Connect to share and comment

A daily chronicle of a rapidly changing continent.

Malawi: Women accused of indecency stripped naked by men

Malawi men strip women naked for wearing "un-African" clothes.
Malawi women stripped clothes 2012 1 20Enlarge
A woman washes clothes as children play along the Saga beach, at Lake Malawi, on July 17, 2011. (Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — There's a whole lot of nastiness that gets done under the guise of religious or traditional beliefs but Malawi is busy displaying one of the more bizarre examples.

More on GlobalPost: Malawi’s Muslim communities embrace family planning

Lately gangs of young men, mostly street hawkers, have been attacking women wearing trousers or short skirts.

Horrified by their brazen dress (and perhaps over-excited and more than a little repressed) the men have stripped their victims naked there and then on the streets of the two main cities Blantyre and Liliongwe.

More on GlobalPost: Malawi to review anti-gay laws

The attackers claimed that the women's choice of clothing was un-African and that they were simply enforcing a government decree.

That may have been the case 20-years ago under the waning dictatorship of Hastings Banda who did indeed enforce a law banning women from
wearing trousers.

But with Banda went the law, as current President Bingu wa Mutharika explained on state radio:

"I will not allow anyone to wake up and go on the streets and start undressing women and girls wearing trousers, because that is illegal. Every woman and girl has the right to dress the way they wish. No one should lie that I have asked vendors to assault women dressed in trousers. It's a lie and I will not allow that."

Nor will Malawi's women, thousands of whom are holding a public protest against the attacks wearing, of course, trousers.

More on GlobalPost: Southern Africa may face higher food prices

More

Madagascar: Former president plans return, risks arrest

Former Madagascar president plans to return under threat of arrest by current president.
Marc RavalomananaEnlarge
Ousted Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana shows his plane tickets during a press conference on Jan. 20, 2012 in Sandton, Johannesburg. Marc Ravalomanana said Friday he will return home from exile in South Africa on Saturday, almost three years after he was ousted by the island's current leader Andry Rajoelina. Ravalomanana will be arrested if he returns home this weekend, a general told AFP on Friday. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The ousted former president of the island nation of Madagascar is planning to return from exile on Saturday, facing arrest upon landing.

Marc Ravalomanana tried to return last February, but didn't make it past airport security in South Africa — his exiled home — because the new president Andry Rajoelina ordered that any plane with his opponent on board would be refused permission to land.

More from GlobalPost: Africa's most powerful men under 40

"It is with great pleasure and carrying the hopes and aspirations of all Malagasy for a return to peace and freedom in our beloved country that I announce, once again, that I will return to Madagascar tomorrow," Ravalomanana told a press conference in Johannesburg.

After the 2009 coup that brought Rajoelina to power, Ravalomanana was tried in absentia, charged with the killing of protestors and sentenced to life in prison.

Relations between the two men have not thawed, helping to keep Madagascar in a state of flux for the last three years. While Ravalomanana sounded confident that he would be able to return home a government spokesman insisted the ex-president "will be arrested" on arrival.

More

Somalia: Mogadishu attempts to evict Al Shabaab

African Union forces says it succeeded in ridding Somalia's capital of Al Shabaab militants.
Somalia mogadishu al shabaab evicted 2012 1 20Enlarge
A photo taken on Jan. 19, 2012 shows a Somalia security officer standing guard at an IDP camp for people displaced by famine near Adan Ade airport, in the capital Mogadishu. Regular explosions from the Al Qaeda linked Al Shabaab's guerrilla attacks, including suicide bombers and homemade explosives, still rock the city, where some 180,000 people have fled hunger in the hope of finding aid. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Residents of Mogadishu are used to perpetual conflict. That's just how life is there, at least for most of the last couple of decades. So waking to the sound of fighting on Friday morning would have been nothing new.

More from GlobalPost: Feeding Mogadishu Today (PHOTOS)

The scale of what was happening seems, however, unusual.

One government official told the BBC that 1,000 soldiers and 20 tanks had been deployed to the northern and western fringes of the city in a bid to completely clear Islamist insurgents out of the capital.

Such promises — to evict Al Shabaab for good — have been made before and the numbers quoted today seem a little on the high side but no doubt it was a big operation.

More from GlobalPost: MSF closes two major medical centers in Somalia

The spokesperson of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which backs the government said the operation had been a success. 

"This is the first time AMISOM has been able to secure an area outside the parameters of the city allowing them to defend greater Mogadishu from the exterior," said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda adding that two of his troops had been injured in the fighting.

Securing the capital is a key priority for the government, its troops and AMISOM, but this kind of operation is unlikely to bring a sustained peace.

When Al Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu in August it promised asymmetric warfare and has been true to its word launching suicide bombings, opportunistic attacks and planting countless bombs (many of which are defused by government and AMISOM soldiers).

The old frontlines have dissolved and pushing Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu is more a PR victory than a strategic one as it will scarcely affect Al Shabaab's ability to carry out its guerrilla war.

More from GlobalPost: Somalia famine: "Tens of thousands will have died," UN says

More

Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh inaugurated to fourth term

Gambia's controversial leader vows to "wipe out" lazy workers and create jobs for youth.
Gambia president yahya jammeh oath 2012 1 19Enlarge
Gambian incumbent Yahya Jammeh (L) speaks with his wife, Zeineb Souma Jammeh, on Nov. 24, 2011 as he leaves a polling station in the capital Banjul after voting in the presidential elections. Gambians voted on Nov. 24 in polls, which some observers said were skewed in favor of Jammeh, who heaped scorn on criticism that his regime is repressive. (Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh was inaugurated into his fourth term today, promising that people would see "a different Yahya Jammeh."

Jammeh also promised to focus on women empowerment and youth employment, the AFP reported.

He pledged he would make Gambia an economic superpower in the next five years by taking more specific action.

Read more on GlobalPost: Gambia's Jammeh: "I will rule 1 billion years"

"You cannot be in your offices everyday doing nothing," Jammeh said on a televised state address, according to Bloomberg. "This has to stop. You either do your work or leave or go to jail."

He continued without elaborating, according to the AFP:

"I will wipe out almost 82 percent of those in the work force in the next five years starting this Friday (tomorrow) unless they change their attitudes."

Going forward, Jammeh talked about adopting a "zero tolerance" policy for corruption and drugs, saying he will not compromise the country's security for the interest of few.

Read more on GlobalPost: Drug traffickers get 50 years in Gambia

Jammeh was re-elected for his fourth term in November after a widely criticized poll. He first seizing power in a coup in 1994.

His rule has been criticized by international human rights groups, which have accused the leader of making unlawful arrests and holding unfair trials, according to Bloomberg.

"President Jammeh is once again proving that he does not tolerate any form of criticism and is ruthlessly persecuting anyone who speaks out against his regime," said Lucy Freeman, Gambia's Amnesty International researcher, the AFP reported.

More

Ethiopia: Recent tourist attack denied by Eritrea (VIDEO)

Ethiopia and Eritrea blame each other for the recent tourist attack that killed five European tourists.
Ethiopia tourists eritrea blames 2012 1 19Enlarge
Unidentified tourists, part of the group that were attacked in Ethiopia’s Afar region, arrive at Bole International airport in Addis Ababa on Janu. 18, 2012. Two Germans, two Hungarians and one Austrian were killed by gunmen near the Erta Ale volcano in in Ethiopia’s remote north early Jan. 17. The Ethiopian government blamed Eritrean rebels for the attack, in which two foreigners were also kidnapped and two foreigners were injured. Eritrea vehemently denied they were behind the killings. (Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Politics is a dirty business, of course, but using the murder of innocent people to score political points is about as low as it gets.

Not that this has stopped Ethiopia and Eritrea who are both sending forth missives from their embassies to journalists blaming each other for the attack in a remote part of Ethiopia earlier this week that left five European tourists dead and two missing, presumed kidnapped.

Read more on GlobalPost: Tourists kidnapped after five killed in attack near Eritrea

Ethiopia went first, blaming Eritrea for the attack within hours of it happening.

In a statement the government said: "It is already clear that the attack was carried out with the direct involvement of the Eritrean Government."

Perhaps, but where is the evidence?

The statement contains one sentence expressing "condolences" to the families of the dead while the remainder of the two-page document is given over to bashing Eritrea, its old and bitter enemy.

Read more on GlobalPost: Ethiopia tourists killed in remote Afar region

Soon afterwards came the riposte from Eritrea accusing Ethiopia of "mendaciously implicating" it in the attack and then going on to argue that the Ethiopian regime's "narrow policies of exclusion and marginalization" had given rise to armed groups on its own territory.

It's as clear as mud who is responsible for this awful attack — Eritrean sponsored rebels or homegrown Ethiopian ones, or a group that is both at once — but using these murders to open yet another skirmish in their endless hostilities is a low point for both countries.

Read more on GlobalPost: Eritrea denies arming Shabaab, again

Here's a video about the recent tourist attack:

Five Europeans Killed in Ethiopia
World News Videos by NewsLook

 

More

South Sudan: Is Russia to blame for the most recent massacre?

Russia's removal of helicopters from South Sudan hinders the UN's most recent peacekeeping efforts
South sudan russia aid un support massacre 2012 01 19Enlarge
People stand around an helicotper provided by the UN Mission in South Sudan for the World Food Program in Pibor, South Sudan's Jonglei state, on January 12, 2012. (Hannah Mcneish/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Over the New Year there was a massacre in a remote part of South Sudan. It was part of a long-standing feud between the Lou-Nuer and Murle people who traditionally raid one another's cattle. But this one was bad, leaving probably hundreds and possibly thousands dead.

Read more from GlobalPost here: South Sudan: 51 killed in latest attacks in Jonglei

The United Nations managed to get 400 peacekeepers into the town of Pibor ahead of the onslaught by an army of Lou-Nuer, but it was not enough to prevent the killing.

Clearly, something went wrong.

Read more from GlobalPost here: South Sudan News: UN humanitarian operation launched

Speaking at a conference in New York, secretary-general Ban Ki-moon explained what had happened.

"Consider the recent violence in South Sudan. We saw it coming weeks before."

"Yet we were not able to stop it - unfortunately. Nor was the government, which like others has primary responsibility for protecting its citizens."

"The reason was painfully simple: we were denied the use of necessary resources ... in particular helicopters that would have given us mobility to bring all the UN Peacekeepers where there are no roads except by air mobility."

"At the critical moment, I was reduced to begging for replacements from neighboring countries and missions. With limited resources, we tried our best."

It is an incredible admission, but why were the resources limited?

Last year Russia withdrew four of the eight helicopters that it provided to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), amid fears regarding the security of the Russian crews who had come under fire. The other four were grounded, meaning the UN was unable to get enough peacekeepers to Pibor in time.

The row between Russia and the UN has escalated with Moscow threatening to withdraw its support for the South Sudan mission altogether.

More

Mozambique: Storm and flooding to get worse, officials warn

Mozambique prepares for severe weather as storm evicts residents during cyclone season.
51397353Enlarge
A Mozambican man helps his wife cross the flooded highway to Xhai Xhai from Maputo, Feb. 22, 2000, next to an overturned bus which was overturned when Cyclone Eline hit Mozambique. (Yova Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Earlier this week people in low-lying, flood-prone parts of Mozambique were warned by the authorities to flee as heavy rainstorms beat down
.

More from GlobalPost: Flood warning issued by authorities

And the situation is getting worse. 

An estimated 1,500 people have been forced to abandon their 
homes, 
a third of them in the capital Maputo
, 
and four have lost their lives.

Forecasters are predicting more, heavier storms to come.

It is still a 
long, long way from the disaster of 2000 when half a million people
 were left homeless by flooding that killed around 700 people, but 
fears are rising along with the floodwaters.

Here's Mozambique back in 2000:

More

Rwanda: Military officers arrested by President Paul Kagame

Rwandan President Paul Kagame may have arrested his officers to eliminate potential threats.
Rwanda soldier kagame arrest 2012 1 19Enlarge
Rwandan soldiers attend a ceremony on Feb. 25, 2009 in Goma. A military parade was held to mark the departure of Rwandan forces from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a controversial joint operation with Congolese troops against Rwandan Hutu rebels. (Lionel Healing/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Three army generals and a colonel are under house arrest in Rwanda accused of looting — or as the Rwandan military put it "indiscipline" — in Congo.

The men include two of Rwanda's spy chiefs, one of whom is a close advisor to President Paul Kagame.

Read more on GlobalPost: Rwandan military officers arrested

The most significant thing about the arrests is that this is the first acknowledgement by Kigali that senior officers have been involved in the wholesale plunder of Rwanda's larger, mineral-rich but catastrophically dysfunctional neighbour.

Rwanda first invaded Congo in pursuit of the genocidaires, the Hutu killers who butchered 800,000 people during the 1994 genocide. Then Rwanda invaded again when it fell out with former ally Laurent Kabila, father of the current president of Congo.

But even when Rwanda has not been in Congo, it's still been in Congo, either secretly or via proxies. And Rwanda has long denied accusations of plundr.

Read more on GlobalPost: FDLR commander Leodomir Mugaragu killed in Congo

The most recent UN Group of Experts report on Congo, published in December, pointed out that Rwanda exported far more minerals that it mines, the implication being that there is large-scale smuggling of Congolese minerals which are laundered through Rwanda.

So the arrests are an overdue admission of guilt.

There may be another motive.

Kagame is a strict man who dislikes dissent. A number of his senior officers and former allies have fallen out with him in recent years and gone into exile complaining about their former comrade's autocratic tendencies.

So this could be an episode of house-cleaning, removing threats before they become serious.

But as any observer will tell you the inner workings of the interlocking Rwandan army and political elite are Shakespearean in their opacity.

Read more on GlobalPost: International court sends Rwanda genocide suspect to face trial in Kigali

More

Did Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, work for the CIA?

Reports says that former Liberian President Charles Taylor may have "worked for the CIA."
CharlestaylorEnlarge
Former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, celebrating with rebel troops in the height of his power. (PASCAL GUYOT /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya —While giving evidence in his trial for war crimes, former Liberian president Charles Taylor claimed, US agents were complicit in his escape from a maximum security prison in Boston in 1985 and subsequent re-emergence as a rebel leader in his native Liberia.

At the time the CIA dismissed Taylor's claims as "completely absurd" but now the Boston Globe has uncovered evidence that Taylor's tales may be less fanciful than they first seem.

In response to a freedom of information request filed by the paper six years ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed that Pentagon and CIA agents worked with Taylor starting in the early 1980s.

More from GlobalPost: Charles Taylor was a CIA informant in Liberia

"After a quarter-century of silence, the US government has confirmed what has long been rumored," writes Brian Bender, "Taylor, who would become president of Liberia and the first African leader tried for war crimes, worked with US spy agencies during his rise as one of the world’s most notorious dictators."

From the Globe's report:

"The Pentagon’s response to the Globe states that the details of Taylor’s role on behalf of the spy agencies are contained in dozens of secret reports — at least 48 separate documents — covering several decades. However, the exact duration and scope of the relationship remains hidden. The Defense Intelligence Agency said the details are exempt from public disclosure because of the need to protect 'sources and methods' safeguard the inner workings of American spycraft, and shield the identities of government personnel."

Nor was Taylor's prison time at Plymouth his first visit to Boston as the Globe recounts:

He arrived in 1972 and attended Chamberlayne Junior College in Newton and studied economics at Bentley College in Waltham. While in Boston, he emerged as a political force as national chairman of the Union of Liberian Associations. In 1977 he returned to Liberia and joined Samuel Doe’s government after a coup in 1980. Taylor served as chief of government procurement in the Doe regime but fled Liberia for Boston in 1983 after being accused of embezzling $1 million from the government. He was arrested in Somerville in 1984 and jailed in Plymouth pending extradition.

More from GlobalPost: Liberia president faces a tough second term

The revelations raise serious questions about the US intelligence agencies choice of allies, as Taylor is accused of all kinds of horrible crimes.

They also throw doubt on Taylor's own claims that his trial for war crimes is part of a grand Western conspiracy against a strong African leader.

More

Kenya: Presidential candidates Kenyatta and Ruto accused of crimes against humanity

While being tried International Criminal Court for their role in 2008 election violence, they are determined to run for president.
Kenya crimes against humanity kenyatta ruto 2012 01 18Enlarge
Kenyans watch on December 15, 2010 on television in a Nairobi store International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo publicly name six Kenyans suspected of masterminding the 2007-8 post-election violence that claimed 1,500 lives. Those named include Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, sacked education minister William Ruto -- a declared candidate for the 2012 presidential election -- and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A display of towering hubris from Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, a pair of Kenyan politicians who face charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in political violence that left more than 1,100 people dead in early 2008.

More from GlobalPost: Kenya glued to world court proceedings

More