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Women face challenges as Libya moves toward a new constitution

Commentary: Gender discrimination still permeates Libyan laws and institutions.
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A Libyan woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote to elect Libya's General National Congress in Benghazi on July 7, 2012. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
“I have waited my whole life for tomorrow, which will be a new day for Libya,” an elated Haja Nowara told Human Rights Watch on the eve of Libya’s first democratic national elections in July 2012. “We sacrificed a lot to get here.” We met Nowara as she held a lonely vigil in the square outside the courthouse in Benghazi, where she had spent many evenings supporting the revolution since early 2011. She proudly displayed her voter registration card around her neck and waved Libya’s new national flag while people approached her to pay their respects. She had become an icon due to her steadfast participation in the protests that started the revolt that eventually led to the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi.

Happy Birthday, South Sudan

After a year of tension and turmoil, South Sudan is still standing.
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South Sudanese drive around waving the national flag celebrating into the night South Sudan's first anniversary of it's Independence day in Juba, South Sudan on July 9, 2012. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

The world's newest nation is a year old today and it's not been an easy start for South Sudan.

Disputes with the north over oil and territory have erupted into armed stand-offs, deadly bombings and outright fighting between their two armies. Tens of thousands of refugees have swarmed across the border from South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two northern regions where rebels are battling Khartoum. Tens of thousands more have become internal refugees as tribal fighting and cattle raiding have left many hundreds dead. In the new capital Juba corruption is sky-high and inequality growing as the oil-dependent economy collapses.

And yet, South Sudan exists and persists, a troubled nation for sure, but not a failed state, at least not so far. There are quite a number of worthwhile reads marking South Sudan's anniversary, here is a selection:

BBC correspondent James Copnall writing in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Author Ros Wynne-Jones writing in Britain's Independent newspaper and in The Mirror.


Triple threat: Coordination suspected between African terrorist organizations

Despite scant evidence, government officials are concerned by potential operational links between Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al Shabaab in Somalia.
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A car lies upside-down, vandalized on June 17 by Christian mobs in reprisal for a suicide bomb attack. Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamists claimed responsibility for suicide attacks on three churches that sparked reprisals by Christian mobs who rampaged and burned mosques, killing least 52 people. (Victor Ulasi/AFP/Getty Images)
NAIROBI — The top US military commander for Africa has warned that Al Qaeda affiliates are seeking to strengthen ties across the continent. General Carter Ham, commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), described Nigeria's Boko Haram, Somalia's Al Shabaab and the Saharan Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb as "dangerous and worrisome" but added that there were signs the groups were trying to coordinate their activities.

Deadly landslide wipes out Ugandan villages

The death count has risen from 10 to 100 in a catastrophic landslide that devastated multiple villages.
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Ugandan soldiers and relatives try to retreive the bodies of villagers burried under a landslide at Bududa in Mbale district in eastern Uganda that engulfed entire villages killing at least 80 people in March 2010. (Peter Busomoke/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A landslide that swept through at least two villages in eastern Uganda may have killed over 100 people, according to the national branch of the Red Cross and a local official.

Other early reports gave a much lower figure of 10 dead.

Deadly landslides occur with depressing regularity during the heavy rainy seasons on the western slopes of Mount Elgon, demolishing homes and villages and burying people alive. In March 2010 hundreds of people died in a landslide in Nametsi, close to the site of today's disaster.

More from GlobalPost: Nigeria: Oil spills drench and sicken delta communities



US stops short of naming Nigeria's Boko Haram a terrorist organization

But US State Department says 3 individuals in violent group are involved in global terrorism.
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Female students stand in a burned classroom at Maiduguri Experimental School, a private nursery, primary and secondary school burned by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria on May 12, 2012. The Nigerian Islamist group known as Boko Haram has grown from a northeastern-focused sect targeting local leaders and police to a many-headed monster capable of deploying suicide bombers to attack United Nations offices in Nigeria, police headquarters and one of the country's most prominent newspapers. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Washington showed an unusual degree of local understanding when it stopped short of naming Nigeria's extreme Islamic group, Boko Haram, an international terrorist organization.

With its roots firmly in northern Nigeria's combustible mix of religious tension, economic marginalization, widespread poverty and growing population, Boko Haram is, to be sure, a threat to Nigerian security and Nigerian people, but not, so far, to the US.

Instead the State Department announced the designation of three top Boko Haram leaders as global terrorists
in a move seemingly designed to put pressure on the group and encourage divisions.

Among the three named is Abubakar Shekau, the group's current leader. The two others are described as link men between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) which has recently taken control of parts of northern Mali and is already a US- designated terrorist group.

According to the US statement, Boko Haram has been responsible for over 1,000 deaths in the last 18 months during a campaign of bombing attacks often targetting churches in northern Nigeria as well as government offices, security forces, the UN and media houses.

The designation is largely symbolic as it blocks US citizens from doing business with the men and permits the seizing of their US assets, neither of which is likely to apply in this case.

More from GlobalPost: Controversial strongman steps up, says he can save Nigeria


Nairobi's lion problem: 6 killed outside park

2 adult lions and 4 cubs stray from Nairobi National Park and are speared to death after they attack livestock.
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An African lion. (Tony Karumba /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Six lions which strayed from a safari park in Nairobi were killed by local residents on Tuesday night after they mauled livestock.

Conflict between humans and animals is common across Kenya where a growing human population increasingly encroaches on traditional wildlife ranges, but a slaughter of this magnitude is rare.

During the wet season animals frequently migrate out of Nairobi National Park and, as GlobalPost reported, in recent months a number of lions have been spotted roaming the upmarket neighborhood of Langata. In May one lioness was shot dead by park rangers during a botched recapture in Langata.

The lions — two adults and four cubs — were speared to death by residents of Oloika, near Kitengela, after the animals entered a "boma" (a semi-permanent fenced encampment containing a number of homes) and attacking livestock. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said it hoped to arrest those responsible.

"The killing is a big loss to the economy given that lions enjoy an iconic status as one of the ‘Big Five’ which are a big draw for tourists who visit Kenya," said the KWS in a statement. There are thought to be around 40 lions in Nairobi National Park itself.

"Kenya has been losing 100 lions a year for the past seven years, leaving the country with just 2,000 of its famous big cats," said KWS. "This implies that the country could have no wild lions at all in 20 years. Conservationists have blamed habitat destruction, disease and conflict with humans for the lion population decline."

More from GlobalPost: Lion smugglers plague Somalia (PHOTOS) 


Sex with Africans can stop you from donating blood in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's health minister says that gay men, those who have sex with prostitutes or Africans should not be allowed to give blood.
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About 100 sex workers, some wearing masks to avoid identification, and human rights activists, march through Cape Town on International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on March 3, 2011. Thousands of people worldwide took to the streets to march for the cause including in seven African countries: Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. (Rodger Bosch /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Being a gay man or having sex with either prostitutes or Africans are examples of risky sexual behavior that will exclude you from giving
blood if Northern Ireland's health minister Edwin Poots has his way.

In seeking to defend an existing ban on homosexuals donating blood, Poots dug an even deeper hole for himself saying:

"I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behavior in general should be excluded from giving blood. And so someone who has sex with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes, I am very reluctant about those people being able to give blood."

Many in Africa and around the world have highlighted the ignorance, stupidity and racism of Poots' remarks, as reported by the BBC, and his comments as might be expected, provoked an angry backlash and a righteous Twitterstorm of disgust and dismay.

More from GlobalPost: 3 Secret Service agents leave posts over Cartagena prostitutes scandal


Africa to get new low cost airline

New company, Fastjet, to offer flights between Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola.
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A new low cost airline is to be launched in Africa. The continent does not have enough airline routes and Fastjet will open new flights connecting East, West and Southern Africa, say its founders. Here, traditional dancers in Zimbabwe welcome the arrival of an Airbus jet on February 1, 2012. (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A new low-cost airline for Africa offering regional flights for under $100 is in the works after regional carrier Fly540 was sold to a consortium that includes easyJet founder Stellios Haji-Ioannou.

London-based Rubicon Diversified Investments said it planned to buy Lonrho Aviation, the holding company behind Fly540 which has 10 aircraft flying regional routes in from airports in East, West and Southern Africa.

In a statement Rubicon said the acquisition was "a platform to launch a new low cost carrier, Fastjet, across Africa with Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of the leading low cost airline, easyJet."

Lonrho said that Rubicon — which is 5 percent owned by Haji-Ioannou — would pay $86 million for the company.

In a telephone conference call with journalists, Ed Winter, who is slated to become chief executive of Fasjet said, "It is the optimum time to launch because Africa is hugely underserved from an aviation perspective. It is the last frontier for aviation.

"We will fly between Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola and the average fare will be $70-$80. We should be flying by the end of the year," he said.

Fastjet would then hope to expand to become the first pan-African low-cost airline, something that would be welcomed by African travellers who are frequently stung by sky-high rates for intra-continental travel.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa seeks an entrepreneurial revolution


Mugabe lashes out at South African torture probe

Angry Zimbabwean dictator urges South Africa to block investigation into charges of state abuse in Zimbabwe.
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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks during a rally marking his 88th birthday in Mutare on February 25, 2012 with a trademark attack on gays and foreigners at a rally of his supporters. (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Robert Mugabe is in angry, fiery form.

Shaking his clenched fist, the Zimbabwean leader — 88 and in power for 32 years — harrangued a group of southern African leaders, telling them that South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, must stop an investigation into charges that Mugabe's regime has tortured its critics.

Speaking in Harare at a convention southern African liberation movements, Mugabe said the recent decision by South Africa's courts which ordered a probe into allegations of torture and other human rights abuses in Zimbabwe "a racist assault" by whites against black majority rule, reported Associated Press.

Mugabe said that South African President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders in South Africa must "apply every means at their disposal" to prevent the court-ordered investigation against Zimbabwean police officers and others. Calling the white South Africa judge who made the ruling "a boer," a pejorative term for whites, Mugabe said the ruling came from whites "still in our midst yearning for the old flags" of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. 


Locusts from Libya threaten Mali and Niger

Biblical plague occured because Libya's civil war last year stopped insect prevention efforts.
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A young boy from Niger holds a millet cob eaten by locusts. The Food and Agriculture Organization warns that Mali and Niger, already coping with severe food shortages, are threatened by an influx of locusts from Libya. (Boureima Hama /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Colonel Gaddafi continues to wreak havoc on the desert parts of West Africa from beyond the grave.

First, his once-loyal Tuareg foot-soldiers, noting their patron's demise, stocked up with lots and lots of weapons before heading home to launch a separatist movement in Mali, and now a swarm of locusts is on its way threatening to tear through the meager crops of people already on the verge of starvation.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that swarms of desert locusts are making their way south from Algeria and Libya towards the farmlands of Mali and Niger where aid workers are already warning of catastrophic food shortages affecting around 18 million people across the region.

The Gaddafi link? Desert locusts are common but controllable pests except when, as last year, civil war means the experts can't treat the breeding grounds to stop them swarming.

"In a normal year, Algeria and Libya would have been able to control most of the local swarms and prevent their movement towards the south, but insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border is getting in the way of full access by local teams and by FAO experts who need to assess the situation.

"Libya’s capacity to carry out control efforts has also been affected in the past year,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer.

The FAO added that insecurity along the Algeria/Libya border was ongoing and that the "political insecurity and conflict" in Mali might also hamper control efforts making.

If the gathering swarm gets really big it can stretch for several hundred square kilometers with as many as 80 million individuals in each square kilometer, according to the FAO. They can travel more than 130 kilometers a day and eat their own body weight each day.

"How many locusts there are and how far they move will depend on two major factors — the effectiveness of current control efforts in Algeria and Libya and upcoming rainfall in the Sahel of West Africa,” said Cressman.

The last locust plague in the region was in 2003-05.