(Al Jazeera) Somalia executes al-Shabab journalist

| Politics, Africa

Hanafi said he confessed to the killing of journalists following torture by authorities in Mogadishu [AP]

Hanafi said he confessed to the killing of journalists following torture by authorities in Mogadishu [AP]

Somalia has executed a journalist accused of helping members of al-Shabab kill at least five journalists in the capital.

Hassan Hanafi, who was captured in neighbouring Kenya in 2014, was executed on Monday morning by a firing squad in Mogadishu after his appeal at a military court failed.

Hanafi was accused of helping fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group identify possible targets in the journalism community between 2007 and 2011.

From 2009 to 2011 he worked for Radio Andalus, al-Shabab’s official mouthpiece.

In an interview aired on Somalia state TV in February, Hanafi admitted ordering the murder of several journalists.

But in an audio recording of a phone call leaked last month Hanafi appeared to claim he made the confessions after being tortured.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists more than 25 journalists have been killed in the Horn of Africa country since 2007.

Al-Shabab, which is seeking to overthrow the country’s Western-backed government, was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by government troops backed by an African Union force.

It continues to carry out suicide attacks and targeted assassinations in south and central parts of the country, and it has also conducted major attacks in Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda, which all contribute troops to the African Union effort.

The article was published in Al Jazeera.

Kenyans Reacquire an Old Taste: Eating Healthier (NYT)

In the 1950s and ’60s, governments in Africa and Asia started subsidizing the production of staple crops like rice and corn because it was the fastest way to fill bellies and reduce starvation in those regions. Today, needs have changed: The problem is no longer chronic hunger but malnutrition, and the solution is not more calories, but better calories.

A field of maize in Malawi.Credit Mike Hutchings/Reuters

It’s a crucial difference. A diet of corn or rice may keep a person alive, but can result in myriad health issues from night-blindness to severe anemia. For decades, however, governments, agriculture companies and development organizations have focused so heavily on staple crop production that Africa and South Asia are now growing too much corn (or maize, as it’s widely known abroad) and rice, says Prabhu Pingali, director of the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative at Cornell University. Most of the surpluses are used for animal feed, in some cases to drive the growth of industrial animal production.

These starchy foods are not only insufficient to combat malnutrition; they have also displaced crops that are more nutrient-rich but harder to produce. And while governments have undertaken significant efforts, particularly since the global food crisis of 2008, to control prices for staple crops, they have made little effort to support the production or affordability of more nutritious foods, says Pingali. (See his critique of food policies as published in a June 2015 report in the journal Food Security. At the site, click on “Look Inside.”)

Consider lentils, or dal, in India, a legume that is rich in protein, fiber and key nutrients. “For decades, dal prices were rising relative to rice prices, but nobody said anything about it,” said Pingali. “It’s only now that people are saying: ‘Wait a minute. We need dal as much as we need rice. Where’s our dal strategy?’”

Governments around the world have long failed to promote the production or availability of a wide range of legumes, vegetables or fruits; in fact, just about every food other than corn, wheat or rice has been neglected. “Like in many other countries, when you talk about food security, Kenyans are talking about how many bags of maize we have,” said Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a horticultural researcher at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology near Nairobi. She has a story to tell about how to start turning things around.

Ten years ago, vegetables that had been introduced during colonial times, mainly cabbage, collard greens and kale (sukuma wiki in Swahili), were standard fare in many parts of Kenya, particularly urban areas. Indigenous greens like African nightshade, jute mallow and spider plant had become associated with poverty, and many Kenyans chose not to eat them despite their greater nutritional value.

Abukutsa has published more than a dozen studies documenting the robust health benefits of the traditional vegetables, which are high in vitamin A, iron, zinc and other micronutrients often lacking in local diets. Moreover, she began working to encourage restaurants and supermarkets to serve or carry these vegetables; she and her students took field trips to help farmers grow them; and she helped to develop and publish recipes to make them more appealing and approachable, since preparation for some of the greens can be rather involved, and some traditional cooking knowledge had become less widespread as the vegetables’ popularity declined. Then she circulated her findings to other researchers, to get them interested in these nutritional powerhouses.

Today, restaurants throughout Nairobi serve greens like African nightshade to packed lunch crowds and supermarkets sell out of them while kale wilts on the shelf, a sign that the traditional vegetables have been taking over the exotic varieties. More farmers are growing the indigenous greens, and in the most convincing sign of increasing commercial interest, seed companies are breeding them.

Abukutsa has also worked to include the study and breeding of indigenous vegetables in university curriculums, because she knows that horticulture students often go on to become agriculture extension officers, the key source of farming advice for farmers around the country. Five universities now include the cultivation of indigenous fruits and vegetables in their syllabuses, she said. While the obvious goal was to ensure that knowledge about indigenous crops trickled down to farmers, there has also been a potentially more powerful result: The insights that drive these efforts have been trickling up as well, and are making their way into national policy.

Historically, Kenya’s ministries of health and agriculture have operated in isolation from one another, but in 2012, they decided to collaborate on a new agricultural policy that emphasizes more diverse, underutilized and nutrient-dense crops, Abukutsa explained. “The policy we had before had been focusing more on commercial crops for export and staples,” she said. “We needed a policy specifically addressing nutrition — not just talking about production.”

The government’s policy proposal has not been published yet because the draft text is not yet in final shape. But when it is, Abukutsa expects that it, like policy declarations before it, will affect the type of training available to farmers through the government’s extension program and perhaps the types of crops for which research is funded.

“The new policy will ensure that when we talk about food security, we are not just talking about maize — that we are talking about all that is available,” she said. The resurgence in popularity of indigenous vegetables is too recent to show an impact on national health statistics, but Abukutsa is confident it will lead to improvement, especially in relation to malnutrition and degenerative diseases. She’ll be tracking the results.

Other groups too are working to breed and improve the quality of indigenous crops in Kenya and around the globe. The Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Center has been leading a campaign to breed and conserve threatened varieties of indigenous fruits such as baobab, bush mango and African plum. It has a team working with small-scale farmers in Cameroon and other parts of Africa to domesticate fruit trees that have always grown in the wild. Largely because of deforestation, the fate of these trees in the wild is uncertain, so domestication may not only preserve them, it may also lead to the development of varieties of trees that will be more nutritious and resilient.

Elsewhere, the Taiwan-based World Vegetable Center has been breeding varieties of indigenous vegetables around the world, although its communications director, Maureen Mecozzi, said the work remains an uphill battle. “Although many countries now recognize the need to encourage production of a more diverse set of crops, developing the policies, funding the research, and building the infrastructure to support that diversity is a big challenge,” she said.

So far, there has been no research from which to quantify the changes in Kenyans’ consumption of indigenous fruits and vegetables, the impact of those crops on the nutritional status and overall health of populations. But researchers who work globally, like Pingali, and locally, like Abukutsa, are confident that the only path that makes sense is focusing more on vegetables and other nonstaple crops, whether they are indigenous or not.

“I’m now of the view that we’ve sort of beat the calorie problem,” said Pingali. “Even if you think towards 2050 horizons, we’ve got the tools and the mechanisms to support the demand for staple grains. Now, a lot of people will argue me on that. But I believe the same people who say we need to double the amount of rice, et cetera, should also be asked: Well, what about tomatoes? What about green beans?”

“As you think to the future and the demands for food in the future,” he said, “only focusing on staples puts us in this really funny situation of creating increased imbalance in our diets.”

Rachel Cernansky is a freelance journalist in Denver. She writes about agriculture, health, and the environment.

Read More at the NY Times.com

(AFK Insider) Gates Foundation Pays For Contraceptive Delivery By Drone To African Women

Ghana health care. Photo Credit: gooverseas.com

Ghana health care.
Photo Credit: gooverseas.com

By Dana Sanchez

Published: January 29, 2016, 3:26 pm 

Drones are delivering contraceptives to hard-to-reach Ghanaian villages in a program jointly funded by the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it’s so successful that other countries want it too, HuffingtonPost reported.

Deliveries to rural Ghana that once took two days now take 30 minutes by drone, and each flight costs only $15, according to Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African public health specialist with the U.N. Population Fund.

Sunkutu said he expected the pilot program in Ghana to encounter resistance, and worried people would associate the drones with war. So the U.N., in its program materials, referred to the drones only as “unmanned aerial vehicles” — not drones.

“We don’t want that link between war and what we are doing,” Sunkutu told The Huffington Post in an interview. “But the resistance we thought we would get has not been there.”

Less than than 20 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa use modern contraceptives. In rural Africa, a flood can shut down roads for days and cut off medical supplies, making access to birth control a massive problem.

An estimated 225 million women in developing countries around the world want to delay or stop childbearing, but don’t have reliable birth control, according to the World Health Organization. This prevents women and girls from finishing school or getting jobs. About 47,000 women die of complications from unsafe abortions each year.

“We are particularly committed to exploring how our family planning efforts can meet the needs of young women and girls,” Bill and Melinda Gates said, according to their foundation website.

The idea to use drones for delivering birth control came from a program in the Amazon, Sunkutu said.

The drone operator packs a five-foot-wide drone with contraceptives and medical supplies from an urban warehouse and sends it over to places hard to reach by car. There, a local health worker meets the drone and picks up the supplies.

Project Last Mile has been flying birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural areas of Ghana for several months.

Now it’s expanding to six other African countries. The goal is to revolutionize women’s health and family planning in Africa. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have expressed an interest.

Using drones to improve reproductive health isn’t exactly a new idea — it’s just new in Africa, according to Huffington Post. In June, a Dutch organization called Women on Waves used a drone to fly abortion pills to Poland, trying to raise awareness of Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.

Project Last Mile says it is the first to develop a long-term, sustainable program for delivering contraceptives by drone.

Sunkutu hopes that eventually drones will revolutionize other areas of rural African life., starting with family planning.

“They can deliver ballots after elections, or exams for school,” he said. It becomes a logistics management solution for hard-to-reach areas. We’re going to use family planning as an entry and make it sustainable.”

The article was published in AFKInsider.

 

(Seychelle News Agency) Comoros-Seychelles to Sign Agreement in Drug Fight, Prisoner Exchanges

Victoria, Seychelles | December 29, 2015, Tuesday @ 18:00 in National » DIPLOMACY | By: Rassin Vannier et Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 594
Comoros-Seychelles to sign agreement in drug fight, prisoner exchanges
Ambassador Caabi Elyachroutu Mohamed congratulated president Michel on his re-election (Patrick Joubert Seychelles News Agency)

(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychelles and the Comoros are working on a judicial agreement to address the drug trade and future exchanges of prisoners, government officials from the two countries said Tuesday.

The agreement will allow prisoners to serve time in their respective countries’ prisons.

The Comoros already have such an agreement with neighbouring island nation Madagascar and Tanzania in East Africa.

The subject is timely. Eighteen Comorian fishermen were arrested by the Seychelles Coast Guard in Seychelles’ waters in November. Officials say the fishermen were fishing without authorisation in the lagoon of the Aldabra Atoll, a nature reserve.

Tuesday’s announcement came after a meeting between Seychelles President James Michel and Comoros Ambassador Caabi Elyachroutu Mohamed. During his meeting with Michel, Mohamed congratulated the Seychelles head of state on his December re-election on behalf of Comorian President Dr. Ikililou Dhoinine.

One of the boats caught by the Seychelles coast guards ( SIF) Photo License: CC-BY

During his trip to Seychelles, Mohamed met with the 18 fishermen in total who were arrested. Three Comorian skippers were charged last week with illegal fishing.

“I wish that the court proceedings will be done in the best possible conditions,” he said.

Mohamed is on a working visit to the Seychelles archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The two countries enjoy bilateral co-operation in many fields given that both are small island states.

The Comorian ambassador has expressed his interest in the having the Seychelles national airline making Coromos one of its destinations.

“The Seychelles is becoming the hub of the region, this is interesting for us. We wish that Air Seychelles will be interested in flying to our island,” said the Madagascar-based Mohamed.

(All Africa) 10 Things to Watch in Africa in 2016

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC.
Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

ANALYSIS

By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen

Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.

Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.

Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.

Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.

Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.

Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.

 

Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.

The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.

The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.

A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.

Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.

(Globe and Mail) Africa’s new brooms clean house

Robert Rotberg (The Globe and Mail)

Robert Rotberg (The Globe and Mail)

ROBERT ROTBERG | Special to The Globe and Mail | Published Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 8:00AM EST

(VOA) CPJ Report Highlights Journalists’ Struggles in Africa

The Committee to Protect Journalists has released its annual report on the killing of reporters around the world. The report looks at the state of media freedom in Africa. Forty-six-year-old Waweru Mugo has been a journalist in Kenya for the last 15 years and now runs his own media consulting firm.

It is not always easy. Last October, Kenyan lawmakers considered a bill that would ban the press from reporting on parliamentary matters. The controversial clauses were eventually removed amid protest from civil society and media organizations.

Intimidation, censorship

According to Mugo, journalists in Kenya and all of Africa face challenges, especially attempts by governments to intimidate and censor them. This, he says, has limited the growth of a free press.

“When you try to highlight some of these issues, the government tries to crack the whip,” he said. “The government demands that you do ABCD, that you’re not supposed to be unpatriotic, they label you as unpatriotic, they say that you’ve been bought off by foreign interests, you are working for the opposition. So the journalists also kind of bend to the whims of the government through self-censorship.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 69 journalists around the world were killed while on duty this year. Many died at the hands of Islamist militant groups like al-Qaida and Islamic State.

The biggest number came from Syria, but 11 were killed in Africa, including five in war-torn South Sudan.

Careful reporting

Felix Odimmasi, of the School of Law and Diplomacy at the University of Nairobi, says the lack of government support makes journalists cautious about reporting from conflict areas like South Sudan, Somalia and northern Nigeria.

“… Because one, they would not go out there and report, and two, those who dare to go out and report still know they are at risk, so they have to be very careful about what they report about and where they go. It’s the general lack, weakness of the rule of law,” he said. “The laws that exist are not necessarily being followed and there’s no strong legislation in some of these weak states to protect the media.”

Members of Africa’s Fourth Estate have come under fire across the continent from multiple regimes. Amnesty International says the South African government and ruling African National Congress party are pushing for a tribunal to regulate the media under the guise of “transformation.”

Amnesty notes that in Ethiopia, many journalists and media workers are currently in prison or have been convicted in absentia because of their work.

Benji Ndolo, a civil rights activist from the Kenya-based Organization of National Empowerment, says a concerted effort from non-state actors is the only way to halt the intimidation.

“International processes, civil rights movements, non-governmental organizations and even church organizations as well as the media will push these countries into a corner where they will be held to account for loss of lives. They will not have impunity forever and so change will absolutely come to these countries, accountability will be there,” said Ndolo.

Besides South Sudan, other African countries where journalists were killed in 2015 included Somalia, Kenya, Libya and Ghana. Another five were killed in Somalia’s neighbor, Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden.

This article was published on Voice of America.

(Vice) The Year Africa’s Strongmen Embraced the ‘Constitutional Coup’

By Kayla Ruble | December 22, 2015 | 12:35 pm

Thirty-six people died in Kinshasa in January during demonstrations sparked by perceived attempts by President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to stay in power after his second and final term. A few months later and just across the border, protesters took to the streets of Bujumbura in April when Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a constitutionally tenuous third term in office.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s security forces in the Republic of Congo used deadly force against demonstrators in Brazzaville and put opposition leaders under house arrest in October, when they expressed disagreement with a constitutional referendum to allow the leader to run for a third term. And while mass street demonstrations were noticeably absent in Kigali, Rwanda’s parliament and judiciary successfully cleared several legal hurdles this year to enable President Paul Kagame to run again after his second, seven-year term comes to an end in 2017.

It was rare that a week went by without discussion related to these East and Central African leaders’ efforts to seek a third term in office. All four leaders have been accused of human rights abuses during their tenures, with some of the loudest allegations related to crackdowns against opponents and protesters who pushed back against the maneuvers to extend presidential mandates beyond existing term limits.

Despite the controversies, the leaders kept their titles and remained at the top. This made 2015 the year that the region’s strongmen found ways to legally cling to power. Using a term recently coined by Human Rights Watch, it was the year of the “constitutional coup.”

“Military coups are no longer de rigueur,” HRW deputy director Anneke Van Woudenberg and researcher Ida Sawyer wrote in Foreign Policy in November, noting that the shift was partially caused by the African Union’s decision not to recognize administrations that achieve power by force. “Instead, African leaders who are unwilling to abide by term limits, or unfavorable election results, prefer to simply change the laws and constitutions that stand in their way.”

Constitutional changes and legal judgments helped pave the way for these presidents to pursue lifelong leadership. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC, it was a proposed amendment that would have postponed the 2016 elections until a nationwide census was completed — a move critics believed would let Kabila sidestep constitutional term limits and stay in power for several more years.

After the deadly protests in January, the proposal was revoked. But in the months since, the government has detained protesters and opposition members in an attempt to silence peaceful activists, according to a December report from Human Rights Watch. It’s still unclear what Kabila will do.

Next door in Congo,  Sassou Nguesso used a constitutional referendum to lift both the age and term limits that would have made him ineligible. The changes passed with 92 percent voting in favor — although the opposition accused the regime of lying about voter turnout — and the president is expected to move forward and call elections by spring of 2016. Experts say he is unlikely to step down willingly; he has after all been president since 1997, and before that from 1979 to 1992. Sassou Nguesso has not groomed a successor who would protect the president from international criminal cases and look after the assets his family has secured during its reign, according to Stanford University fellow Brett Logan Carter.

“Sassou Nguesso doesn’t want to risk this,” Carter said ahead of the referendum vote, noting the leader has likely become more fearful after seeing fellow African strongmen like Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaoré fall from power. “There is no one else for Sassou Nguesso to transfer power to, so in a way he’s been forced into this position.”

Most recently, Rwanda held a constitutional referendum of its own on December 18, giving the public the right to chose whether to change the constitutional term limits. The country’s parliament and judiciary had already lifted several hurdles to allow President Kagame to extend his rule, and the referendum was seen as the final step. According to official results, 98 percent voted in favor of the changes that, in theory, will allow the leader to serve another seven-year term, followed by two five-year terms. In other words, he could be in power until 2034.

Earlier this year as the parliament and judiciary began to clear the way for these changes, University of Buffalo political science professor r Reverien Mfizi — a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide — explained that all those legal steps were part of an attempt to give the process a sense of legitimacy.

The constitutional changes have been framed, Mfizi said, as a normal process of Rwandans deciding for themselves whether or not Kagame gets to seek another round as head of state. All of this occurred without any public protest — in fact, the government has frequently referenced a nationwide poll showing an overwhelming majority was for Kagame running again.

“Kagame is a very smart, very thoughtful leader. I don’t always agree with him, but you have to admire how clever he is,” Mfizi said. “What’s missing from that story is it’s virtually impossible to oppose the regime.”

But arguably, the highest-profile power grab this year with the deadliest and most destabilizing effects came from Nkurunziza in Burundi. Almost eight months after the leader announced third-term plans, pushing demonstrators out into the streets to protest the move, the country has been engulfed in continued political instability and violence.

Nkurunziza pursued a new term despite a clearly outlined two-term limit in the constitution, which was established in 2005 as part of the Arusha peace agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. The constitutional court cleared the former rebel leader to run, saying he had been appointed to his first term in 2005, not democratically elected.

Protests quickly turned violent as police cracked down on demonstrators, while opponents and Nkurunziza supporters clashed with each other in the streets. As dozens were killed and tens of thousands fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries including Rwanda, Tanzania, and the DRC, Nkurunziza pushed on with his reelection campaign — even as regional and international organizations and governments called on him to step aside. He ultimately claimed victory at the polls in July, and the crisis shifted to politically motivated violence, disappearances, and assassinations on both sides.

A Burundian protester during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Bujumbura, on June 3, 2015. Protesters said they were disappointed that East African leaders didn’t ask President Pierre Nkurunziza to give up his bid for a third term. Photo by Dai Kurokawa / EPA

The situation has hit a critical point in recent weeks. To date, at least 300 people have reportedly been killed and more than 200,000 have fled the country since the violence began in April. On December 11, armed assailants waged a series of seemingly coordinated attacks on three military bases. Gunfire rang through the capital all day as security forces clashed with the fighters, and the next day 87 bodies were found on the streets of Bujumbura. In the day after the attack, a report from the International Federation for Human Rights found 300 young, unarmed civilians had disappeared, 154 of whom have since turned up dead. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein became just the latest to stress the looming risk of all-out conflict, stating that Burundi was on “the very cusp of civil war.”

In response, the African Union took a major step and approved the deployment of 5,000 peacekeepers to be sent to the country. Known as the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi, the plan is backed by the United Nations Security Council, while the Burundian government has said it would not allow foreign troops to enter its borders.

“If the situation continues, the African Union and international community cannot sit by and watch genocide, if it is going to develop into that,” said Erastus Mwencha, the deputy chairman of the African Union Commission.

The international community now awaits formal notice from Burundi and for the AU to decide whether it will send troops anyway, even if the Bujumbura authorities do not approve. Meanwhile, how Nkurunziza responds internally will be key. For months, observers have cited the leader’s perceived will to get a third term at all costs.

“Is there somewhere in the Bible where leaders are called on to massacre their people?”

A lot of the discussion surrounding Nkurunziza’s political ambitions has centered around his belief that he has risen to power by God’s will. The born-again Christian leader has stuck to the divine narrative particularly hard in recent months, even thanking God for winning the July elections and saying God would take care of the country’s rebels.

His fellow strongman on Burundi’s northern border, Rwanda’s Kagame, has questioned both Nkurunziza’s power grab and his belief in God. In a November speech, Kagame said Burundi should learn from the experience of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, while calling out the government’s failure to stop the internal violence.

“Burundi’s leaders pride themselves on being men of God, some are even pastors,” Kagame said. “But in what God do they believe?… Is there somewhere in the Bible where leaders are called on to massacre their people?”

The article was published on Vice News.

(CNN) Muslims shield Christians when Al-Shabaab attacks bus in Kenya

(Fortune) How Big Data is Helping Fight AIDS in Africa

Photo Credit: sorbetto — Getty Images

Photo Credit: sorbetto — Getty Images

By  |  | DECEMBER 14, 2015, 11:57 AM EST

Sometimes knowing the facts leads to surprising solutions.

HIV transmission from mother to child is a major, and preventable, factor in the ongoing prevalence of AIDS in Africa. While transmission rates are below 5% with effective prenatal treatment, the World Health Organization says they can range up to 45% without treatment—unfortunately, a common situation in the developing world.

Postnatal testing, then, is often vital in spotting infections in newborns, and treating them. But even as testing has become more accessible in Africa, it has remained slow, with devastating results—untreated infant HIV is usually fatal within a year. The problem isn’t just the time needed for the actual tests, but also the unpredictable ways that samples traveled from clinics to labs.

To tackle the problem, Mozambique brought in logistics expert Jérémie Gallien, a professor at the London Business School. Before looking at health systems, Gallien had consulted on retail logistics, including for the fast-fashion chain Zara and a dominant online seller he prefers not to name. And he’s found common ground between selling sweaters and saving lives.

Gallien says the basic conundrum of medical planning is the same as that in retail—striking the right balance between instant gratification and system-wide agility. When a retailer puts all its stock in stores instead of distribution centers, or a medical authority puts all of its drugs in clinics instead of a central facility, they can sell or treat patients at those locations much more quickly. But if they bet wrong on demand, moving materials where they’re needed becomes much more challenging.

Balancing those concerns comes down to understanding a specific problem, and in Mozambique, Gallien, with co-authors Sarang Deo and Jónas Oddur Jónasson, found a surprising answer. To speed the return of test results, they recommended that testing facilities, instead of dispersed, be highly centralized. While slightly slowing average sample transportation times, the added efficiency in test processing would more than make up for it.

That conclusion was based on tons of data, gathered through partnerships with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the National Institute of Health in Mozambique. “We got access to a data set of more than a year of shipments from clinics to the labs, then back, time stamped,” says Gallien. That was more than 30,000 records, also including information on patient outcomes and engagement.

Those records let Gallien get a precise but broad-scale view of transit times, which averaged 10 days.

“Increasing the transportation time to 13 days, you end up needing two lab locations,” he says. That would have led to a more complex problem of which samples go to which lab—which Gallien compares to the retail relationship between customers and warehouses.

The data also revealed a more complex human component of the problem—the relationship between turnaround time and caretaker followup. When test results took more than 30 days, babies’ mothers were much less likely to come back to get their results—or treatment.

“There’s all kinds of stigma and psychological impact having to do whether you transmitted the virus to your infant,” says Gallien. “It’s [a] very challenging, difficult psychological context in the first place,” and the discouragement of slow test results can trigger disengagement. Though far less dire, it’s not hard to see the parallels in retail—speedy fulfillment makes it easier for customers to make decisions, and stick with them.

Authorities in Mozambique are still processing Gallien’s recommendations, but he says Uganda has already begun to implement a similar set of solutions. The move to data-based planning, he says, opens up big possibilities for improving global healthcare.

“Particularly in these environments where there’s limited resources, limited time—this could really improve outcomes.”

The article was published on Fortune.