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A daily chronicle of a rapidly changing continent.

Olympics on the line: Kenyan runner charged over stabbing

Olympic gold medal winner Ezekiel Kemboi from Kenya was accused of assault, but he says it was a setup.
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Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi (C) leaps over the jump during the men's 3,000 metres steeplechase final at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu on September 1, 2011. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
Kenya’s Olympic team has been thrown into turmoil with the arrest of one of its top athletes. World 3,000 meter steeplechase champion, Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi, has been charged with allegedly stabbing a woman on Wednesday night, according to the BBC.
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Mugabe's motorcade has terrorized drivers for years.

Zimbabwean president's speeding entourage has killed 3 in recent weeks, but it has been frightening motorists for many years.
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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives in his motorcade for the opening of the third session of the parliament in Harare on July 13, 2010. (DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images)

"Bob Mugabe and the Wailers" - that's how Robert Mugabe's motorcade has been known for years, because of the screaming sirens from its cars, warning drivers to pull fully off the road and stop when it whistles by.

But now Mugabe's motorcade is no laughing matter: It has been involved in three fatal accidents in the past two weeks.

This week one person was killed and 15 injured when the lead car in the speeding motorcade crashed into a minivan taxi, according to the BBC.

The crash occured Sunday in the rural area of Zvimba, Mugabe's birthplace, about 50 miles northwest of Harare.

More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe's motorcade in 3 deadly accidents in 2 weeks

Earlier this month, a motorcycle in the presidential cavalcade hit and killed a homeless man during another visit to the president's hometown. And in a separate acccident on the same trip, a member of the presidential guard died and seven others were hurt when a truck in the motorcade overturned after one of its tires burst, reported CNN.

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Uganda arrests gays and human rights activists. Again.

In Kampala, armed police raid a regional conference on the rights of gays. Amnesty denounces action as 'outrageous.'
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Members of the Ugandan gay community mourn at the funeral of murdered activist David Kato near Mataba, on January 28, 2011. Although the police claim it was most likely a petty crime, many members of the gay and the human rights community hold the Ugandan government responsible for not battling the growing violence against homosexuals in the Ugandan society. (Marc Hofer/AFP/Getty Images)

Uganda is keeping up its assault on the rights of gays.

Yesterday armed Ugandan police raided a human rights workshop and arrested lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and organizers of the conference in Kampala. This is the second time that Ugandan authorities have disrupted a workshop and arrested participants.

At least five staff of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, who organized the workshop, were detained by the police along with at least 12 of the workshop participants, according to local reports and Amnesty International.

More from GlobalPost: Uganda: Government minister Simon Lokodo leads charge against gay activists

Some of the participants, who came from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, managed to escape after being informed by members of the media that the police were on their way.

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West Africa mobilizes against Al Qaeda in Mali

UN help needed to stop Islamist extremists in northern Mali from spreading terror across continent, say African leaders.
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Niger's army forces patrol near a refugee camp, on May 29, 2012, where Malian refugees have found shelter. African Union chief Thomas Boni Yayi called for the creation of a UN-backed force to intervene in Mali, where Islamist militants and Tuareg rebels have declared independence in the north. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

Is northern Mali becoming Africa's Afghanistan? 

Niger and many other countries in West Africa think so. They are afraid that Al Qaeda is making northen Mali into a base and training center to spread their extremist terror across Africa and beyond.

The African leaders are so worried about it that they want the United Nations to help them push out the rebels and regain control of the vast desert territory of northern Mali. The 16 nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union are preparing to put a request for a UN Security Council mandate to fund a major military push into Mali, according to Voice of America.

Niger President Mahamdou Issoufou charged that Al Qaeda terrorists from Pakistan and Afghanistan are in Mali and are training Africans to carry out violent sabotage across the continent. He said the subsidiary group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is increasing its activities and in Mali the group Islamic group Ansar Dine is imposing strict Shariah law throughout northern Mali.

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Malawi refuses to host African Union summit

New president Joyce Banda cancels glittering AU meeting rather than invite Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.
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Malawi's new President Joyce Banda gives a press conference on April 10, 2012 in Lilongwe. Banda said she was pinning her hopes on donors to re-open aid taps after she started talking to them on possible resumption of aid frozen over governance and macroeconomic concerns. Banda was sworn in on April 7, 2012 just hours after officials confirmed the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika whose rule had sparked alarms over democratic freedoms and economic mismanagement. (Amos Gumulira /AFP/Getty Images)

Malawi's new president Joyce Banda is definitely shaping up to be Africa's most interesting head of state — she is taking bold steps that could turn around the poor southern African nation.

Today Banda cancelled the African Union summit in Malawi, rather than invite Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and she also announced that Malawi will sell the presidential jet.

Banda stood up to the African Union by refusing to host its summit in July because she did not want Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir to attend.

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Zimbabwe's jails: full of human kindness?

BBC presenter Petroc Trelawney says he was well-treated in Bulawayo jail.
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Prisoners incarcerated at Chikurumbi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Stringer//AFP/Getty Images)

After BBC music presenter Petroc Trelawny spent six days in custody in Zimbabwe on spurious charges, many were surprised that he said he was well treated in the Bulawayo jail and that was met with "nothing but kindness."

I'm not surprised. I, too, have spent time in jail in Zimbabwe and came away with a similar feeling.

Trelawny presents classical music shows on the BBC and went to Zimbabwe as a celebrity emcee for an arts festival in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city. He was not accepting payment for the engagement. He was arrested on charges of working as a journalist without accreditation.

Trelawney was taken to the Bulawayo jail where he shared a 14 foot by 9 foot cell with 16 people. Sometimes the number rose to 20.

"As soon as I went in, I realized it was going to be very uncomfortable but there was nothing to be frightened of," said Trelawney to the BBC. His fellow inmates were "warm and welcoming," he said. They showed him how to sleep in such a tight space — when one person moved, everyone else had to follow. Trelawney later tripped over one of the inmates and fell and fractured his arm. He was taken to a Bulawayo hospital where he said he was treated well by "amazing nurses" despite the lack of medicine.

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Who else is outraged that Mugabe is a UN tourism envoy?

Mugabe has presided over human rights abuses as well as the collapse of Zimbabwe's tourism. Why is he being honored?
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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 88, in Victoria Falls at the ceremony announcing that Zimbabwe and Zambia will co-host the UN World Tourism Organization General Assembly in August, 2013. (Joseph Mwenda/AFP/Getty Images)

Who else is outraged that Robert Mugabe has been named a UN special envoy for tourism?

Not only has Mugabe, 88 and in power for 32 years, run a ruthless regime blamed for state-sponsored murders and torture and bankrupted Zimbabwe's once prosperous economy, he has also presided over the collapse of Zimbabwe's previously thriving tourism industry.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe's tourism numbers have plummeted and hotel occupancy rates have dropped precipitously.

Air Zimbabwe used to run excellent flights around the country, connecting tourists to Harare, Bulawayo, Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls. It also operated busy, profitable flights which brought in tourists from South Africa and London. No more. The state-owned airline piled up debts and saw its planes seized in Johannesburg and London. Air Zimbabwe stopped operating in February.

Elephant, giraffe, rhinos, lions and an abundance of other animals used to provide tourists to Zimbabwe with an incomparable experience with African wildlife. More recently wildlife has been decimated in Hwange and other national parks, including Mana Pools along the Zambezi River, by poachers, some of whom have connections to Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, according to numerous reports. The parks have become run-down and often lack the water holes, because the parks department cannot keep the pumps operating, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

More from GlobalPost: Chinese eat up Zimbabwe's endangered wildlife

Zimbabwe's combination of repression and chaos are not conducive to tourism. Yes, some recent visitors report that they had a wonderful time, but there are others who report scary roadblocks and aggressive questioning by militia.

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Zimbabwe frees BBC radio presenter

Classical music specialist Petroc Trelawny was arrested at Bulawayo music festival.
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The power station in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Police freed BBC classical music presenter Petroc Trelawny after holding him for four days for allegedly working without a permit. Trelawny had been acting as an emcee at a music festival. Police dropped all charges. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Leave it to Robert Mugabe's regime to tarnish itself when it doesn't need to.

Just when Mugabe's top officials are pressing to get the European Union to lift sanctions and arguing that the government is not so repressive, Zimbabwe's police raid an arts festival and arrest the emcee of the event, BBC radio presenter Petroc Trelawny, on suspicion of working without a permit.

Trelawny was held from Thursday until his release late Monday, when the Attorney-General's office dropped all charges, reported the BBC.

'‘The AG has decided not to prosecute him and he is now a free man,’’ his lawyer Munyaradzi Nzarayapenga told The Zimbabwean. ‘‘I have also been advised that Trelawney will not be deported.’’

Trelawny was awaiting release from a Bulawayo hospital where he was under police watch while he was being treated for a fractured arm. Apparently he fell and broke his arm while in police custody, but he is not charging police with ill treatment, said his lawyer.

Trelawny presents the classical music shows, "Music Matters," "Breakfast" and "Live in Concert" on BBC Radio 3. He had been acting as the emcee at the Bulawayo Music Festival, organised by the Zimbabwe Academy of Music. Zimbabwe's media laws require journalists to be accredited by a state-appointed commission.

Trelawny was not working as a journalist but was helping the arts festival, said his lawyer.

"I feel this was a minor understanding which could have been handled differently," Nzarayapenga said.

He put it mildly — Mugabe's police have once again showed the world their special brand of heavy-handed repression.

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Zimbabwe: 65 trapped miners rescued

Fire in Mimosa Platinum Mine blocks shaft and keeps workers underground for nearly 24 hours.
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Workers at the Mimosa Mine in Zvishavane, on February 16, 2012. 65 miners were rescued after being trapped in the Mimosa mine for nearly 24 hours. (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

Some good news from Zimbabwe.

At least 65 miners were rescued after being trapped underground for almost 24 hours, reported Zimbabwe's NewsDay.

The miners were stuck 330 feet underground at the Mimosa Platinum Mine in the central town of Zvishavane, 200 miles southwest of Harare, on Monday evening when a conveyor belt collapsed and caught fire, blocking the exit shaft. Twenty miners were pulled out of the shaft quickly but 65 others were stuck underground. They moved to refuge bays before they were rescued, according to Bloomberg Businesseek.  

Rescue teams came in from surrounding mines to help evacuate the trapped workers and put out the raging fire, reported the state-owned Herald newspaper.

The trapped miners used safe breathing aparatus while beneath the earth, but they may have been exposed to toxic gases that could cause longterm health problems, according to the Herald report.

Mimosa Mine is the second largest platinum mine in Zimbabwe. It is jointly owned by the Mauritius-registered Aquarius and South Africa's Impala Platinum known as Implats. Zimbabwe has the world's second largest deposits of platinum after South Africa.

Zimbabwe is working to improve its mining safety. Last year at least 23 miners died, most of them in small-scale mines where safety regulations are not strictly enforced, reported The Zimbabwean.

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West Africa: Women threatened by violence at home

New report urges Liberia and Ivory Coast to pass legislation against domestic violence.
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Domestic violence is often a serious threat to women refugees in Africa, according to a new report by the International Rescue Committee. Here a displaced woman and her child from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan wait outside the Yida refugee camp registration center in Yida, South Sudan on April 26, 2012. (Adriane Ohanesian /AFP/Getty Images)

After the traumatic civil wars in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, those countries and the entire West African region are now working to return to democracy, stability and prosperity.

But a serious problem is preventing families from putting the bloodshed behind them and moving forward to build new lives: domestic violence.

Women in those post-war countries face continued violence, not from marauders with guns, but from their own spouses at home, according to a sobering report by the International Rescue Committee.

"Let Me Not Die Before My Time: Domestic Violence in West Africa," chronicles the dangers faced by African women in these post-conflict societies. 

The report pulls back the curtain and exposes that the riskiest place for many women is in their own homes. This is a worldwide problem, but the International Rescue Committe, in a great infographic, estimates that some of the highest rates of domestic violence are in Africa. To write the report the IRC drew on 10 years of work with refugees.

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