TIME Africa

Report: More Than 60 Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Captors

NIGERIA-UNREST-BLAST
People gather near burned vehicles by the crowded Monday Market in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on July 1, 2014 AFP—Getty Images

The daring escape comes after days of heavy fighting in northeast Nigeria

More than 60 girls and women kidnapped in northeast Nigeria last month by suspected Islamist militant group Boko Haram have reportedly fled their captors.

Their escape was confirmed to news agency AFP by a high-level though unnamed security source in the restive Borno state.

A local vigilante, Abbas Gava, also said he had “received an alert from my colleagues … that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home.”

More than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April are still being held by Boko Haram, which seeks to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the country’s north.

The development follows Friday’s clashes between Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram militants in Borno. At least 50 insurgents were killed as the Nigerian military repelled an attack on its military base in the town of Damboa, said the Defense Ministry on Saturday.

Six Nigerian soldiers, including the commanding officer, died during the fighting, said Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade.

An officer who requested anonymity told the AP that the raid appeared to be a reprisal attack by Boko Haram after the Nigerian military carried out devastating air strikes 24 hours earlier.

[AFP]

 

TIME the Democratic Republic of Congo

African Foreign Ministers Give Rwandan Rebels Six Months to Disarm

United Nations peace keepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militants after their surrender in Kateku
U.N. peacekeepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda militants after their surrender in Kateku, a small town in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 30, 2014. Kenny Katombe — Reuters

The rebel FDLR group has been accused of massacring civilians in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo for nearly two decades

In a meeting in Angola on Wednesday, foreign ministers from African nations announced a six-month suspension of military intervention to allow the dissident Rwandan group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to disarm and end years of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The FDLR, a rebel group that opposes the Rwandan government and is based along Congo’s eastern border, includes members who initiated the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The rebel group has been accused of massacring civilians in Congo for nearly two decades. The Rwandan military has also regularly entered Congo to fight the rebel group, causing additional turmoil in the country.

Although the FDLR agreed to disarm and engage in dialogue on May 30, it is estimated that only about 200 out of around 1,500 rebels have put down their weapons. U.N. officials said in a report on Thursday that the FDLR was continuing to train new recruits despite promises of peace.

Angola’s Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti told the Angola Press News Agency that the rebel group’s efforts would be reassessed in three months. “The results of this surrender (of FDLR arms) are not sufficient,” he said. Lambert Mende, Congo’s government spokesman, said the army was prepared to continue military operations if the rebels did not honor the disarmament agreement.

Rwandan officials are meanwhile angered that the FDLR has continued to be admitted to international talks as a separatist group — representatives were recently at a conference in Rome with U.N. officials. “I am completely bored and disgusted by this (rebel) problem,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at a news conference on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Although over 25,000 members have left the FDLR since 2002, the group has maintained stable numbers over the past few years. If the disarmament and demobilization of the FDLR is successful, it could allow Congo — a country rich in gold, copper and diamonds — to regain much needed stability.

[Reuters]

TIME China

African-Elephant Poaching Soars as Ivory Prices Triple in China

Officials and guests including Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing are shown seized ivory displayed in Hong Kong
Officials and guests, including Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, are shown seized ivory in Hong Kong on May 15, 2014 Reuters

Nigeria and Angola sell the greatest amount of ivory products in Africa

The price African ivory fetches in China has tripled in the past four years, causing the dissident militias and organized-crime groups that monopolize the trade to ramp up illicit poaching, according to a report released on Thursday.

Increased demand spurred by Beijing’s lax ivory laws has seen ivory prices rocket from $750 in 2010 to $2,100 in 2014, meaning the widespread slaughter of African elephants “shows little sign of abating,” according to Save the Elephants. The campaign group estimates 33,000 elephants were slaughtered annually between 2010 and 2012.

China has long had a fascination with ivory that harks back hundreds of years to traditional ivory carvings. In modern times, wealthy Chinese value ivory as a status symbol or to use as gifts to sweeten potential business deals, reports the BBC.

Conservationists say communities in Nigeria and Angola sell the greatest amount of ivory products in Africa. “Without concerted international action to reduce the demand for ivory, measures to reduce the killing of elephants for ivory will fail,” Save the Elephants founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton tells AFP.

TIME World Cup

World Cup Kisses Goodbye to Africa

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Algeria's defender and captain Madjid Bougherra gestures to the crowd after losing their Round of 16 football match against Germany following extra-time at Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 30, 2014. Gabriel Bouys—AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria and Algeria made World Cup history with tenacious performances

(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Nigeria and Algeria made World Cup history for Africa and now leave with their heads held high.

Despite tenacious resistance, Africa’s last representatives were sent home on Monday by France and Germany.

Those two former champions will next play each other on Friday in Rio de Janeiro. That quarterfinal means Europe is guaranteed at least one semifinalist in this World Cup that has smiled on the Americas, supplier of eight of the last 16 teams.

With exceptional saves, goalkeepers again starred both in France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria and Germany’s 2-1 marathon against an Algerian team whose bravura has been among the many revelations of this surprise-packed tournament.

This was Algeria’s first taste of World Cup knockout football, having never advanced from the group stages in three previous attempts.

Germany needed extra time to win after both teams failed to score in two absorbing halves, and it let Abdelmoumene Djabou get a goal back in the dying seconds, doing little for the three-time champion’s credentials as a favorite to lift the trophy again on July 13.

France, winner in 1998, looks the sharper of the two. Germany’s tactics of pushing players forward and leaving a large chunk of defending to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer would almost certainly undo it against a stronger attack.

Other highlights of another dramatic day at one of the best World Cups in memory included:

—France’s Paul Pogba scored the 146th goal, pushing the tally from this tournament beyond that of South Africa in 2010, with 10 matches still to play.

__The goal total climbed to 150 by the end of Monday’s two games, after an own-goal from Nigerian captain Joseph Yobo that sealed France’s win, extra time strikes for Germany from Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil, and Djabou’s consolation goal. If the current average of more than 2 goals per game holds through to the final, Brazil could finish with the highest goals total of any of the 20 World Cups. The total to beat is 171, scored at France 1998.

—Luis Suarez confessed. Having previously denied that he bit Giorgio Chiellini, the disgraced Uruguay striker reversed course, apologized to the Italy defender and to “the entire football family” via Twitter and vowed that his third ban for biting would be his last.

Chiellini quickly tweeted back: “It’s all forgotten. I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension.”

Suarez is serving a four-month ban for what FIFA’s disciplinary panel ruled was a “deliberate, intentional” and unprovoked bite in Uruguay’s 1-0 group stages win against Italy. Without Suarez, Uruguay promptly lost 2-0 to Colombia in the last 16.

—Facebook said it passed the 1 billion mark in World Cup interactions. No other single event has generated this much activity in Facebook history.

Before Brazil, Africa never had two teams make the knockout stage at the same tournament. Like Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010), the Nigerians were hoping to reach their first quarterfinals after twice stalling at the last 16.

And with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama flying like Superman, it seemed for a long while that the Nigerians might do it.

The Super Eagles sank claws into France in the first half, with tough physicality viewed leniently by U.S. referee Mark Geiger. In Paris, an ocean of fans watched on a giant outdoor screen at Paris City Hall. Encouragement even came from the famed Orsay museum, which is tweeting photos of blue-themed artworks to encourage Les Bleus. After Edgar Degas’ “The Blue Dancers” on Sunday, Monday’s choice was Lucien Levy-Dhurmer’s “The Inlet.”

France had the best first-half chances and squandered them. Pogba fired a right-footed, taekwondo kick-like volley straight at Enyeama. Brazilian TV’s speed trap clocked the ball at 87 kilometers (54 miles) per hour off the midfielder’s foot.

After Enyeama got a hand to Karim Benzema’s second-half header, tipping it over his crossbar, the French striker kicked one of the posts in frustration.

In South Africa, goalkeepers complained of strange swerves from the ball and there were epic mistakes from Brazil’s Julio Cesar and England’s Robert Green.

But Brazil is becoming a gallery for their art.

Against Germany, Algeria’s Rais Mbolhi somehow got fingertips to a pile-driver off the right foot of German captain Philipp Lahm and stopped a point-blank header from Thomas Mueller.

At the other end, Neuer dug himself out of a goal-mouth scramble and then hoofed an extraordinarily accurate kick up-field to Schuerrle, who couldn’t capitalize on the chance, failing to wriggle free of an Algerian marker. Neuer also showed great athleticism and anticipation haring out of his box against Algerian attacks.

The acrobatics prompted a tweet of admiration from Gary Lineker, top scorer at the 1986 tournament for England: “The quality of goalkeeping at this World Cup has been extraordinarily high.”

Enyeama will rue his mistake that led to the French breakthrough. He flapped at Mathieu Valbuena’s corner. The ball flew kindly to Pogba, who stepped away from Yobo, his marker, to coolly head it in.

When the ball bounced off Yobo’s leg to make it 2-0 for France, Paris crowds erupted with waving flags, raised fists and lusty renditions of the anthem, “La Marseillaise.” With each additional victory, the team is winning forgiveness for the disgraceful strike by players at the last World Cup.

“This team is a pleasure to watch,” French President Francois Hollande purred on Twitter.

Germany, less so. But if it finally hits top gear next Friday, their quarterfinal could be a classic.

TIME Libya

Amid Turmoil, Libya Holds Parliament Elections

CAIRO (AP) — Libyans voted Wednesday for a new parliament in an election they hope can turn a corner and bring some stability after three years of dizzying chaos in the North African nation, which has hardly had a functioning government and has been plagued by rampant militias and Islamic extremists since the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi.

Islamists and their allies, who held a thin majority in the outgoing parliament, are expected to lose ground in the vote, blamed by many for a political deadlock with their opponents that has virtually paralyzed the political system.

The new parliament could be a step toward forming a more stable government with lawmakers’ backing, paving the way for the writing of the first post-Gadhafi constitution within 18 months and the election of a president. Still, a new government will face the same challenge as previous ones — forming a unified military and central police force while reining in militias, some of which could lash out with violence if their political patrons lose in the election.

Threats of violence hung over Wednesday’s voting, which for much of the day was thin in places. An explosion hit a polling station in the central city of Sirte, where an Islamic extremist militia has a growing presence, Libya Al-Ahrar TV reported, though it gave no details on casualties. In the country’s second largest city of Benghazi, three people were killed when militias attacked troops deploying to protect polling stations, the station said.

No voting took place in the eastern city of Darna, an extremist stronghold, and some polls were closed in at least two other cities that are frequent scenes of inter-tribal fighting.

The mood was a sharp contrast to 2012 parliamentary elections, the nation’s first post-Gadhafi vote, when Libyans enthusiastically formed long lines at polling centers from early in the morning, hoping for democracy after 42 years of his iron grip.

By midday Wednesday, about 16 percent of the 1.5 million registered voters had cast ballots for the 200-member parliament, according to a statement by election commission. The central city of al-Khoms witnessed highest turnout, around 31 percent, according to the commission.

“Many people expect these elections to launch a new political dynamic,” Tarek Mitrik, the U.N. Envoy in Libya, said as he toured polls. “Libya needs this. Libya needs political institutions that people trust … institutions that reflect all the diversity present in Libyan society.”

The chaos in this oil-rich country of nearly 6 million people has been breathtaking since the ouster and death of Gadhafi after an 8-month civil war in 2011.

The army and police were shattered during the war and have never recovered. Armed militias mushroomed in number and weaponry, and filled the void left by security forces, battling each other and preventing the state from extending its authority. Over the past two years, militias have briefly kidnapped a prime minister and besieged parliament and government buildings to force their demands. Eastern militias have occupied oil facilities for months, virtually shutting down exports and even trying to sell oil on their own.

The main political blocs — the Muslim Brotherhood-led Islamists and their non-Islamist opponents — each have militias backing them, threatening to turn every political dispute into armed conflict.

Al-Qaida-inspired extremists act with near impunity, particularly in the east, where the main city Benghazi sees frequent killings of police, soldiers, moderate clerics and secular activists. On Sept. 11, 2012, Islamic militants overran a U.S. diplomatic facility in the city, killing the ambassador and three other Americans — and this month, U.S. Special Forces snatched a top suspect in the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala.

In a new twist, a renegade general, Khalifa Hifter, is now waging his own offensive against militants, vowing to wipe them out. He has garnered the backing of some militias and army units and many anti-Islamist politicians, and his fighters have been clashing almost daily with militiamen around Benghazi.

Libya’s politics have been equally tangled. The first post-Gadhafi parliament was initially closely split between Islamists and their opponents. A non-Islamist prime minister, Ali Zidan, was chosen. But over the months, the Islamist bloc gained narrow control as their opponents quit parliament, protesting what they called Islamist domineering.

The Islamists succeeded in removing Zidan and kept parliament in place for months after its mandate ran out in March. Their opponents accuse them of trying to impose their power and of funding militias to back them. Throughout the feuding, the government has been rendered nearly impotent.

Islamists are expected to see a setback in the vote. They won only won a handful of seats in elections earlier this year that chose a 60-member constituent assembly to write the constitution.

“At the very least the vote today, and the creation of a new parliament would lessen the congestion,” said Hamouda Sayala, a non-Islamist candidate in the race.

“People blame the parties for the political stagnation in a country where democracy was absent for nearly 5 decades,” he told The Associated Press over the phone from Tripoli.

But it is unclear who would emerge as the winner. Unlike the previous election, political parties are barred from the race. All candidates must run as independents, a step aimed at reducing factionalism in the next legislature.

Some figures known to be affiliated to political groupings are running, including Sayala, a close associate of Mahmoud Jibril, who served as the rebellion’s appointed prime minister during the civil war. There are few prominent political figures to rally around. Many longtime opposition figures who returned from exile after the war, were barred from politics by a law excluding anyone who ever held positions in Gadhafi’s regime. Jibril, who was close to Ghadafi’s son Seif al-Islam before breaking with the regime, was among those barred.

The absence of parties is likely to boost the power of Libya’s many tribes, which are able to rally their members to secure votes for their candidates.

“Parties are a pillar of democracy … the alternative will be tribes throwing their weight behind certain candidates regardless of their programs,” said Salah al-Sharif, a Benghazi activist. He is a member of group called Benghazi Youth, which he said is campaigning on behalf of young candidates who believe in pluralism, equality and transparency.

TIME Research

Researchers Hope ‘Super Bananas’ Will Combat Vitamin A Deficiency

If approved for cultivation, the genetically engineered fruit could revolutionize child health in much of the developing world

+ READ ARTICLE

Genetically engineered bananas, packed with micronutrients, are to undergo their first human trial in the United States to test their ability to battle rampant vitamin A deficiency — a large cause of infant death and blindness throughout low-income communities around the world.

“The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000 to 700,000 children worldwide dying … each year and at least another 300,000 going blind,” the project leader, Professor James Dale from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, told AFP.

The six-week trial backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation expects to have results by the end of the year and plans to have the bananas growing in Uganda by 2020.

Standard Ugandan bananas provide sustenance to East Africa but have low levels of nutrients such as iron and vitamin A. “Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food,” said Dale.

Researchers infused the staple crop in Uganda with alpha- and beta-carotene — which the body turns into vitamin A — as an easy solution to the problem that plagues the country, but the same modification could be used on different crops as well. If the bananas are approved for growth in Uganda, other staple crops in Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya could also be engineered with micronutrients.

“In West Africa farmers grow plantain bananas and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well,” Dale said.

[AFP]

TIME Economy

Sub-Saharan Africa Is the New Investment Frontier

The Victoria Island waterfront is seen from the Ikoyi neighbourhood in Lagos
Nigeria has attracted much attention from American and European multinationals, according to a new survey. Here is the Victoria Island waterfront in Lagos from June 3, 2014 Joe Penney—Reuters

Nigeria leads frontier markets in attracting attention from American and European companies, according to the latest Frontier Markets Sentiment Index

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is the frontier market that attracts the most attention from American and European multinationals, according to an index commissioned by the Wall Street Journal.

Argentina, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia followed respectively.

But it was the sub-Saharan Africa countries that dominated the table, making up nine of the top 20 economies. Asia had three countries in the top tier.

The data found that one country in particular has seen multinationals’ interest wane dramatically. From 2013 to June 2014, corporate sentiment toward Ukraine dropped 12.5 points following a long period of violent protests and political instability.

The Frontier Markets Sentiment Index, developed by Frontier Strategy Group, based in Washington, D.C., provides insight into 200 multinationals’ sentiments toward markets regarded as the riskiest to invest in.

Matt Lasov, global head of advisory and analytics at Frontier Strategy Group, told the Wall Street Journal: “We collect data about which countries the companies are watching for potential future investment. Over time, that gives us a clear picture of their market priorities — which countries are they including in their future plans and which they are dropping.”

[WSJ]

TIME Crime

This Video Shows What It’s Like to Get Robbed at Gunpoint

It was captured in South Africa with a GoPro camera

+ READ ARTICLE

Strapping a GoPro camera to yourself can be a great way to document a scenic bike ride. Turns out it can also be a great way to document yourself getting robbed at gunpoint in the middle of said scenic bike ride.

Mountain biker Malcolm Fox was riding through South Africa’s Western Cape when an armed robber and two accomplices accosted him and then robbed him of his belongings, The Citizen reports. They took everything except the GoPro he had mounted to his helmet, as they didn’t seem to know what it was.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said all three suspects were found — with the help of the video — and charged with robbery. Police recovered Fox’s cell phone, but have yet to recover the bike.

TIME foreign affairs

How to Change Course in Central African Republic

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A wounded man waits for assistance during a disarmament operation by French soldiers in Bangui, on December 9, 2013. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Protection on the ground must be enhanced sooner than the United Nations has mandated, and donors need to own up to their outstanding pledges

Recent outrages in Bangui, the war-torn capital of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), lay bare that the world is dangerously close to failing the country once again.

On March 25, three Muslim boys went to play an interfaith football match in the city. Before they could reach the stadium, they were caught by fighters from the anti-balaka, the predominantly Christian militia. The boys were murdered and mutilated on the street, their chests cut open, their hearts ripped out and their penises cut off.

Just three days later, armed Muslim youths retaliated by attacking a church sheltering thousands of displaced persons. They used grenades and sprayed gunfire into helpless crowds, killing at least 15 and wounding 30. In response to the attack, youth pillaged and vandalized one of Bangui’s last mosques. The fear that the anti-balaka and mobs of civilians will unleash their fury on the remaining Muslims of C.A.R., of which 80 percent have been forced to flee or have been killed, is palpable.

These gruesome attacks are part of a long-simmering socio-political crisis that has mobilized religious and ethnic communities against one another since December 2012. A cycle of tit-for-tat violence between the Séléka, the predominantly Muslim rebel alliance that overthrew the government of former President François Bozizé in March 2013, and the anti-balaka, which surfaced in force in response to Séléka exactions against non-Muslims in C.A.R., has been devastating for civilians. Thousands of other lives have been lost, and there may be countless untold atrocities.

Warnings of the inadequacy of the response have been ringing for months. The 2,000 French troops and 5,800 African Union (A.U.) peacekeepers on the ground have been unable to quell rising violence and stem atrocities in C.A.R. They are overstretched and under-resourced. The response to the church attack is telling: A.U. troops were called, but arrived too late. While a 600- to 800-strong European Union force is currently deploying to patrol the airport and surrounding districts in Bangui, this is simply not enough.

With violence increasing in Bangui and the interior of C.A.R., drastic action must be taken. First, protection on the ground must be enhanced. Sites sheltering displaced persons, particularly churches and the few remaining mosques, must be permanently protected. A.U. and French forces have a mandate to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians; they should not hesitate to do so and disarm and neutralize armed groups threatening civilians.

The U.N. Security Council has mandated the deployment of a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping operation to respond to the situation. But troops and police will only start deploying on Sept. 15, 2014, and only through April 2015. C.A.R. civilians can’t wait that long. The Security Council should consider amending the mandate of the mission to get U.N. forces on the ground before September. The Security Council favored a flexible mandate for the mission that adapted to the realities on the ground; it’s time to demonstrate that flexibility in the name of protecting civilians.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s call for an additional 3,500 troops to bolster the A.U. and French troops must also be answered. Sizeable troop and police contributions from a few Western governments would have an immense impact on the ground. Additional African countries should also join the A.U. force, and the U.S. and E.U. countries should continue to assist them.

But troops alone will not be enough. The interim government is struggling immensely and needs urgent support from donors to revive it. Targeted investment in building the judicial capacities of the state and supporting local justice mechanisms is needed to help break the cycle of impunity. International experts should also be swiftly dispatched to C.A.R. to assist the government in its mediation and reconciliation efforts. Finally, only 31% of the U.N.’s appeal for humanitarian aid has been funded—donors must own up to their outstanding pledges as the impending rainy season adds further misery to C.A.R.’s displaced.

The world has a track record of failure in C.A.R. Unless we quickly change course, 20 years from now we’ll be lamenting the insufficient response to yet another preventable tragedy in the heart of Africa. Conscience demands we write a new script in C.A.R.

Evan Cinq-Mars works with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

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