Monday, 23 February 2015

The Hidden Billions Behind Economic Inequality in Africa

The Hidden Billions Behind Economic Inequality in Africa

Reports this year of illicit moneys from African countries stashed in a Swiss bank – indicating that corruption lies behind much of the income inequality that affects the continent – have grabbed international news headlines.Secret bank accounts in the HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm unearthed this year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) were said to hold over 100 billion dollars, some of which came from Africa, including some of the poorest nations on the continent.

When these funds leave the region, they deny the very nations that need them most...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

‘Small girl’ with explosives strapped to her kills five

‘Small girl’ with explosives strapped to her kills five

A young girl with explosives strapped to her killed five people and wounded dozens at a security checkpoint outside a market in the northeast Nigerian town of Potiskum on Sunday, witnesses said.
“(She) refused to be checked at the gate to the market and an argument ensued,” witness Ibrahim Maishago said. “She let off the bomb, killing herself and five others, while many were injured.”
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, which bore the hallmarks of Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The insurgents have suffered a string of defeats in a military offensive by Nigeria and neighbours Cameroon, Niger and Chad...

Monday, 2 February 2015

Smartphone addiction time-bomb 'ready to explode' - Independent.ie

Smartphone addiction time-bomb 'ready to explode' - Independent.ie

A third of internet users now access online content on mobile phones - up from just 10pc two years ago - and internet users are expected to surpass PC users by next year, according to the latest research by Dublin-based Statcounter.

Counsellors now fear internet addiction, fuelled by 24/7 access via mobile phones, will be the next wave of compulsive disorders that they will be treating.

Gerry Cooney, an addiction counsellor at the Rutland Centre, said they are already seeing a massive surge in the number of people - typically young men under the age of 30 - who are seeking treatment for online gambling and pornography addiction, which is exacerbated by 24-hour access through smartphones and other mobile devices.

And while the people he is currently treating at the centre's residential treatment programme have sought help for gambling and other impulse control disorders, he believes smartphone addiction will be the next wave of illness due to the "mood-altering and compulsive" nature of social media, gaming and other forms of online entertainment.

"It's not necessarily a young person's issue," Mr Cooney told the Sunday Independent.

"Facebook is something that a lot of people are now struggling with, the constant need to stay in touch."...

Fraud, organized crime costing Africa billions per year: study - Al Arabiya News

Fraud, organized crime costing Africa billions per year: study - Al Arabiya News

Africa loses at least $50 billion a year to illicit practices like tax fraud, corruption and organized crime, a worrying situation that is hurting the continent’s economies, a UN-mandated study group warned Sunday.

Illicit financial flows -- which range from international corporations dodging taxes to the trafficking of weapons and minerals -- are a barrier to creating jobs on the world’s poorest continent, according to the group headed by ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki.

“Large commercial corporations are by far the biggest culprits of illicit outflows, followed by organized crime,” said Mbeki in the report commissioned by the United Nations and African Union to study illicit cash flows.

“We are also convinced that corrupt practices in Africa are facilitating these outflows.”...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

African Nations Show Progress in Uniting to Beat Back Militants in Nigeria - NYTimes.com

African Nations Show Progress in Uniting to Beat Back Militants in Nigeria - NYTimes.com

African leaders are stepping up their response to Boko Haram, with Chadian soldiers chasing the militants from a northern Nigerian town and the African Union calling for a 7,500-member regional force to tackle what it called “a serious threat” to the continent.
A communiqué adopted by the peace and security council of the African Union, which is meeting this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, calls on Nigerian soldiers and their counterparts from four neighboring countries — Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger — to “prevent the expansion of Boko Haram,” search for those abducted by the group and conduct joint patrols at their borders. It does not specifically authorize the most sensitive step: cross-border operations.
According to a Chadian military spokesman, Nigerian news media reports and officials in Niger, Chadian forces took control on Thursday of Malam Fatori, a northern town that Boko Haram had held since October...

Sunday, 25 January 2015

When Women Become Terrorists - NYTimes.com

When Women Become Terrorists - NYTimes.com

SINCE the terror attacks in Paris two weeks ago, the French police have been on the hunt for Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, one of the slain gunmen. She is now suspected to be in Syria. Some news reports speculate that Ms. Boumeddiene, 26, may have been “the more radical of the two.” Yet one of the first questions that French authorities intend to ask her is, they say, “if she did this under influence, if she did it by ideology, if she did it to aid and abet.”
While much will be made in the coming months of France’s intelligence failures, the West’s inability to appreciate the role that women play in terror should come under the highest scrutiny. Take the role of women in the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. While the group oppresses many women, many also flock to its ranks. Roughly 10 percent of its Western recruits are female, often lured by their peers through social media and instant messaging. The percentage is much higher in France: An estimated 63 of the 350 French nationals believed to be with the group are women, or just under 20 percent.
This story is both a new one and an old one. Women have long been involved in terror of all stripes, from female neo-Nazis in Europe to Chechen “black widow” suicide bombers...

LRA Rebel, Set for War Crimes Trial, Was a Child Soldier - ABC News

LRA Rebel, Set for War Crimes Trial, Was a Child Soldier - ABC News

Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen, who arrived Wednesday in The Hague to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, is remembered by his grandmother as a victim himself, having been kidnapped as a boy by the LRA and turned into a child soldier.

Ongwen's grandmother Anna Angeeyo, 80, told Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper that she last saw him in 1990 as "an innocent and quiet" boy "who liked digging." Ongwen was abducted by the LRA as he came back from a primary school in northern Uganda, she said.
While in the custody of the Ugandan army last week, Ongwen was videotaped describing his experiences with the LRA and its top commander, Joseph Kony, a wanted war criminal. The video, shot by the Ugandan military, was obtained by The Associated Press...

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Is this the beginning of the end for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa? | GlobalPost

Is this the beginning of the end for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa? | GlobalPost

Schools reopened in Guinea this week, just as Mali became the region’s latest country to be declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization, following Nigeria and Senegal.The two developments are signs that life is slowly returning to normal as West Africa recovers from the world’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic.

It is far from over yet. But there is, at last, hope that the end of the outbreak may be within sight.

There have been 21,614 cases of Ebola in this epidemic, and 8,594 deaths, according to the latest WHO figures. But crucially, the number of new cases is declining in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the countries worst affected.

Last week Sierra Leone and Guinea both recorded their lowest weekly totals of confirmed cases since August, while Liberia had its lowest weekly total since June.

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, has said he is “confident” the outbreak can be ended, provided “nothing unexpected happens.”...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

U.S.-built Ebola treatment centers in Liberia are nearly empty as outbreak fades - The Washington Post

U.S.-built Ebola treatment centers in Liberia are nearly empty as outbreak fades - The Washington Post

Near the hillside shelter where dozens of men and women died of Ebola, a row of green U.S. military tents sit atop a vast expanse of imported gravel. The generators hum; chlorinated water churns in brand-new containers; surveillance cameras send a live feed to a large-screen television.There’s only one thing missing from this state-of-the-art Ebola treatment center: Ebola patients.

The U.S. military sent about 3,000 troops to West Africa to build centers like this one in recent months. They were intended as a crucial safeguard against an epidemic that flared in unpredictable, deadly waves. But as the outbreak fades in Liberia, it has become clear that the disease had already drastically subsided before the first American centers were completed. Several of the U.S.-built units haven’t seen a single patient infected with Ebola.

It now appears that the alarming epidemiological predictions that in large part prompted the U.S. aid effort here were far too bleak. Although future flare-ups of the disease are possible, the near-empty Ebola centers tell the story of an aggressive American military and civilian response that occurred too late to help the bulk of the more than 8,300 Liberians who became infected. Last week, even as international aid organizations built yet more Ebola centers, there was an average of less than one new case reported in Liberia per day...

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Will the world's hungry benefit from falling oil prices? - TRFN | Reuters

Will the world's hungry benefit from falling oil prices? - TRFN | Reuters

ROME, Jan 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A slump in global oil prices has brought cheaper food to many of the world's poorest, but from the slums of Manila to the fields of Malawi, the benefits are not universal.

Globally, 805 million people still face chronic hunger, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. While the poorest in cities may see a reduction in food bills, those in rural areas, not integrated into world food markets, may not.

The price of oil dropped by half last year, the second-biggest annual decline ever, hitting a five-and-a half-year low. Oil prices have a knock-on effect on the price of food, which fell for a third straight year in 2014.

"For many poor people who spend a lot of their budget on food, this is good news," said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. "There is a high correlation between oil and food prices."...

Monday, 12 January 2015

Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? - NYTimes.com

Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? - NYTimes.com

UNITED NATIONS — Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, is about to face her toughest trial yet: to demonstrate that the court has enough muscle to tackle the gravest human rights cases, even if it means confronting the world’s most powerful countries.
Since its inception in 2002, the court has been laden with a growing pile of cases, defiant government authorities, and a United Nations Security Council that has called for investigations but done little to advance them. The court has convicted a tiny fraction of those it has charged. Many more have eluded arrest altogether, and the prosecutor has battled charges of bias against African leaders — a charge that Ms. Bensouda, a Gambian, has strenuously rebutted.
Ms. Bensouda, who assumed her job in June 2012, has had to acknowledge her own limitations in recent months. In December, she announced that she would “hibernate” the genocide case against Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, because she had been unable to secure his arrest. The same month, she said she would drop charges against Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, for his role in the violence that swept the country following the 2007 elections, citing his government’s lack of cooperation with her office.
The year ahead brings far more formidable challenges and with them the opportunity to assert the relevance of the court.
The Palestinian situation is no doubt the most politically delicate item on her agenda. Palestine joined the I.C.C. last week, and authorized the prosecutor to scrutinize alleged crimes committed on Palestinian land since last June, before the last Gaza conflict began. Israel and its principal ally, the United States, have forcefully criticized the Palestinian move, and even a preliminary inquiry by her office is likely to face a pushback, including from Washington.
Additionally, Ms. Bensouda has said she is looking into allegations of torture by American soldiers in Afghanistan. There’s a chance, albeit slim, that she could go further and open an official investigation...

I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria’s forgotten massacre | Daily Maverick

I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria’s forgotten massacre | Daily Maverick

There are massacres and there are massacres. The Paris massacre was tragic, but it was hardly the worst thing that happened last week. Not even close.

For that, we must head to Nigeria, and to the town of Baga – or at least to the spot on the map where Baga once stood, because there’s not much left of it now.

Reports of the massacre there are necessarily hazy; the nearest journalists are hundreds of kilometres away (even there, they are not particularly safe), and information comes almost exclusively from traumatised refugees and unreliable government sources.

Still, enough facts have emerged to know that something terrible happened here; something apocalyptic.

Baga is in north-eastern Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon. It is no stranger to massacres. In April 2013, nearly 200 people, mostly civilians, were slaughtered by the Nigerian armed forces in a military offensive designed to push out Boko Haram. This, however, was just a teaser. A taste of the horror that was to come.

Over the course of five days, beginning on Saturday last week, Boko Haram fighters entered the city with Nigerian soldiers fleeing before them, and destroyed it and anybody that was too slow in escaping – men, women, children. “The whole town was on fire,” said one eyewitness, while others speak of roads lined with corpses. The body count varies, but Amnesty International puts it at over 2,000 deaths – or the rough equivalent of 133 Charlie Hebdo attacks...