Hundreds Dead As Floods Wreak Havoc In East Africa

A picture taken on April 27, 2018 shows men and children walking in floodwaters after the Tana River overflowed at Onkolde Village, in coastal Tana Delta region of Kenya. About 64 000 people have displaced from the flooded area, according to Kenya Red Cross.
ANDREW KASUKU / AFP

 

Weeks of torrential rain after a long drought have turned from blessing to curse in East Africa, killing hundreds of people and displacing hundreds of thousands of others.

In Kenya, which had suffered from three failed rainy seasons, 120 people have died in two months, including eight who were swept off a bridge in a flash flood Thursday night outside the capital, witnesses said.

The Red Cross appealed for $5 million (four million euros) to help those affected.

Since early March, “112 people have lost their lives countrywide,” Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet told a press conference Friday, not including Thursday night’s incident.

Flooding has washed away bridges and homes, with the military airlifting residents from submerged houses in some parts of the country.

“About 48,177 households have been displaced so far and this translates to 260,200 people,” Gullet said.

He said over 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares) of crops had been destroyed and some 20,000 animals washed away.

On Monday the government announced that up to 100 schools would not open for the second term due to flooding.

Somalia, also struck by a severe drought, has received heavy rains and the south-central town of Beledweyne was engulfed by flood waters after the Shabelle river burst its banks.

The peacekeeping force AMISOM stepped in to evacuate some 10,000 residents, according to its Twitter account.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed visited the district on Tuesday.

“I came here to Beledweyne to share with you the pain and hardships caused by the devastating floods, I know that there are more than 100,000 people displaced from their homes because of the floods and many others still stranded inside town,” he said.

– Food prices to rise –

Several other major towns along the river have also been affected and local NGO worker Abdulahi Liban told AFP there were concerns of water-borne diseases breaking out.

Rwanda has also been seriously affected by the deluge. Its ministry of disaster management said 116 people had died and 207 had been injured in flooding and landslides since January.

The ministry said floods had destroyed 120 houses, 23 roads, seven churches, and killed 705 livestock while also destroying 11,300 acres of crops.

Torrential rains have also hit Tanzania, where 14 people died in April, as well as Uganda where flash floods have destroyed homes and left at least three dead, according to police in both countries.

Authorities have warned that the deluge will continue.

“The heavy rains are still on and we advise people to take precaution. Farms have been destroyed and roads made impassable.

This will cause food prices to go up as we have already experienced in some parts of the country,” said Uganda’s minister for disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru.

A severe drought across East Africa last year left Somalia on the brink of famine, while more than three million required food aid in Kenya and almost eight million needed aid in Ethiopia. Food prices and inflation soared in the region as a result.

Police Disperse Protesting Kenyan Doctors With Tear Gas

Police Disperse Protesting Kenyan Doctors With Tear Gas The Kenyan Police have used tear gas to disperse striking doctors and nurses who were marching on the streets of the capital, Nairobi.

The medical practitioners in Kenya, made good their threat to boycott work, paralysing operations in public hospitals.

They took to the street carrying placards with inscriptions such as “a doctor is not a donkey”, as well as slogans from recent corruption scandals in the government.

This according to them is a way of demanding for an improved pay package in line with an agreement signed by the unions and the government in 2013.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) said the Union and government “need dialogue” to ensure a more “efficient and effective public health” system in the east African country.

UNIC Urges Nigerian Children To Shun Slavery

UNIC Urges Nigerian Children To Shun SlaveryThe United Nations Information Centres (UNIC) has asked Nigerian children to say no to all forms of slavery.

The UNIC took the campaign to the Southfield Academy in Lagos on Thursday, to mark the Remembrance Day of the Victims of Slavery.

A member of the group tasked the pupils of the school, as well as youngsters in the country live up to any challenge they might come across.

“Those slaves taken from East Africa and transported to India by the colonial masters at that time did not resign to fate. We are saying that even those Africans that were transported to other parts of the world still found a way of making their marks in the lands they were transported to,” he said.

The Executive Director of Africa Anti-Slavery Coalition, Femi Phillips, also highlighted corruption and bad governance as the forms of modern slavery that should be resisted by the populace.

“In this our present generation, we have rulers who do not fear God. That is why we are having these problems of bad governance in Nigeria,” he said.

This year’s remembrance of the slave victims is focused on ‘African Slaves Taken to India’ with the aim of imbibing into the young ones, the resilience and resourcefulness of African slaves.

Kenya’s Athletes Threaten To Pull Out Of Rio Olympics

OlympicsKenya has threatened to pull its elite runners and other athletes out of the Rio Olympics unless it gets assurances they would not be exposed to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil.

Sports authorities across the world are scrambling to find out more about the mosquito-borne virus as they make plans for the Games in August.

Kenya was expected to be one of the star performers at Rio, fielding some of the best middle and long-distance runners in the world.

The East African nation topped the medals table at the 2015 world championships.

Meanwhile, top health officials say they were sticking to existing guidelines regarding warning related to the Zika virus.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci says athletes would need to make a personal decision about whether or not to skip the Olympics.

Iran Hostage Crisis: Victims ‘To Be Compensated’ 36 Years Later

Iran HostageThe US victims of the Iran hostage crisis are to receive compensation 36 years after their horrific ordeals.

According to a US spending bill passed last Friday, each of the 53 hostages or their estates would receive up to $4.4 million.

The victims of other state-sponsored terror attacks such as the US embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998 would also be eligible.

The hostage-taking lasted 444 days and led the US to break off ties with Iran.

The decision to award compensation followed a controversial deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme.

The hostages have long fought for restitution, but the agreement that secured their release, barred them from making such claims and their attempts were repeatedly blocked by the courts, including an appeal denied by the Supreme Court.

The Congress was also unable to pass laws granting them compensation.

The money for compensation is likely to come from a huge $9 billion fine for French bank Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the New York Times reported.

About $1 billion will go into a fund for victims of terrorism and an additional $2.8 billion will be set aside to help the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families.

Oshiomhole Urges Nigerian Leaders To Encourage Unity

Oshiomhole Urges Nigerian Leaders To Encourage UnisonEdo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has called on leaders in Nigeria to strengthen the bridge of unity in the country.

Governor Oshiomhole made the appeal while delivering a speech which captured issues of unemployment and inequality at the fourth annual Zik’s Lecture Series of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, the Anambra State capital.

He was of the opinion that Nigerian leaders should try not to create a feeling of inequality in the minds of the poor from birth.

Governor Oshiomhole urged them to create an environment that would enable every citizen to thrive, irrespective of their status, adding that poverty was a threat to prosperity everywhere.

A Ugandan motivational speaker, Ethan Musolini, also said that economic empowerment and demonstration of practical skills should be celebrated as they were the heart of sustainable entrepreneurship, stressing that it would open the vista for creation of more jobs and finding solutions to problems at a profit.

Speeches delivered by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Joseph Ahaneku, the former Special Adviser on Political Matters to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Ben Obi and the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, hinged on bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.

They also tasked the leaders on providing the structures that would encourage enterprise and thus, exterminate unemployment and inferiority complex among Nigerians.

The forum was organised to encourage quality interaction and conversation amongst leading scholars, students, and individuals towards the development of Nigeria and the African continent while keeping the memory of the ideals of Nigeria’s Pan African leader, late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe alive.

Agricultural Institute To Tackle Cassava Viral Diseases

cassavaThe National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike, Abia State, has set up a pre-emptive initiatives known as West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) to tackle issues of cassava viral diseases which is currently ravaging East Africa.

While addressing participants from other West African countries and other research fellows on Agriculture on Tuesday, the Executive Director of the institute, Dr Julius Okonkwo, said that the disease virulent and tendency to spread rapidly across the sub-Sahara and even West Africa, necessitated the implementation action which would have a coordinated management of the virus disease threats.

Cassava, one of the major root crop and stable food for millions of people in Nigeria, is at the risk and threats of possible outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), if proactive measures are not put in place fast.

According to reports, the CBSD has the capacity to drastically attack cassava and affect the nation’s economy to the cost of 400 billion Naira (about $2 billion) annually, if not checked on time.

Abia State has agreed to cooperate with the research institute to raise the awareness of the disease to farmers, as well as support the clustering and productivity in agriculture sector.

Although other special interventions have been done on cassava across the nation, the systemic survey of cassava viral disease is yet to be carried out, therefore, the launch of WAVE Project campaign against the dreaded CBSD would increase the continual productivity and sustainability of root and tuber crops.

Tanzania Albino Murders: Over 200 Witchdoctors Arrested

AlbinoTanzanian authorities have arrested as many as 200 witchdoctors and traditional healers for the murder of albinos for medicine.

Police Spokesperson, Advera Bulimba, told AFP, “Some of those arrested were found in possession of items like lizard skin, warthog teeth, ostrich eggs, monkey tails, bird claws, mule tails and lion skin.”

Some witchdoctors have promoted the belief that the body parts of albinos have properties that confer wealth and good luck.

The government has also been clamping down on unlicensed traditional healers and soothsayers across the country; arresting as many as 225 of them recently.

The UN says nearly 80 albino Tanzanians have been killed since the year 2000, with the latest victim being a one year old albino boy.

The United Nations human rights chief said there has been a sharp increase this year in attacks on albinos in East Africa, especially in Malawi and Tanzania, calling the attacks “stunningly vicious.”

“As a result, many people with albinism are living in abject fear. Some no longer dare to go outside, and children with albinism have stopped attending school,” High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a statement.

President Jakaya Kikwete, says the murders are evil, and the act has brought shame to the country.

South Sudan’s Warring Sides Sign Another Ceasefire Deal

South SudanSouth Sudanese President, Salva Kiir and rebel commander, Riek Machar have signed a ceasefire deal on Monday, edging them closer to a final agreement to end a 15-month conflict that has ravaged the world’s newest country, mediators said.

African diplomatic sources said that the deal which is yet to be made public, sets out how the two leaders would share power once they
formed an interim government.

It is proposed Salva Kiir would remain President while Riek Machar would emerge as the Vice President.

The warring sides had also agreed to abide by a ceasefire deal that was earlier signed in January 2014 but violated.

The rebels, however, said many more details need to be ironed out before the deal can be labeled a “power-sharing” agreement.

Regional diplomats had warned the warring sides that if they could not come up with a new deal, sanctions would be imposed on them.

The chief mediator of the East African IGAD bloc, Seyoum Mesfin, said that the two leaders had agreed to resume talks on February 20.

“(Those talks) would be final and that would lead them into concluding a comprehensive agreement to end the crisis in South Sudan,” Mesfin told reporters minutes before Kiir and Machar signed the latest peace deal.

Several previous peace deals and ceasefires that accompanied the agreements had been broken.

The conflict in South Sudan erupted in December 2013 and has rumbled on since then despite several commitments by Kiir and Machar to stop the violence.

It was also reported that more than 10,000 people have been killed, about 1.5 million people have been rendered homeless and many in the oil-producing nation of about 11 million people could not get enough food to eat.

South Sudan is Africa’s newest nation and one of its poorest.

 

South Sudan Agrees Truce After Meeting In Nairobi

East African leaders who are meeting in Nairobi have said that the government of South Sudan has agreed to an immediate end to fighting with rebels.

Welcoming the commitment from President Salva ‘s government, they urged rebel leader Riek Machar to do likewise, as fighting continued.

Mr Machar however told BBC News that conditions for a truce were not yet in place.  Although, he confirmed that two of his allies had been freed from custody, he called for the other nine to be released too.

The release of the 11 politicians, accused of plotting a coup, has been a key rebel condition for any negotiations.

Recent fighting left at least 1,000 people dead, with fierce new battles reported in the town of Malakal, in oil-rich Upper Nile State.

More than 121,600 people have fled their homes in the world’s newest state, with about 63,000 seeking refuge at UN compounds across the country, according to a statement by the United Nations.

There has been no confirmation from President Kiir’s office that he has agreed to end the hostilities in his power struggle with Mr Machar, his former vice-president, where members of Mr Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and Mr Machar’s Nuer community have both been targeted in the violence.

East African regional leaders, who make up an eight-member bloc known as IGAD, held talks in the Kenyan capital Nairobi a day after the leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia met Mr Kiir in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

They said they would not accept a violent overthrow of the government in South Sudan and called on the government and rebels to meet for talks within four days.

President Kiir did not attend the talks in Nairobi nor did any representative of Mr Machar.

After meeting Mr Kiir on Friday morning, US envoy Donald Booth said: “He confirmed he is moving forward to arrange a cessation of hostilities throughout the country.”

The US diplomat was also quoted by Reuters News Agency as saying Mr Kiir had agreed to release eight out of 11 politicians detained over the alleged coup plot.

“We were very encouraged to hear the president reiterate that with the exception of three… officials who have been detained… the others will be released very shortly,” Mr Booth said, according to Reuters.

Speaking to BBC World Service by satellite phone “from the bush”, Mr Machar said he was ready for talks but any ceasefire had to be negotiated by delegations from the two sides, with a mechanism agreed to monitor it.

Saying that he had the allegiance of all rebel forces in South Sudan, he called for the release of all 11 detainees.

Violence has continued through the week with conflicting reports on Friday about the situation in Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State, where some 12,000 people have been sheltering at a UN base.

Fire Closes Kenya’s International Airport In Nairobi

A fire engulfed Kenya’s main airport on Wednesday, choking a vital travel and trade gateway to east Africa, witnesses and officials said.

Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, the region’s busiest, that started early in the morning in the immigration section of the departure lounge and spread to the international arrivals area, officials said.

Huge plumes of black smoke billowed from the airport buildings, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The cause of the fire was not yet known.

“We are still fighting to contain the fire. Investigations will start immediately after,” Michael Kamau, cabinet secretary for transport, told reporters at the airport.

“The fire started at a very central part of the airport and this made access difficult. But we have closed the airport indefinitely as we try to contain the fire.”

Hundreds of passengers were stranded outside the airport, which was cordoned off to keep the public out.

“People should not come to the airport while this work is ongoing. No casualties have been reported and the fire fighters are doing a good job. Safety is paramount,” Cabinet Secretary for the Interior Joseph ole Lenku said, adding that security had been heightened at the airport after the fire started.

The fire comes less than 48 hours after a fuel jet pump failure caused huge delays at the airport.

Kenya Airways’, one of the leading airlines in the region which uses the airport as its main hub, said on its Twitter feed that it was diverting flights to Kenya’s port city of Mombasa and that transit passengers were being taken to hotels.

Other airlines are expected to divert flights to Mombasa and to neighboring countries including in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Kenya To Build $14.5bn Konza Technology City

President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya has launched a $14.5bn (£9.1bn) project to build an IT business hub named Konza Technology City.

The new city dubbed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah,” located 37 miles from the capital; Nairobi will take 20 years to build.

Despite Kenya’s usually divisive politics, the project which has the backing of all political parties is expected to create more than 20,000 IT jobs by 2015, and more than 200,000 jobs by 2030.

Konza, a part of the government’s ambitious Vision 2030 will take advantage of the growing number of software developers in the East African nation.

“It is expected to spur massive trade and investment as well as create thousands of employment opportunities for young Kenyans in the information communications technology (ICT) sector,” President Mwai Kibaki said at the ceremony to launch the construction, adding it would be a “game-changer” for the country’s development.

He called on domestic and foreign investors to take advantage of Konza’s “tremendous opportunities”.

According to the Konza information website, the city wants to attract business process outsourcing, software development, data centres, disaster recovery centres, call centres and light assembly manufacturing industries.

A university campus focused on research and technology as well as hotels, residential areas, schools and hospitals will also be built.

Konza Technopolis Development Authority has been charged with the responsibility to oversee the building of the IT hub, which will be built in four phases.