a raid on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed. 

It turned out to be poison chalice, because when the leaders went back, with already chequered records on media freedom, they were exposed when their governments banned the circulation of the comeback issue of Charlie with a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

In Niger, angry Muslims torched 45 churches in protests in which five people were killed and several injured.

Gabon president Ali Ben Bongo was one of six African presidents who marched against terrorism, following horror attacks in the French capital claimed 17 lives and wounded nearly 20 others. (Image/Getty)

3—Third term angst

Scores were killed in protests against a perceived bid by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) president Joseph Kabila to stay one once his second term comes to an end in 2016. The reaction forced him to retreat. In Burundi, there is also public concern over an expected third term bid by president Pierre Nkurunziza. 

Police stand guard following demos in Kinshasa on January 12 against president Joseph Kabila’s perceived attempt to go for a third term. (Image/AFP)

4—South Sudan talks pain

Africa’s youngest country has been mired in conflict for nearly half of its independent life, as the protagonists dig in. While talks dragged in luxury hotels, hundreds of thousands continue to suffer. The International Crisis Group estimates that at least 50,000 people have been killed. Rape has become a weapon of war, and thousands of women have been assaulted.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit (L) exchanges documents with rebel leader Riek Machar in Arusha as Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete (C) looks on, January 21, 2015. Several peace deals have failed. (Image/AFP)

5—Soweto looting and xenophobia

South Africa has been in the midst of the worst outbreak of anti-immigrant sentiment in more than half a decade as it seeks solutions to an unemployment problem.

Residents looting a shop owned by foreign nationals on January 22, 2015 in Soweto, South Africa. The looting later spread to other areas in the area. (Image/Getty)

6—Africa Cup of Nations

Despite an Ebola epidemic in the background, Equatorial Guinea stepped in to save the sporting situation, thrilling millions of football fans on the continent. The images out of Malabo were iconic. 

Referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn is shielded from angry Tunisia players by security personnel after he gave Equatorial Guinea a controversial penalty in stoppage time as they beat Tunisia 2-1 in the quarter-finals. (Image/AFP)

7—Defying Ebola

With the Ebola epidemic showing signs of winding down, it has been a long way back.

The fight against Ebola is almost won, figures show. (Image/AFP)

8—Southern Africa’s water pain

Southern Africa is still counting its losses after floods, the worst in half a century, swept away all before them and killed hundreds at the start of the year. Malawi and Mozambique were most affected, with the former hardest hit.

Flooding in Malawi’s most southern district, Nsanje. (Image/Getty)


1—Mugabe’s moment of vulnerability

Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe on February 5 fell in the capital Harare when he appeared to miss a step and toppled. The resulting memes nearly broke the internet. (Youtube)

2—Free speech on the rack

The role of the media came sharply into focus in post-revolution Egypt as three Al Jazeera journalists were accused of helping support terrorism, a charge they vigorously denied. 

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste is kissed by his mother Lois and father Juris) upon his arrival at Brisbane’s international airport in the early hours of February 5. (Images/AFP)

3—Kidjo makes Africa proud

ANGELIQUE Kidjo, one of the most renowned African musicians on the world stage, picked up her second Grammy—and promptly dedicated it to African women.

Singer Angelique Kidjo poses in the press room at the 57th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Image/Getty)

4—IS threat looms large

With presence of the militants in Libya and Tunisia, the continent faces new threats.

In a video posted on jihadist forums, Islamic State terrorists beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya on February 15 in a dark day for the continent.

5—First Lady has her day in court

At the height of her powers, Simone Gbagbo was the real power behind Cote d’Ivoire’s throne. On March 10 she was sentenced to 20 years in jail for her role in the violence that followed 2010 elections

Cote d’Ivoire’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo arrives at the Court of Justice in Abidjan, on February 23, 2015. Photo/AFP


1—Save the Elephant

At current killing rates, Africa’s elephants will be extinct in two decades, say experts. The fight to save the jumbo is on.

A Kenyan Wildlife Services officer on March 3 stands near a pile of 15 tonnes of poached elephant ivory that were burned by president Uhuru Kenyattta. They were worth $30m on the black market. (Image/AFP)

2—Kicking down the door

Credit Suisse Group AG’s appointment of Tidjane Thiam as chief executive officer made him the first black chief executive officer of a European bank, and the Cote d’Ivoire-born executive will also be the only black CEO running one of Switzerland’s biggest publicly traded companies.

3—China’s Africa headache

Trade volumes are at all-time highs, but every so often the social relationship breaks down. The closure of a Chinese restaurant that did not admit Africans after 5pm was one such.

The Chinese restaurant remains shut, and its owner charged with regulatory violations. (Image/AFP)

4:—Nigeria shows the way

Every so often, an election comes along that has the potential to change the African narrative. Nigeria’s was one.

Nigerians voted in a new president on March 28, to much international acclaim. (Image/AFP)

5—Trevor Noah gets the nod

Trevor Who? was a question by many when South African comedian Trevor Noah got the green light to replace Jon Stewart the venerated host America’s The Daily Show. Clearly they haven’t been to Africa yet.

6—Iconic news agency shutters

On March 31, the South African Press Association agency (SAPA), the country’s - and Africa’s - only independent national wire service at that point, sent out its last story, victim of a changed media industry. It was the sad end of the agency that flung open its doors in 1938.


The Garissa college massacre

The outpouring of international condemnation reflected the utter horror of Somali militant group Al-Shabaab’s latest brutality. The fight must be fought on a united front.

When the nightmare ended, 148 people had their lives snuffed out, all but six of them students. (Photo/Getty)

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