Southeastern Africa Cleans Up From Tropical Storm Ana

Rescue efforts continued across southeastern Africa Monday for thousands of people cut off by flooding from last week’s Tropical Storm Ana. The storm killed at least 90 people across Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi. Experts say a fresh cyclone formin…

Rescue efforts continued across southeastern Africa Monday for thousands of people cut off by flooding from last week’s Tropical Storm Ana. The storm killed at least 90 people across Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi. Experts say a fresh cyclone forming near the island nation of Mauritius could hamper rescue efforts and worsen damage in the region.

The storm damaged public infrastructures, including health care facilities and roads, and interrupted medical services to people affected by the storm.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the storm killed 20 people in Mozambique and displaced 121,000 others. In Madagascar, according to the Africa CDC, 48 people were killed and 148,000 others left homeless.

In Malawi, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs says Tropical Storm Ana killed 32 people and displaced 188,000 from their homes across 17 districts.

“For Chikwawa alone, [a] total of 44 camps have been set to accommodate the displaced. But the figures might rise, as the council is still conducting some assessment, and the general public will be updated on any development,” said Chipiliro Khamula, the department’s spokesperson.

On Thursday, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera declared a national disaster in areas hard-hit by Tropical Storm Ana and called for urgent assistance for the flood victims.

In a statement Sunday, the Department of Disaster Management said relief assistance is reaching some areas, although efforts to access others are hampered by impassable roads.

The countries affected by Tropical Storm Ana are concerned by reports of a fresh tropical cyclone, known as Batsirai, is forming near the island nation of Mauritius.

However, weather experts in the region have downplayed those fears.

Yobu Kachiwanda, the spokesperson for Malawi’s’ Department of Meteorological Services, said Tropical Cyclone Batsirai is currently still in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar.

“And at this stage, the track is not very certain. So, more of its possible track will be observed in the next three days, but otherwise for now, there is no threat to Malawi weather. But if there [will] be any cause of threat to Malawi weather, Malawians will be informed accordingly,” Kachiwanda said.

If it does approach Malawi, he advised people in flood-prone areas to take heed of any warnings from weather experts and officials.

“If they are saying move to higher ground, they should act immediately, because these threats are there, and climate change is with us,” Kachiwanda said.

President Chakwera offered similar advice Monday when he visited flood victims in the Chikwawa and Nsanje districts in southern Malawi.

Source: Voice of America

Tensions Rise Between Mali, Western Governments

Mali’s military rulers are clashing with the international community over when to hold elections and how to conduct the fight against Islamist militants. Former colonial power France has been drawing down its troops in Mali, and European governments ar…

Mali’s military rulers are clashing with the international community over when to hold elections and how to conduct the fight against Islamist militants. Former colonial power France has been drawing down its troops in Mali, and European governments are considering pulling troops from a U.N. peacekeeping mission over concerns about Russian mercenaries.

Since being sanctioned by the West Africa bloc ECOWAS for failure to organize elections, Mali’s military rulers have taken a hard stance against countries, including France, that backed the sanctions.

France has led the multi-nation military intervention in Mali since 2013, when forces arrived to take back the north from Islamist control.

This week, Mali ordered a recently arrived Danish contingent of the European Takuba task force to “withdraw immediately” from Malian territory.

The government also accused France of breaching Malian airspace by flying a military plane from Gao in northern Mali to neighboring Ivory Coast without notifying Malian authorities.

Mali has acknowledged a degree of cooperation with official Russian trainers, but denies accusations that they are cooperating with the Wagner Group, a military contracting agency widely believed to have links to the Russian government.

Ornella Moderan, head of the Sahel Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Bamako, says that though accusations of human rights abuses against the Wagner Group are concerning, Malians have also seen abuses from other military forces, including France, notably with a drone strike on a wedding in the town of Bounti last year that the U.N. says killed 19 civilians.

Moderan says the extensive Western intervention up until now has had a limited effect.

All of this has not stabilized or improved the situation, she says. On the contrary we have noticed in the last year a worsening of the security context. She says, there are more and more violent incidents, always with a lot of victims. It’s in this context, she adds, that we must put the will of the Malian transitional authorities, to try something else, to see if this something else can work.

Aly Tounkara, director of the Center for Security and Strategic Studies in the Sahel, a Bamako-based think tank, says that without the years of military intervention, the current situation could be even worse.

He says a Russian intervention may help in terms of military strength on the ground, but that this will have limited effect on long-term security.

He says he can’t see the Russian Federation giving millions for projects that will reduce community tensions, notably how to bring back all of these young people who have joined these radical violent groups, to resume social life, how to restart the economy that has been slowed down by insecurity. Regarding these issues, he adds, after these battles against radical groups, the Malian state will be stuck.

Alioune Tine, an independent U.N. expert on human rights in Mali, also emphasized the need for non-military solutions.

Now, he says, we must reflect after years of military intervention, if in reality the only way to intervene or to respond to the security problem in Mali is with the army? I think from this point of view, really, the answer is no. Maybe we have to find other means, political means, in order to get out of this Malian crisis.

Tine added it’s essential that a solution to the insecurity in Mali involve young people and women especially, and focus on development – not just more weapons and military strength.

Source: Voice of America

US Ambassador to Burkina Faso: Aid Cuts Possible After Coup

Burkina Faso’s coup leaders have yet to say if they will install a civilian or military leader after deposing President Roch Kaboré, who has since resigned formally. In an exclusive interview with VOA, U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Sandra Clark says …

Burkina Faso’s coup leaders have yet to say if they will install a civilian or military leader after deposing President Roch Kaboré, who has since resigned formally. In an exclusive interview with VOA, U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Sandra Clark says if the military installs its own leader, Washington could cut support to Burkina Faso.

In the exclusive interview, Ambassador Clark said the United States is closely monitoring the situation.

“We are evaluating events on the ground for any impact on our assistance. This is a very fluid situation and things are evolving. I would note that U.S. law does require a review and possible suspension of assistance in cases where a democratic government is deposed by unconstitutional means,” she told VOA.

The junta has yet to announce whether it plans to install a military or a civilian president as the new ruler. If a civilian is selected, it may mean a continuation of support from the United States, which has provided counterterrorism training to Burkinabe troops, as well as funding.

Ambassador Clark says the U.S. would like to see democratic rule restored.

“We have called for the immediate release of President Kaboré and other government officials and for a return to civilian-led government and constitutional order, and we urge all sides to remain calm and seek dialogue to address grievances,” she expressed.

Burkina Faso has been locked in a six-year conflict with armed groups linked to Islamic State, al-Qaida and local bandits. The military has suffered a string of significant defeats to the groups in recent months.

France also has a special forces unit stationed in the country and provides air and intelligence support to the Burkinabe military.

Meanwhile, there is widespread agreement among Burkinabes that the status quo with the country’s current military partners needs to change.

More than 1,000 people attended a demonstration Tuesday in the capital, Ouagadougou. Speakers called for Russian military support, which has occurred in neighboring Mali in recent weeks.

Alexander Ivanov, the official representative of Russian military trainers in the Central African Republic, issued a statement offering training to the Burkinabe military on Tuesday.

Analyst Andrew Lebovich, with the European Council on Foreign Relations, was asked by VOA why support for Russian intervention is growing.

“As anti-French sentiment has grown, as skepticism has grown and as people have grown concerned and frustrated with the security situation, that blame has fallen, unfairly or not, on the traditional partners, on the current partners,” he responded.

There has been no further word on the whereabouts of former President Kaboré, whom the military arrested on Monday.

Source: Voice of America

Guinea, Vanuatu Have UN Vote Restored After Paying Dues

Guinea and Vanuatu had their ability to vote at the United Nations restored on Monday, having been denied the right at the beginning of the month over their failure to pay their dues to the world body, a UN spokeswoman said.”The General Assembly took n…

Guinea and Vanuatu had their ability to vote at the United Nations restored on Monday, having been denied the right at the beginning of the month over their failure to pay their dues to the world body, a UN spokeswoman said.

“The General Assembly took note that Guinea, Iran and Vanuatu have made the payments necessary to reduce their arrears below the amounts specified in Article 19 of the Charter,” U.N. spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said.

“This means that they can resume voting in the General Assembly,” she said.

Under Article 19, any country can have their voting rights in the General Assembly suspended if their payment arrears are equal to or greater than the contribution due for the past two full years.

The payment Friday of more than $18 million by Iran, via an account in Seoul and most likely with the approval of the United States, which has imposed heavy financial sanctions on Tehran, had been announced at the end of last week by UN sources and confirmed by South Korea.

For their part, Guinea had to pay at least $40,000 and Vanuatu at least $194 to recover their right to vote.

Kubiak later added three other countries that lost their U.N. voting rights in early January had also recovered them after paying the minimum arrears required last week.

Those countries were Sudan, which had to pay about $300,000, Antigua and Barbuda, which owed some $37,000 and Congo-Brazzaville, with around $73,000 in arrears, said the spokeswoman.

On the other hand, Venezuela, which is facing a minimum payment of nearly $40 million, and Papua New Guinea, which must pay just over $13,000, remain deprived of the right to vote, according to the U.N.

They are the only two countries out of the 193 members of the United Nations that will not be able to participate in votes this year.

Source: Voice of America

Reporter’s Notebook: Somali Journalist-Turned-Politician Survives Fifth Suicide Attack

By all odds, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu should not be alive to tell his story.

Five times, this Somali journalist-turned-government spokesperson has been nearby when a suicide bomber set off explosives. The most recent incident occurred Jan. 16, when a bomber targeted him in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

“As I was trying to move, a man, allegedly the suicide bomber, ran towards my vehicle near the Makka al-Mukarama Hotel,” he told me earlier this week. “He grabbed the back side of my vehicle and blew himself up. I became unconscious and later woke up in a hospital bed in Mogadishu with my nose covered with life-supporting oxygen [equipment].”

He talked to me by phone from a hospital in Turkey, where he was airlifted 24 hours after the explosion.

Militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. Moalimuu said his leg is broken and he has shrapnel wounds on his hand and shoulder.

But he said he is optimistic he will recover from the attack. He has healed several times before.

A close, lucky colleague

Moalimuu spent years working for the BBC, reporting on the all-too-frequent terrorist attacks and suicide bombings that have killed thousands of innocent people in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

As a former BBC reporter in Mogadishu myself, I was Moalimuu’s colleague, roommate and a close friend. Together we covered bomb and mortar attacks and witnessed colleagues die, including BBC producer Kate Peyton, who died after being shot in the back outside a hotel in Mogadishu by a suspected Islamist gunman in 2006.

I personally survived an attack on a Banadir University graduation ceremony at the Shamo Hotel in 2009 that killed 25 people.

Moalimuu is known as a man of resilience by his colleagues in the media. Earlier this month, I saw that resilience and the danger when I visited Mogadishu for the first time in 11 years.

On Jan. 3, I was riding with him in the same vehicle that days later was targeted by the suicide bomber. After living 11 peaceful years in the U.S., I could see the danger and risks surrounding his life as we moved through Mogadishu streets and government checkpoints, which are often the target for terrorist attacks. But to my surprise he looked coolly calculating and daring.

At some point that day, I remember being suspicious about a teenage boy holding a black backpack and walking toward our vehicle. I feared he could be a suicide bomber. As he got closer, I froze and Moalimuu kept looking at him, but fortunately the young boy passed.

From his bed in Turkey, Moalimuu remembered the boy.

“That young boy we suspected the other day could be the suicide bomber, who targeted me. Sometimes, it is mind-boggling. Why would someone you do not know, who does not know you, want to kill you and himself?” he asked.

He also said living and working in Mogadishu can be exhausting.

“I sometimes get tired of observing around,” he said. “Innocent people, schoolchildren and mothers are walking on the streets and terrorists are hiding among them. You do not know who is going to kill you where and when.

“Most of the time, I have been going through my days unaware, not thinking of our mortality,” he said. “I cope by focusing on the things more directly in front of me as a journalist before and as a politician.”

Five-time survivor

Moalimuu’s first close brush with death came in June 2013. He was driving past a United Nations compound in Mogadishu when an al-Shabab suicide bomber blew up his car outside.

“I remember the remains of a suicide bomber landed on my car, smashing the windscreen,” he said, adding that the event left him shocked but uninjured.

The second attack he survived was in August 2016, when al-Shabab fighters stormed a Lido Beach restaurant where he was sitting. He was wounded in the attack, which turned into a siege that lasted for hours.

“I survived by lying in my own blood, pretending to be dead,” he recalled. “One of my friends, who was sitting with me, was already dead and his body was right in front of me.”

The incident left scars on his face and, of course, mental trauma.

“It took me months to recover from that attack,” he said.

He was injured again on Feb. 28, 2019, when al-Shabab launched a bomb-and-shooting attack at Maka al-Mukarama Hotel, killing at least 10 people.

And finally, he survived an al-Shabab attack on the beachside Elite Hotel on Aug. 17, 2020. At least 12 people were killed in that incident, along with five militants, according to police.

From that attack, he emerged unscathed.

To the extent that I know him, Moalimuu is a hardworking, charismatic, sympathetic, humble and very friendly person.

But this time, his last words in our conversation over the phone showed his anger toward terrorists.

“Terrorism is a devastating tactic and is almost impossible to defend against,” he said. “But there is one thing I am sure of — they cannot decide when a person is to die, and the proof is the magnitude of the suicide attack that targeted my vehicle and the injuries I sustained. Thanks to Allah.”

Why did he stay?

A decade ago, I got a job at the VOA office in Washington, D.C., and decided to leave Mogadishu, in part because I feared for my life and that of my family.

Moalimuu had similar opportunities to live a peaceful life abroad. He turned them down, driven by his determination to tell the world what was happening in the Horn of Africa.

“If all of us run away, the criminals killing and tormenting my people will have triumphed. The world will not know the heinous crimes which are being committed,” Moalimuu told me 10 years ago. I’ve kept that quote in a diary.

In our phone conversation, he added another reason why he stays: He could not leave loved ones in Somalia.

“You know when you have a family that depends on you and children that need you, it is hard to decide to leave them behind,” he said.

Moalimuu recently transitioned to a new job, as a government spokesperson for the office of Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble. He is considering a run for a seat in parliament, although Somali elections remain indefinitely delayed because of disputes between rival political factions.

Despite his injuries, despite the possibility that the next terrorist attack will break his sorely tested luck, he is still willing to continue to work for the betterment of Somalia.

“Nothing will never discourage me to serve for my country and people,” he told me over the phone. “My goal is to make a difference in the governing and legislation system, which I could not do as a journalist.”

He has no illusions about the threats he faces.

“In Somalia,” he said, “it does not matter whether you are ordinary civilian, journalist or politician. You are always in danger.”

 

 

Source: Voice Of America

SpaceX Rocket Lifts Off with South African Satellites on Board

A SpaceX rocket launch Thursday carried three small South African-made satellites that will help with policing South African waters against illegal fishing operations.Produced at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the satellites could also be…

A SpaceX rocket launch Thursday carried three small South African-made satellites that will help with policing South African waters against illegal fishing operations.

Produced at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the satellites could also be used to help other African countries to protect their coastal waters.

SpaceX’s billionaire boss Elon Musk has given three nano satellites produced in his birth country, South Africa, a ride into space.

The company’s Falcon rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in the U.S. state of Florida with 105 spacecraft on board. All three South African satellites deployed successfully.

This mission, known as Transporter 3, is part of SpaceX’s rideshare program which in two previous outings has put over 220 small satellites into orbit.

The three South African nano satellites on this trip were designed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Africa Space Innovation Centre.

The institution’s deputy vice chancellor for research, technology and innovation Professor David Phaho says “it marks a quantum leap in terms of South Africa’s capability to participate in the space sector. As you can imagine the issue of oceans economy has become topical globally. And the fact that we’ve developed this capacity in South Africa, and we are launching this (sic) satellites will go a long way in enhancing our capabilities to monitor our coastline and grow our economy.”

Phaho notes the university has been building up to the launch of these satellites, known collectively as MDASat-1, with a previous satellite launch in 2018.

“These three satellites, there was a precursor to these current three satellite constellation. Zcube2 is the most advanced nano satellite developed on the African continent and it was launched in December 2018 so these ones are basically part and parcel of that development. And they are probably the most advanced nano satellites developed on the African continent,” Phaho expressed.

Stephen Cupido studied at the space center and graduated in 2014. Today, he works here as a software engineer and points out that “it’s been a ride, it’s been amazing, ups and downs but this is definitely an up today. Just to get everything ready for today has been a lot of pressure.”

And the interaction with SpaceX has been complicated he says laughing “but it’s necessary. We are putting objects in space and space is for everyone, we have to keep it safe for everybody so we understand the paperwork involved but we’ve got all the information through to them. They’re launching our satellite so everything is in order.”

The university paid almost $260,000 to secure its spot on the SpaceX craft. It says it hopes to continue the relationship with Elon Musk’s company.

Source: Voice of America