Also today: Nigerian city of Jos recovers from deadly Muslim-Christian clashes; Hundreds arrested after Kenyans riot over race-hate cleric; Mauritanian scholars ban female genital mutilation.
Angola, Algeria join Egypt, Ivory Coast in last eight of African Cup of Nations
Angola and 2010 World Cup qualifiers Algeria made it to the last eight of the African Cup of Nations after drawing 0-0 in their final Group A match on Monday. In a lacklustre match, both sides had few chances and when they did, they failed to connect. The Angolan hosts top the group with five points. Mali finished third after a 3-1 win over Malawi. The Algerians beat Mali 1-0 last Thursday, leaving the Malawian minnows at the bottom of the group with three points.
At the start of the tournament, Mali came back from being 4-0 down against hosts Angola in the 79th minute, to snatch a sensational 4-4 draw, while Malawi shocked Algeria 3-0. Those were brave triumphs, but not enough for either team to stay in the Cup.
Algeria and Ivory Coast will be showing their prowess in South Africa later this year and will be itching to win Africa’s soccer showpiece ahead of time.
Hundreds arrested after Kenyans riot over race-hate cleric
As a measure of the anarchy that grips Somalia, and how much Kenyans fear the spill-over from Islamist fundamentalism, police in Nairobi arrested more than a dozen Somali MPs and other government officials in a raid on suspected illegal migrants. The Somalis voiced an official complaint and most of the lawmakers are now free. Somali officials are based in the city because of a lack of law and order across large swathes of Somalia. The swoop follows deadly clashes between cops and Muslim groups protesting plans to deport a radical Islamist cleric who’s served jail-time in the UK for preaching race-hatred. Kenya says it’ll deport Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal back to Jamaica within the next few days. The raid in the Eastleigh district of the capital, which houses a large ethnic Somali population, came after demonstrators waved flags of the radical Islamist al-Shabaab group during clashes that killed seven people. Kenya’s minister of internal security, George Saitoti, is accusing al-Shabaab of links to the violence, which led to the detention of some 300 people, including prominent Kenyan Muslim leader Al-Amin Kimathi. The Kenyans have hosted numerous rounds of talks aimed at bringing peace to Somalia, but the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi some 10 years ago, which killed hundreds of people, and a 2002 attack on Israeli tourists in Mombasa, have left Kenyan authorities with a severe aversion to al-Qaeda’s encroachment into East Africa.
Nigerian city of Jos recovers from deadly Muslim-Christian clashes
Authorities have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the central Nigerian city of Jos, after mosques, houses and churches were set alight by gangs of Muslim and Christian youths. Troops and riot police are now patrolling the city, set smack in the middle of a country of some 140 million people split almost evenly between the Muslim north and Christian south. Up to 12 people are reported to have died in the clashes. It has nothing to do with al-Qaeda, at present. Jos has a history of ethnic and religious tension, with thousands being killed in rioting between 2001 and 2008. Officials often blame violence on sectarianism, but poverty and access to land and other resources are also to blame. However, Nigerian authorities will be more worried about the spread of radical Islam in Nigeria than they once were, after Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow a Detroit-bound plane out of the sky on Christmas Day. His family home is in the city of Funtua, some 250km north of Jos, which is at the heart of Nigeria’s Islamic culture.
Sudan constitutional court tells it like it is
Sudan is struggling to have an election in April that may see the south of the country secede by 2011, or a possible return to a 22-year civil war that ended in 2005. But first the country’s bickering parties from the Arab north and the black African south need to implement all sorts of reforms, including calming tribal enmities that plague the less-populated and far less-developed (but extremely oil-rich) south. Doesn’t sound good, we know, but Sudan’s constitutional court has taken a step in that direction by ruling that the south’s semi-autonomous government can’t prohibit the activities of a Sudan People’s Liberation Movement splinter group ahead of the first multi-party elections in 24 years. Southern Sudan’s tribal violence claimed 2,500 lives last year, and many are worried that if the south does secede, it will be an unstable state without strong government. The faction of the SPLM, which hived off from the main group for a second time last year, says it leaders are being harassed and arrested by the mainstream party. The SPLM is in a fractious power-sharing arrangement with the federal northern government of the National Congress Party. The court’s small victory for constitutionality may be short-lived. Lam Akol, who leads the SPLM faction, says southern secession would make south Sudan like anarchic Somalia. How’s that for a political problem par excellence.
Biti says Zimbabwe to seek highly indebted poor country status
Zimbabwe’s finance minister Tendai Biti says the country will seek highly indebted poor country status to have its $6 billion international debt cancelled. The process will be assisted by the African Development Bank, after Zimbabwe’s unity government still fails to attract much-needed foreign aid. President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have sent Zimbabwe to the bottom of the barrel since 2000, destroying the nation’s economy and international reputation by confiscating white commercial farms. Biti managed to bring inflation back to normal levels, after price rises went off the scale. He says that without the country’s debt problem, the economy would now be growing by 15% a year. Biti is a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, which is trying to implement sweeping reforms in the face of Mugabe’s intransigence. There’s hope and promise on the horizon, but first Mugabe and his henchman have to go.
Mauritanian scholars ban female genital mutilation
Mauritania has just dragged bits of itself into the civilised world after 34 Islamic scholars signed a fatwa banning the practice of female genital mutilation. The Islamic legal opinion states the procedure is proven to be harmful, which many Mauritanian women endorse. Female genital mutilation is still practised by many in north, east and west Africa. Studies say more than 70% of Mauritanian girls undergo the partial or total removal of their external genitalia for non-medical reasons, with the danger of death, infection, infertility and increased risk of complications in childbirth. It’s a complex subject, arising from cultural and social norms, but not always with Islamic religious support. The new fatwa removes the broader religious element from the equation, and that can only benefit women in Mauritania and the world at large.
Zambians perky over power supply for copper miners
Zambia is expecting a boom in its copper-belt this year, after crashing commodity markets last year made 2009 one of the worst years on record. It says by adding 210MW of electricity to the national grid, Africa’s top copper producer won’t have the power shortages in 2010 some are predicting. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so now it’s up to state-owned power utility, Zesco, to walk the talk. The nation’s energy boss, Teddy Kasonso, told Reuters that extra demand for electricity as a result of new mining projects was unlikely to exceed the 210MW that Zesco would put on to the grid this year. Unlike Eskom, which screwed up years ago, Kasonso reckons Zambia will only risk a power deficit in 2013 if no new generation is brought in. The Zambians should call themselves the “Lucky Country”.
Somali pirates clash over cash
They’re a pretty canny bunch, these Somali pirates. They’ve got a really good business going with owners of international oil tankers. In the latest bout of deadly blackmail that the world’s navies don’t seem to be able to stop, the buccaneers freed a Greek-flagged vessel carrying 2 million barrels of oil, after an aircraft dropped a record ransom of between $5.5 million and $7 million on its deck. The pirates immediately took calls from international press agencies, and in a business-like manner, told them that they’d resolved all disagreements and released the ship. The tanker was seized in late November with 29 crew aboard. But it seems the hijackers fought over the cash like seagulls over a fish supper, delaying the vessel’s release, and killing two pirates in the ensuing gun battle.
Illegal African migrants fail to reach Spanish shores
Spain will be breathing a sigh of relief after the number of African migrants arriving illegally by sea fell by almost half last year, to 7,285 from 13,425 in 2008. Authorities said the change came about because of better security measures, repatriations and cooperation with nations such as Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Algeria. One of the most popular destinations for Africans is Spain’s Canary Islands. Arrivals plunged to 2,246 last year, down from 9,181 in 2008. The biggest upside to this news is that less people will have died in the ill-equipped boats provided by people smugglers, and which frequently sink.
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One of the largest carp ever caught on record was done so using the ashes of the fisherman's deceased friend.