Entries in Africa (29)


Rhinos Socialize After Dark? Wildlife Series Reveals Rare Images

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Nocturnal gatherings of black rhinos have been captured for Sir David Attenborough’s latest BBC wildlife series, Africa, marking the first time such interactions between black rhinos have ever been documented.

Wildlife researchers used a special camera system that relied on the light from stars to capture images of black rhinos gathering in groups, playing together, rubbing noses and communicating using a range of sounds from squeaks to bellows and grunts.

Rhinos have a reputation for being solitary, grumpy creatures. The footage, however, suggested that under the right circumstances, they can become playful and friendly with one another.

Poaching has increased dramatically over the last few years and, today, there are roughly 5,000 black rhinos, mainly in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia.  The World Wildlife Foundation estimated that 50 years ago, there were 70,000.

Africa, which premiered on the Discovery Channel Tuesday, is a seven-part series that producers say brings to life the African continent with imagery that has never been seen before.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


US Sends Top Africa Diplomat for Congo Peace Talks

U.S. Africa Command photo by Vince Crawley(WASHINGTON) -- White House and State Department officials confirmed that the Obama administration has dispatched the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Johnny Carson, to Central Africa this weekend to help negotiate an end the latest crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I can tell you that Assistant Secretary Carson is in the region working on this issue,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters. “The president is updated through the Presidential Daily Briefing on the developments there in the Congo and is obviously very concerned about the violence and the loss of life.”

Last week the rebel force M23 seized Eastern Congo’s financial capital, Goma, throwing the country and the region into chaos and uncertainty. For months the group has been advancing on the eastern part of the country, exchanging fire with the Congolese army and committing atrocities such as rape and murder in its campaign. With evidence of involvement from regional neighbors Rwanda and Uganda, the crisis is threatening to turn into a war, similar to the last Congolese war, which lasted over a decade and killed more than an estimated three million people.

Aid organizations such as Oxfam and UNICEF say the latest crisis with M23 has already caused nearly 100,000 people to flee their homes. Other humanitarian groups are struggling to get supplies and food in to help the nearly half a million Congolese who were already living in camps in the area, displaced from decades of violence.

The Obama administration has come under fire for what some have called a lack of engagement on the issue. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congo President Joseph Kabila at the U.N. General Assembly Meeting in New York in September to urge them to find a peaceful solution to not only M23, but the underlying issues that were fueling the rebel group.  The administration also suspended $200,000 in military aid to Rwanda, the staunch U.S. ally, who United Nations investigators say is funding the rebel group. But human rights groups say last week’s actions by M23 are proof that not enough has been done diplomatically.

“The US government’s silence on Rwandan military support to the M23 rebels can no longer be justified given the overwhelming evidence of Rwanda’s role and the imminent threat to civilians around Goma,” said Tom Malinowski,  the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “The US government should support urgent sanctions against Rwandan officials who are backing M23 fighters responsible for serious abuses.”

The Rwandan government continues to deny it is supporting the rebel group. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed that Carson will meet with President Kagame while in the region, but she declined to explicitly name Rwandan as a supporter of the militia.

“We’ve been very clear that we want to see all outside support for M23, for any of these groups, come to an end,” said Nuland, who also said Secretary Carson is working with leaders from Rwanda, Congo and Uganda to negotiate a ceasefire and withdrawal of the rebels before the violence escalates.

“We want to see a ceasefire. We want to see a pullback to July lines,” said Nuland. “We want to see a sustainable process of negotiation and discussion of the status of the eastern Congo with all the stakeholders.”

Actor Ben Affleck, who founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, a humanitarian organization working in Eastern Congo with local leaders for peaceful, long-term solutions to the country’s problems, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week that the administration could be applying more pressure to all the parties involved to bring peace to the region.

“We have a lot of levers there. We can engage in the kind of high-level, shuttle diplomacy that you saw be so effective in Gaza,” said Affleck, who pointed out that the United States contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the 17,000 U.N. peacekeeping force in the country. “With the United States, when we had issues that were important to us, we sent John Kerry to Sudan, we sent Bill Richardson, we sent — I think it was North Korea — General Powell, folks like that.  That’s a level of engagement that I think we need to step up to.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Historic Voting Continues in Libya Despite Violence

PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Voting in Libya’s first free election in decades continued for a second day on Sunday at polling stations that were closed the day before thanks to violence, which prevented citizens from casting ballots.

Preliminary results could be announced as early as Monday, according to the state-run LANA news agency.

Libya’s High National Election Commission says approximately 1.7 million Libyans -- roughly about 60 percent of the nation's 2.8 million registered voters -- cast ballots on Saturday.

Voters are choosing from more than 3,500 candidates running to fill a 200-seat national assembly that will establish a transitional government.  The assembly will craft a constitution and establish a procedure for a presidential election in 2013.

Tripoli’s main square has become the focal point for celebrations since Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule ended nine months ago, and it has been filled this past weekend with cars honking horns and people waving flags while chanting, “Raise your head up high, you are a free Libyan."

The area was once called Green Square for Gadhafi's Green Book that outlined his political philosophy, but it’s now known as Martyr's Square for those who died during last year’s revolution.

Violence on Saturday included protesters setting fire to two polling centers in the eastern city of Benghazi.  Six other polling centers in other cities either opened just hours before they were scheduled to close or did not open at all.

Many of the protesters are Libyans in the eastern part of the country who feel they will be underrepresented in the national assembly.  Libyans in the east had always felt largely neglected during Gadhafi's long rule, and despite the eastern city of Benghazi emerging as the center of the Libyan revolution, many residents feel their uprising has been taken over by Libyans in the west, in Tripoli.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US General: American Military Spies 'Across Africa'

Sam Farmar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- America's top commander in Africa revealed that the U.S. military has conducted spy operations all over the continent as part of the fight against international adversaries from al Qaeda-allied terror groups that target the homeland to suspected war criminals like Joseph Kony.

"Do we collect information across Africa? Yes, we do," U.S. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said in a leadership conference at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies Monday.

In an attempt to clarify recent press reports that the U.S. military had set up "spy locations" throughout Africa, Ham said that U.S. troops do at times go on "short-term deployments of capabilities" in various African nations, but always with the permission of the host country.

Ham did not explain what exactly those capabilities are, but gave as an example the hunt for Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army -- a hunt the U.S. military has supported with the permission of four local governments. Last October, President Obama announced that 100 American special operations troops had been sent to central Africa to help track Kony.

"To have some intelligence collection capability that has the ability to monitor the areas in which we believe the Lord's Resistance Army is operating, to be able to see, to be able to listen, to be able to collect information which we then pass to the four nations, four African nations, which are participating, I think is a good way ahead," Ham said.

Ham's admission comes two weeks after the Washington Post reported that the U.S. military had secretly expanded its presence in Africa to include a network of small air bases used to spy on terrorist organizations there. According to the Post, the military uses small, unarmed turbo-prop planes disguised as private charters to carry out sensitive intelligence collection.

Part of that program appeared to have been revealed in February when the Department of Defense announced the deaths of four special operations servicemen near Djibouti. The four men died after their U-28 plane -- a "non-standard" surveillance aircraft similar in appearance to a private plane -- was involved in an accident.

Ham echoed fears previously voiced by U.S. officials to ABC News about a possible foothold extremist groups like al Qaeda may be trying to make in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. AQIM, an al Qaeda offshoot based in northwestern Africa, has publicly said it has "benefitted" from the chaos in Libya already.

Ham said that the U.S. is working closely with officials in Libya to determine a future role for the U.S. military in the north African nation that will likely involve assistance, but "certainly not a large military presence [and] probably no permanent military presence."

On the continent's eastern end, Ham said the U.S. has taken the "ideal role" in battling al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-allied terrorist group based in Somalia. There, Ham said the U.S. is engaged in training, equipping and funding African military partners to beat back the terrorist organization, which counts among its members a number of U.S.-born jihadis.

"Not a large U.S. military presence, we think that would be counter-productive actually in Somalia, but rather applying the resources that we do have to help those countries that are willing to contribute to this effort," he said. "I think that's a pretty good model for us."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'A Cry for Help': Hunger and Drought Crisis in West Africa

Two-year-old Ouobra Kompalemba, who suffers from severe malnutrition and bronchitis, receives milk through a catheter at a hospital in Diapaga, eastern Burkina Faso. RAPHAEL DE BENGY/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- According to the United Nations, the Sahel region of West Africa, which stretches across eight countries including Chad, Mauritania and Gambia, is being affected by a hunger crisis.

The U.N. estimates that 15 million people in the region are suffering from food shortages caused by drought and conflict, and UNICEF says that nearly 1.5 million children are near starvation.

The following organizations are working to stop the famine by supporting livestock, growing crops and giving people cash so they can afford the food on sale in their markets.

Below is more information on those organizations and how you can help:

Save the Children: Save the Children plans to reach 185,000 of the most vulnerable families -- 1.3 million people -- to help prevent them from falling into hunger.

The group's Lane Hartill said, however, that the organization also wanted to help these families to build up their resistance in the long term so they are better prepared for the next drought.

Save the Children also supports families through cash-transfer programs so they have money to buy what they consider appropriate. Cattle and goats -- essentially "savings accounts" in villages -- have been hard hit by the drought, Hartill said, and with animals dying, there is no fodder.

According to the organization, $39 could help support 10 mothers whose children are in a stabilization clinic and $2.35 could pay for sachets of oral rehydration salts to help treat 100 children suffering from diarrhea.

To donate to Save the Children, click here.

Oxfam: Oxfam is starting to distribute unconditional cash to the most vulnerable so they can access food on the markets -- 30 percent to 40 percent higher than in the last five-year average -- and cope until the next harvest.

The organization says that animal feed is "super important" to protect the livelihoods of pastoralists. If they lose their animals on the onset of the rainy season -- which occurred in 2010 when 24 percent of the livestock was lost -- they will be locked in the cycle of hunger.

"One way to put this: Save an animal, save an entire community and help lift them out of poverty," said Gaelle Bausson, an Oxfam spokesperson.

Oxfam said that seeds are also among "the most acute and immediate" need.

Bausson told ABC News that $40 will vaccinate 15 goats so vulnerable families can have food and an income; $80 will give three people the money to buy food and other essentials for the next three months; and $140 will provide clean, safe drinking water for three families by building or repairing water sources.

To donate to Oxfam, click here.

UNICEF: UNICEF is focused on the nutritional needs of children. According to the organization, children who are acutely malnourished cannot consume regular food and require ready-to-use therapeutic food for their bodies to recover.

UNICEF said the donations made for the Sahel crisis would support life-saving relief efforts for children, including: therapeutic food and milk, medicine, immunizations and supplies to provide access to clean water.

Susannah Masur, a UNICEF spokeswoman, said that $100 could save a child from severe acute malnutrition; $50 could buy 1,200 high-energy biscuits to give suffering children protein, vitamins and sugar; and less than $1 could immunize two children against the measles.

To donate to UNICEF, click here.

World Food Programme: According to the World Food Programme, the main help it needs is money. WFP is funded entirely by voluntary donations from governments, companies and private individuals.

The organization is geared to provide for 9.6 million people across the eight countries of West Africa hit by the Sahel drought. The WFP expects the total cost of providing and delivering that food to be $789 million.

Despite donations from countries like the U.S., the WFP needs $361 million to feed everyone who needs help.

Jane Howard, spokeswoman for WFP, said that the organization spent most of its money on buying food to stop people from going hungry or dying from malnutrition. Howard said a No. 1 product needed in this fight against hunger was a "sachet of Plumpy'sup." It costs about 30 cents for a day's ration.

She said that two months of treatment could transform the life of a malnourished child.

WFP also has started to provide more cash or vouchers so that people can have flexibility when buying their own food.

To donate to World Food Programme, click here.

You can also text AID to 27722 to donate $10.

Charges will appear on your wireless bill or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to 27722 to STOP. Text HELP to 27722 for HELP.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontieres: In addition to preventing and treating malnutrition throughout West Africa and the Sahel region, Doctors Without Borders is responding to multiple emergencies related to and exacerbating the hunger crisis, including assisting refugees from Mali and vaccinating against meningitis in Chad.

The organization said that $35 could purchase either enough vaccine to innoculate 85 children against measles during a deadly outbreak or a scale used to weigh children too young or weak to stand.

To donate to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontieres, click here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facing Hunger Crisis in West Africa, Families Pick Leaves, Berries to Survive

iStockphoto/ThinkstockREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

(GOUBEYDAY, Niger) -- On approach, the tiny village of Goubeyday looks like a typical rural African village.  But immediately after we got out of the four-wheel-drive vehicles that carried us here for hours over sandy, unmarked roads, it is clear something about this village is very different.  There are few animals roaming around, most cooking pots outside thatched roof huts sit cold, and not even the children are playful.

“It’s too quiet here,” whispered World Food Programme Niger Country Director Denise Brown.  “African villages are supposed to have noise. It bothers me because it means there’s a lack of dynamism, lack of movement, lack of life in this village.”

The fields around Goubeyday, Niger, are parched.  When the rains refused to fall at this time last year, crops failed.  With four months left to go before the next possible harvest, the village granaries are already empty.  The people in the village usually spend the vast majority of their meager incomes on food, so they don’t have enough money to compensate for the drastic increase in food prices at the market.

A mother named Mariama shows us the only food she has to cook for her family is leaves she goes out to pick from trees.  Another woman shows us her only meal is made of wild berries so bitter and hard to digest she calls them “poison.”

“We need to get to these people,” said Brown.  “I don’t think any of us can accept that this mother has to go and pick wild food for her children to eat, and if she doesn’t go and do it every day then they don’t have anything to eat.”

Brown said the World Food Programme has not yet been able to provide aid to the people of Goubeyday because of a lack of funding for the food crisis that is now peaking in this region of West Africa.  According to the United Nations, at least 15 million people in the Sahel region just south of the Sahara desert are affected.  Eight million are at serious risk of running out of food before the next harvest, and a million children’s lives could be threatened by severe malnutrition.

Disaster declarations have been declared in seven of the eight affected countries.  Niger is the hardest-hit country, home to about half of the more than 8 million people WFP would like to help.  The impoverished country is still recovering from a drought less than two years ago.  It is one of the world’s least-developed countries, and because of this new drought it recently replaced Afghanistan as the “worst place in the world to be a mother,” according to an annual statistical analysis by Save the Children.

In Niger and across the Sahel, the world’s largest aid agencies– including WFP, Oxfam, UNICEF, Save the Children, and World Vision– have seen this crisis coming for months.  By appealing for help early, they hoped to apply lessons learned from last year’s late response to the famine in the Horn of Africa to keep this crisis from becoming another catastrophe.  But fewer donors have responded, and most aid groups have raised less than half of the funds needed for their planned response.

Brown said the supplies of emergency food and nutritional supplements that have been moved into place in the affected parts of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal will run out before the next possible harvest in October.  The demand for emergency help is rising quickly.   At rural health clinics, the lines of women carrying their thin, young children in for treatment are getting longer each day, and health workers are seeing more severe cases of malnutrition.

In addition to nursing mothers and children under 2, the most vulnerable to the food crisis in West Africa are pastoralists.  Many of them are nomads who roam to find pasture and water for their cattle.  Both are getting harder to find.

“This is big, difficult situation.  Pastoralists must now sell many animals just to be able to buy a little cereal to survive,” said Hassane Baka of the AREN cattle breeders association based in the city of Maradi.  AREN is partnering with Oxfam to provide emergency cattle feed in Niger.

“We are working too hard, walking too far,” said Amadou Damana as he worked with his family to draw water from a well in the district of Bermo.  Damana said his cattle need water every day to stay healthy, but now he is barely able to give them water every other day because he has to walk them so far from the well to find land where they can graze.

At a nearby livestock market, we find extremely thin bulls and sheep waiting to be sold.  Trader Jodi Makau says the price for grain is so high, an animal sold this year can buy only half as much as last year.  He tells us it is a bad time for breeders to sell, but many are so desperate to buy food and animal feed they have no choice.

Mariama’s three children are too thin, but there isn’t much else she can do to help them.  Because her own diet is so limited, she says she is having trouble producing enough milk to nurse her youngest son. Six-month-old Kader is wrapped in beaded cords of traditional charms, which Mariama hopes will protect him from the common illnesses like diarrhea and fever that kill 1 of every 7 young children in Niger, especially those without enough to eat.

“That means she cares. I think we have to keep in mind these women, these mothers, they’re like you, they’re like me. There’s no difference. They have a child. They love that child. They will do what they can to protect that child,” said Brown.  “These women, these children, they deserve our attention.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fighting Hunger in Africa: Obama Announces $3B Private Sector Pledge 

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Announcing a $3 billion private sector pledge to support agriculture and help feed Africa’s starving populations, President Obama said Friday that the U.S. has a “moral obligation to lead the fight.”

“When tens of thousands of children die from the agony of starvation, as in Somalia, that sends us a message we still got a lot of work to do.  It's unacceptable.  It's an outrage.  It's an affront to who we are,” the president said at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington.

Arguing that food security is a moral, economic, and security imperative, Obama urged the world’s biggest economies to fulfill their promises to aid the cause financially. The president said additional nations, organization and non-governmental organizations also need to “step up and play a role” because government cannot solve the problem alone.

The new shared commitment, which Obama outlined Friday, aims to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years.

Obama also pushed back against criticisms that the new private sector alliance is a way for governments to shift the burden. “As president, I can assure you that the United States will continue to meet our responsibilities so that even in these tough fiscal times, we will continue to make historic investments in development,” he said.

The president spoke to an eclectic crowd, including singer and activist Bono, celebrity chef Jose Andres and a host of African leaders, in his speech kicking off this weekend’s G8 summit.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Malawi’s New Leader: Joyce Banda Becomes Second Woman President in Africa

Amos Gumulira/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The continent of Africa now has a second woman holding the top leadership role in her country.

Joyce Banda was sworn in Saturday as the new president of the southern African nation of Malawi.

The peaceful transition of power is a great relief in Malawi where a political crisis seems to have been averted after the sudden death Thursday of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

For many Malawians who blamed Mutharika for the current economic crisis, it is also a moment of great hope for change.

Early Saturday, when she was still vice president, Banda appeared at a news conference flanked by army, police and fellow government leaders.

According to Malawi media, she did not directly answer the question of whether she would assume the presidency, but she did say, “The constitution is prevailing.”

Indeed, hours later she took the official oath of office at the National Assembly in the capital of Lilongwe, despite objections from some government ministers.

Malawi’s constitution stipulates the vice president is to take over leadership if the president dies.

Immediately after Mutharika’s death by cardiac arrest, it was unclear if that would happen because Banda had a falling out with Mutharika in 2010.

While she remained vice president, she was kicked out of Mutharika’s political party and formed her own. Mutharika, meanwhile, appeared to be grooming his brother to replace him.

Banda has ordered the nation’s flags to be flown at half-staff for a 10 day mourning period for her predecessor, but there are already reports of Malawians celebrating Mutharika’s death.

The 78-year-old former World Bank official was elected into office in 2004 and again in 2009, but in recent years he was accused of economic mismanagement, becoming autocratic and souring relations with important donors—especially the United States and Great Britain—who then withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of much needed aid.

Banda, 61, is a longtime campaigner for women’s rights and better education in Malawi.

She is expected to run the country at least until scheduled elections take place in 2014.

She inherits a difficult task.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world where the majority of people live in abject poverty.

The country is prone to natural disasters—the extremes of drought and flooding– and is facing critical fuel shortages and rising food prices.

To govern effectively, Banda will need cooperation from elected members of Mutharika’s political party, which she was expelled from after she became critical of the late president.

Banda is the daughter of a popular musician, and is married to a retired chief justice. She has a sister who was hired by pop legend Madonna to run a school for girls in Malawi, but the project failed and she was fired.

Banda is now the second female head of state in Africa.  Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected into office in 2006.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Kony 2012′ Campaign Against Uganda Warlord Takes Over Internet

Sam Farmar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If you logged onto Facebook at any point Wednesday, you may very well have found friends and others sharing “Kony 2012,” a 30-minute YouTube film on the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

The nonprofit charity Invisible Children Inc. uploaded the video Monday to bring attention to Kony and the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized central Africa for several years. The YouTube video currently has more than 7 million views.

The hashtag #stopkony has been trending worldwide on Twitter.

On its Facebook page, Invisible Children says it “uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.”

The charity came about after three Southern California filmmakers returned from Africa and released a documentary on the children forced to fight under Kony’s leadership.

In October, President Obama sent 100 troops to Uganda to help regional forces battle the LRA and capture or kill Kony.

During that announcement, he said that for more than two decades the LRA had been responsible for having “murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and continues to “commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”

On April 20, the group is asking supporters to cover their hometowns with posters calling for Kony to be brought to justice. On its website, supporters can sign a petition and contribute to the cause by buying T-shirts, posters and bracelets.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Namibia’s ‘Dog-Headed Pig Monster’ Spurs Witchcraft Debate

Hemera/Thinkstock(OSHANA, Namibia) -- What residents in a rural African village report about a mysterious white beast with a dog-like head and backside resembling a large swine is frightening -- not because the creature will harm them, but because superstition and accusations surrounding the beast could lead them to harm each other.

“This must be the work of black magic,” an official in the Oshana region of northern Namibia told the Informante newspaper.

Regional Councilor Andreas Mundjindi said residents have spotted the beast chasing dogs and goats, and a young man said it tried to attack him as he walked home.

Several residents said they are now too scared to walk alone. One theory has it that the beast may have come from the home of a local elderly man.

“Everyone believes it is his beast and even he knows that we think so,” an unnamed resident told Informante.

Accusations like that can have serious consequences in Namibia and throughout sub-Saharan Africa where elderly people are often accused of practicing the “old ways,” or witchcraft.  Thousands have been forced to flee for their lives, and many do not survive.  Across the continent, there are frequent reports of people accused of witchcraft being murdered by family members, neighbors or frenzied mobs.

“In most cases it is a quarrel or jealousy or just superstition that drives this,” said Phepsile Maseko of the Traditional Healers Organization based in South Africa.  "When people are poor and uneducated they tend to focus on the witchhunt when there is any type of problem.”

Maseko said the widely-held belief in “black magic” in Africa can be a problem for her organization’s members who are sometimes accused of being “witch doctors” because they practice ancient, indigenous forms of medicine.

Maseko believes better education and more legal protections are needed to end witchcraft-related violence in Africa.  Until then, when strange things happen -- or are just rumored to have happened -- she fears more innocent people will be hurt.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio