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by @mamouchkadiop voa Africa is a Country

Au Revoir, Blaise Campaore?

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A day of massive protests left the parliament burned, three people shot dead and a longstanding African ruler on the brink of losing control. “Burkina Faso’s military dissolved parliament and announced a transitional government on Thursday after   violent protests against President Blaise Compaore, but it was not immediately clear who was in charge. Army chief General Honore Traore said the new government would be installed after consultation with all political parties and would lead the country to an election within 12 months. He also announced a curfew from 1900 to 0600 GMT (1500 to 0200 ET).” (Reuters

Useful New Ebola Response Tracking Tool...This looks to be helpful for measuring the international response to the outbreak against the promises of the international community. From the ONE Campaign  “There are many good trackers monitoring various financial pieces of the Ebola response, including those from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN, and the World Bank. But to get the full picture we need to understand the story behind the figures: Which countries have really committed ambitious amounts? How much money is additional to existing commitments for health and development? How many are filling the most urgent needs by providing materials and specialist health care workers?” (ONE

Encouraging news about MDR-TB…Preliminary data indicate a shorter, less painful treatment regimen is just as effective as current treatment that lasts one to two years. (VOA


Doctors Without Borders urged caution Thursday over claims of a slowdown in infections in Ebola-hit Liberia, saying the apparent drop could be due to poor management of the sick. (AFP

The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger USA warns the Ebola emergency has left a shortage of manpower for food production and a spike in food costs for the three main countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. (VOA

A scientist who helped to discover the Ebola virus says he is concerned that the disease could spread to China given the large numbers of Chinese workers traveling to and from Africa. (AP

The International Monetary Fund foresees large financing needs next year in the three West African countries hardest hit by the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. (Reuters

Liberia is making some progress in containing the Ebola outbreak while the crisis in Sierra Leone is going to get worse, the top anti-Ebola officials in the two countries said. (AP

The World Bank said Thursday it was immediately providing $100 million to support the deployment of more health workers to Ebola-stricken West Africa. (AFP

A British navy mission said it was nervous but ready “to see that Ebola is kicked out” as it arrived in Sierra Leone Thursday to treat victims of the deadly virus. (AFP


U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic freed 67 hostages who had been seized by militia groups, a spokeswoman for the U.N. mission known as MINUSCA said. (Reuters

 A 14-year-old Nigerian girl accused of murdering her 35-year-old husband by putting rat poison in his food could face the death penalty, Nigerian prosecutors said Thursday. (AFP

Zambia held a second day of mourning Thursday for president Michael Sata, who died in a London hospital, as his deputy Guy Scott becomes, pending elections. The US called on a peaceful transition in the country. (Yahoo

Speaking in Kenya on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban called female genital mutilation a brutal practice that must be stopped to increase the health, human rights and empowerment of women and girls. (AP

Heavy fighting in South Sudan’s key northern oil town of Bentiu raged Thursday, aid workers said, as fears of a renewed offensive raised warnings of an escalating humanitarian catastrophe. (AFP

Niger’s military says nine security forces have been killed in three simultaneous attacks in the country near the border with Mali. (AP

Kenya’s mobile money industry could undergo a serious shakeup thanks to new technology. A Kenyan bank is rolling out its own mobile network using a new paper-thin SIM card that sits on top of an ordinary SIM. (VOA

Cameroon journalists say the government is trying to silence any criticism – a day after a military tribunal barred two reporters from practicing their profession and blocked them from traveling out of the country. (VOA

Violence in Central African Republic has taken a heavy toll on food security. A new U.N. assessment says crops, livestock and fishing have all been affected. (VOA


Sweden on Thursday officially recognised the state of Palestine, becoming the first major European country to do so, in a move hailed as “historic” by Palestinians but denounced by Israel.  (AP

Amnesty International said it had satellite pictures indicating that rival factions in Libya had committed war crimes by shelling densely populated residential areas in the west of the oil-producing country. (Reuters

UNHCR urged Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians, and demanded the country probe violations committed during repeated assaults on Gaza. (AFP

Hundreds of Egyptian police surround the walls of Cairo, patrolling in armored vehicles with sirens blaring, while muscle-bound security guards man metal detectors, searching all who enter. (Reuters

The United States is working closely with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to clamp down on oil smuggling in a bid to cut off a key source of funding for Islamic State, a senior U.S. official said. (Reuters

The U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees says Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai has donated $50,000 to rebuild a U.N. school in Gaza damaged during this summer’s Israel-Hamas war. (AP

The Islamic State militant group has captured hundreds of women and girls over the last few months. The very few who have been able to escape tell stories of rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. (VOA


Hundreds of desperate Sri Lankan villagers dug with bare hands through the broken red earth of a deadly landslide Thursday, defying police orders after a top disaster official said there was no chance of finding more survivors at the high-elevation tea plantation. (AP

Brothel closures in Indonesian cities could put sex workers in danger and hamper HIV prevention efforts, say health experts and outreach workers. (IRIN

As Myanmar’s real estate market booms, there are increasing complaints of land confiscation from people who say they are being illegally evicted from their property and cut out of huge profits. (VOA

The Americas

The Guam Power Authority is planning to build a $589 million power generator from scratch. The power authority plans to stop using its existing oil-burning power plants to comply with environmental regulations. (AP

Brazilian police have found the bodies of five men inside a car abandoned in one of the slums of Rio de Janeiro. At least one body was decapitated. (AP

President Michel Martelly’s administration wants to build Haiti’s biggest tourism development here, hoping that foreign visitors can help spur an economic revival in the nation of 10 million, where most adults lack any kind of steady work and survive on less than $2 a day. (AP


Bill Foege on how to make Ebola worse (Humanosphere

What Liberia Can Teach The U.S. About Quarantines (BuzzFeed

To Combat Malnutrition, Don’t Just Produce More Food—Produce Better Food (National Geographic

Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Future for Industrial Development (IPS

Britain’s refusal to save migrants is an act of inhumanity (The Guardian

5 interesting things about Zambia’s new leader that have nothing to do with his skin color (GlobalPost

Dilma Rousseff has a second chance to invigorate Brazils foreign policy (Guardian

Beyond dams and pipes: domestic water politics in Ethiopia (ODI

Better Water Management Needed to Eradicate Poverty (IPS

Why It’s OK To Worry About Ebola, And What’s Truly Scary (NPR

Gender Trouble for Tuberculosis (Global Fund Observer


A new paper by the Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative released found that a significant portion of forests and reserves in emerging markets is being allocated to commercial operations through concessions, ignoring indigenous communities who have lived on them for generations. (IPS

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Michael Sata

Political Uncertainty as Zambia Loses a President

After months of speculation over the health of Zambian President Michael Sata, the government announced that Sata died in London on October 28 at the age of 77. With his death comes political uncertainty but also signs that Zambia will weather this storm with its democratic track record intact.

Sata’s death was both sudden and unsurprising. Speculation over his bad health has plagued Zambian politics over the past year as his public appearances became rare. Rumors of his death circulated several times over the summer, including twice in one week in September after Sata travelled to New York but failed to address the UN General Assembly as scheduled. Despite repeated assurances by the government that all was well, Sata choosing to miss the 50th anniversary of Zambian independence last week for a medical check-up in London gave a good indication that his time was likely running out. Nonetheless, while not surprising his death still leaves a significant gap and uncertainty for Zambia.

Although Sata was not elected to the presidency until 2011, he was a long time figure in government. Known as “King Cobra” for his ruthlessness against his opponents, his antics inspired party loyalty but also controversy, particularly with foreign investors. When elected Sata chose the more moderate Guy Scott as his vice president, largely to placate Chinese resource investors whom much of the economy relies on. His short time in power did see the country undergo impressive economic growth, albeit largely based on the expansion of the copper industry as prices increased. Now that copper prices are decreasing, there are serious questions as to how Zambia can sustain the 7% growth rate it has enjoyed without further economic reforms.

The economy is not the only thing left in the balance after Sata’s presidency. Zambia has long enjoyed a reputation as a successful liberal democracy even though civil society and the media occasionally found themselves under threat. Sata’s election brought hopes that this could change, but instead the space available for dissent consistently shrank throughout his rule. New laws on media regulation were used to target media outlets and journalists critical of the government, earning Zambia the label of “Not Free” in Freedom House’s 2014 Freedom of the Press Index. Civil society was also targeted under Sata, and political infighting saw an increase in violent political attacks both within Sata’s Patriotic Front and with opposition parties.

With this backdrop, Zambia now looks to what the future may hold. Under the constitution, the country must hold elections within 90 days to choose a new president. As vice president, Scott now serves as Interim President until that election but is (most likely) unable to run for the presidency himself since his parents were foreign-born. There is no clear successor within the Patriotic Front, but opposition parties are also not as organized as they perhaps should be given the long history of Sata’s poor health. With no clear prediction as to who will be president in three months’ time, the uncertainty is giving foreign investors pause, which could cause additional problems for Zambia’s next leader.

Yet despite the uncertainty of what direction Zambia may be heading in, there is a type of success story buried in the political process. As many international media outlets have noted, Scott is a White Zambian and his succession as Interim President marks the first White head of state in Africa since the end of apartheid in South Africa and the first White head of state to come to power through democratic elections in a majority rule state. The fact that Scott is White does not change the calculus discussed above; after all as Elias Munshya pointed out yesterday on Twitter, Scott’s succession is not a reversion to “White Rule” – as some Western media outlets phrased it – but rather a continuation of Zambian rule as laid out under the constitution. But the lack of major controversy over his race and role as Vice President and now Interim President does present a radically different narrative than the one both Western and African audiences have become used to, the narrative more exemplified by ongoing struggle and hostility between post-colonial Black governments and White minorities in nearby South Africa and Zimbabwe.

That Zambians are more focused on obeying the constitution and addressing the economic and political issues that face the country is a good sign that despite uncertainty caused by the death of a sitting president, Zambia is on a good path. There are many critical issues ahead, including the snap elections that must be held by January and the ongoing attempts to ratify a new constitution, but even under difficult circumstances, Zambia is upholding its democratic reputation. That is welcomed news in a region where democracy has faced a consistent backslide and is in need of examples of change.

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UN Building

How to Get a Job at the United Nations

How does one get a job at the United Nations? It’s a question I put to a longtime United Nations staff member, who explains the best ways to land a career at the UN. Steven Siqueira has worked at the United Nations for over a decade in various capacities in New York and around the world. He discusses the UN’s quota system for allocating jobs based on nationality; the benefits and drawbacks of arriving as an early-career verses mid-career professional; the parallel ways to enter the UN system; and why people who have their heart set on working for the United Nations ought to think of it as a long term career goal.

This episode was inspired by listeners who asked me to cover this topic. If you have any recommendations of topics to cover or guests to interview please get in touch.

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Ebola Infection Rates Slowing in Liberia

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The WHO confirmed what other organizations have been reporting: death rates and rates of new infections seem to be declining in Liberia, which is the country most affected by the outbreak. There does not seem to be a similar decline in Guinea or Sierra Leone. This counts as good news…for now. “‘It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing of the epidemic there,’ WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward told reporters in Geneva. ‘There is increasing evidence that these countries can get on top of this,’ he said. Aylward added, though, that he was ‘terrified that the information will be misinterpreted and that people will begin to think Ebola is under control.’” (AFP

It’s Getting Easier to Doing Business in Sub Saharan Africa…A new report from the World Bank. “Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency finds that local entrepreneurs in 123 economies saw improvements in their regulatory environment in the past year. From June 2013 to June 2014, the report, which covers 189 economies worldwide, documented 230 business reforms—with 145 aimed at reducing the complexity and cost of complying with business regulations, and 85 aimed at strengthening legal institutions. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for the largest number of reforms.”  (World Bank

A Story to Follow: Trouble is brewing in Mali. A French soldier was killed in particularly heavy fighting.(Reuters

The USA has signaled its discontent for Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore’s plan to amend the constitution to permit himself to run for office yet again.


The first known victim of the current outbreak was 2-year-old Emile Ouamouno, who lived with his parents and three sisters, including 4-year-old Philomene. According to the World Health Organization, the boy fell sick last December with a mysterious illness that caused fever, black stools and vomiting. (AP

South African mining tycoon Patrice Motsepe has donated $1 million to the Ebola Fund to help fight the disease that has killed nearly 4,900 people, his firm said. (Yahoo!

China’s capital will suggest to people returning from regions affected by Ebola to quarantine themselves at home for 21 days, and to undergo twice daily temperature checks if they have had contact with patients, state media said on Wednesday. (VOA

The United States has sent a health official to a Cuban meeting on coordinating Latin America’s response to Ebola. The participation of the Centers for Disease Control’s Central America director is the most concrete sign to date of the two nations’ expressed desire to cooperate against the disease. (AP

Government agencies in Maine are in the process of filing a court order to require Kaci Hickox — a nurse now in the state after recently treating Ebola patients in West Africa — to be quarantined, (CNN


Food security and malnutrition rates across the Sahel are deteriorating, with nearly 25 million food insecure, due in large part to ongoing conflict and instability in the CAR, northern Mali, and northeast Nigeria, according to UNOCHA. (IRIN

Zambian Vice President Guy Scott was named acting leader Wednesday following the death of President Michael Sata. He’s the first White leader in Africa since FW DeKlerk. (AFP

UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned Wednesday that Somalia risks returning to famine without urgent aid, as he visited the war-torn country three years since more than 250,000 people died of hunger. (AFP

About 100 female residents of Mukuru, an informal settlement in south-east Nairobi, travelled across town to wave signs and sing songs in a bid to grasp the attention of a government that has for decades failed to recognise their existence. (Guardian

West Africa missed out on significant health investment over the past decade or more because it had low rates of HIV, a detailed survey of the changing health of Africa and Asia reveals. (Guardian

One person was killed and eight others were wounded when machete-wielding youths clashed inside the United Nations camp in Malakal, where thousands of displaced South Sudanese have sought shelter, a U.N. official said. (VOA


By 2018, a large solar power plant in the Tunisian part of the Sahara desert may start sending power to energy-hungry Western Europe. (VOA

The UN warned Spain over plans to instantly deport migrants who clamber over the border fence into its north African territories, saying Madrid could end up breaking international law. (Yahoo!

There is no need to panic at the recent drop in oil prices, the secretary general of OPEC said on Wednesday, saying low prices would curb competing supplies and require the group to pump far more by the end of the decade. (Reuters


The leader of Hong Kong’s Liberal Party said he would resign on Wednesday, just hours after China’s top parliamentary advisory body expelled him for calling on the city’s embattled chief executive to step down. (Reuters

Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal sentenced the chief of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party to death on Wednesday for crimes against humanity, including genocide, torture and rape, during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. (Reuters

North Korea is showing signs of a willingness to discuss the human rights situation in the country, possibly as a result of pressure created by a U.N. inquiry that accused Pyongyang of crimes against humanity, a U.N. investigator said. (Reuters

China’s growth could decline to close to 7 percent next year but Beijing should focus on overhauling its economy instead of trying to stick to official growth targets, the World Bank said Wednesday. (AP

Small and well-run Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong are the world’s easiest places to run a business, while global giants China, Brazil and India remain far down the list, according the World Bank. (AFP

India’s top counter-terrorism agency has uncovered a suspected plot by a banned militant group to assassinate the prime minister of Bangladesh and carry out a coup. (Reuters

A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers’ houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (AP

As Australia moves on with a plan to resettle some 1,000 refugees in Cambodia, its legislature is also debating a bill that would eliminate most references to the 1951 Refugee Convention from domestic legislation – a move critics say could bolster the government’s asylum seeker deterrence efforts. (IRIN

The Americas

The U.N. General Assembly voted for the 23rd year in a row to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba. (AP

Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is refusing to appear in court in an attempt to pressure the government to respond to a United Nations request for his freedom. (AP

A city-run program in São Paulo, Brazil is the latest – and most holistic – intervention to try to curb the city’s large open-air drug market. Proponents say it could be a model for other cities in the region. Critics worry that it will delay addicts’ rehabilitation. (Guardian

Years of fewer births mean the number of working-age people in Cuba is expected to shrink starting next year, terrible news for an island attempting to jumpstart its stagnant centrally planned economy. The country’s governing Council of Ministers announced this week that it will soon unveil yet-unspecified financial incentives for couples considering starting families. (AP


Ebola and Quarantine (NEJM

The Inescapable Uncertainty of Popular Uprisings (Dart-Throwing Chimp

Is Refugee Rescue Attracting More? (DW

Keeping All Girls in School is One Way to Curb Child Marriage in Tanzania (IPS

Human Rights Watch gets the documentary treatment (A View From The Cave

Jessica Tuchman Mathews Steps Down from Carnegie. An Appreciation (UN Dispatch

What If We Publish Children’s Books African Kids Could Relate To? (Africa is a Country

West Africans are not powerless against Ebola…and neither are we (How Matters

“Wat bother U d most abt Ebola?” the design of U-report Liberia (Stories of UNICEF Innovation

Video of the Day: “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman”

Bringing sexy back to resilience and wellbeing of aid workers (WhyDev


Risk of acute malnutrition increasing among children in Somalia (Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit

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Jessica Tuchman Mathews Steps Down from Carnegie. An Appreciation

Jessica Tuchman Mathews is stepping down as the head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace after 18 years at the helm. She will be replaced by William Burns, the former deputy Secretary of State for Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

I don’t know Ms. Mathews personally, but her writing has deeply influenced how I understand the world. Two Foreign Affairs articles in particular, “Redefining Security” in 1989 and “Powershift” in 1997, presented pioneering ideas that shaped the foreign policy debate during a rapidly evolving period in international relations.  In “Redefining Security” she prophetically argued that issues like climate change and global health will become priority security concerns–and that our very understanding of “security” needs to be expanded to include issues that affect populations, not just states. Today this is called “human security” — and it is commonly accepted–but at the time the notion was heretical to the international relations establishment. In “Powershift,” she argued that non-state actors like NGOs will become increasingly relevant arbiters of security. This was also heretical at the time because most international relations theorists were still arguing that “security” was firmly in the realm of state power, and state power alone.

Mathews also has a very remarkable personal story, which she told me a few months ago for a podcast episode. She discusses the influence of her mother, the Pulitzer prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman, why she opted to get a Phd in molecular biology, and how she transitioned from the hard sciences to a career in foreign policy.  She also discusses the genesis of those two influential articles.

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Mass Graves, Missing Students, and Mexico’s Long Road to Reform

A second mass grave has been found in rural Mexico a month after 43 student teachers went missing following an altercation with police in the town of Iguala. The missing students, along with the apparent involvement of local police and government officials in their suspected murders, has set off massive protests throughout the country. Things may be getting better south of the border, but rule of law issues continue to plague Mexico.

The origin of the current situation primarily dates back to a 2013 education reform program that all three of Mexico’s major political parties signed off on but generated a lot of controversy among students and teachers. The education reform bill sought to standardize evaluation and hiring processes, a monumental task in Mexico where teaching jobs are often bought and sold by individuals for their life-long tenure and above average salaries, with union and local government officials accepting kickbacks as part of the deal. But teachers, particularly in rural areas, complained that the reforms did little to address other major problems such as large classroom size, poor curriculum and few resources for schools. Fearing the government planned a mass firing to trim the education budget, protests began almost as soon as the reform package was announced.

Nowhere has the protests been as heated as Guerrero State where peaceful protests also mixed with renewed calls from local guerilla groups for an uprising against the government. Guerrero is one of the poorest states in Mexico, where education rates are low but the education sector is what provides for most families in the area. Thus, any attempt to change hiring or tenure practices not only threatens the jobs of individual teachers, but much of the region’s economy.

While numerous protests since 2013 have been met with a strong police response, little compares to what happened in Iguala on September 26. On that day, student teachers from Rural Teachers College Raúl Isidro Burgos of Ayotzinapa traveled to Iguala to protest outside a conference hosted by Maria de los Angeles Pineda, wife of Iguala’s mayor and the local president of the National System for Integral Family Development (DIF). Following the protest, the students claim they were trying to hitchhike back to their school while police claim they were trying to seize buses. In the end, police and gunmen opened fire on a bus, killing 6 and injuring several more. Another 56 students went missing that night, 43 of which have not been seen or heard from since. Some witnesses say the missing students were arrested by police while others say they were taken away by masked gunmen, now identified as members of Guerreros Unidos, a local drug cartel. Either way, the missing students and the discovery of two mass graves nearby is posing a major political problem for President Enrique Pena Nieto and his promises of less violence in a country plagued by it for the past decade.

The incident also underlines how intertwined government and organized crime has become in parts of the country. The 56 people arrested so far in connection with the missing students run the gamut from police officers and local officials to members of a local drug gang. The mayor of Iguala, his wife and the town’s police chief have all fled following the release of warrants for their arrest and amid allegations of direct connections with Guerreros Unidos. The governor of Guerrero resigned and there are calls for more action by the government, which so far has responded tepidly despite the general outcry.

As Uta Thofern points out, the continuing protests are now far more about the government’s role in this tragedy rather than the missing students themselves. In a country plagued by violence at the hands of both drug cartel and government security forces for the last 10 years, people are fed up. The rule of law is something that has become foreign to most Mexicans but the growing protests, far from Guerrero State where the students came from, demonstrate that it is something Mexicans desperately want. Even if those found in the second mass grave are the remains of the missing students – which Mexican officials claim they are despite testing not being complete – it will not be the end of this fight.

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