Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has tasked a special commission with investigating allegations of widespread corruption and abuse of office under the government of his predecessor.
The commission, which will formally begin work on February 4, has a mandate to look into allegations of corruption as well as stolen public funds and state assets between 2007 and 2018 during the rule of president Ernest Bai Koroma.
“Corruption is a threat to national development,” said Bio at a ceremony Tuesday to inaugurate the commission.
“All those who will be invited by the commission must comply, anyone who fails to comply… will face the full force of the law.”
Bio took over as president after winning last April’s election run-off following a tumultuous campaign in which he targeted corruption.
“The commission of inquiry is not a witch-hunt but a democratic accountability and a fight against impunity,” said Justice Minister Priscilla Schwartz said at the launch ceremony.
Several former leaders have been arrested in recent months following the publication in July of a damning report which said “rampant corruption” under the Koroma administration had led to the “near collapse” of the West African nation’s economy.
Although Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits, the former British colony remains one of the world’s poorest nations and is only gradually recovering from years of war and disease.
Tunisia fishermen are the lifesavers of the Mediterranean
Fishermen from Zarzis have saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years,
The Tunisian trawler radioed in for help as it passed the migrant boat in distress out at sea. But with the packed craft still adrift two days later, captain Chamseddine Bourassine took direct action. Fishermen from Tunisia are spending more and more time pulling in stranded migrants after a sharp decline in humanitarian and European naval patrols along the stretch of water between war-wracked Libya and Italy.
Bourassine, his crew and three other fishing boats ferried the 69 migrants back to shore on May 11, five days after their boat pushed off from Zuwara on the western Libyan coast. “The area where we fish is a crossing point” between Zuwara and the Italian island of Lampedusa, said Badreddine Mecherek, a Tunisian fisherman from Zarzis near the border with Libya.
Fishermen from Zarzis have saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years, and as the number of boats leaving western Libya for Europe spikes with the return of calmer summer seas, they will probably have to save even more. “First we warn the authorities, but in the end, we end up saving them ourselves,” Mecherek grumbled as he tinkered with his rusting sardine boat.
European countries in the northern Mediterranean are trying to stem the number of migrants landing on their shores, and the Tunisian navy with its limited resources only rescues boats inside the country’s territorial waters.
Since May 31, Tunisia itself has barred 75 migrants from coming ashore after they were saved in international waters by a Tunisian-Egyptian tug boat. Contacted multiple times by journalists, Tunisian authorities have refused to comment.
“Everyone has disengaged” from the issue, said Mecherek, adding it was hampering his work. Fishermen who run across migrants on their second day out at sea are at least able to have done a day’s work, he added, “but if we find them on the first night, we have to go back”.
“It’s very complicated to finish the job with people on board.” The complexity of the rescues grows when fishermen find migrants adrift closer to Italy.
When Bourassine and his crew last year tugged a boat towards Lampedusa which was adrift without a motor, they were jailed in Sicily for four weeks for helping the migrants. It took months to recover their boat.
Humanitarian boats and those of the European Union’s “Operation Sophia” anti-piracy force had scooped up most stranded migrants in recent years, but rescue operations dropped in 2019. “Now most often we are the first to arrive… if we aren’t there, the migrants die,” Mecherek said.
On May 10, a Tunisian trawler just barely saved the lives of 16 migrants after they had spent eight hours in the water. Sixty others drowned before the ship arrived.
Survivor Ahmed Sijur said the boat’s appearance at dawn was like that of “an angel”. “I was losing hope myself, but God sent the fishermen to save us,” the 30-year-old from Bangladesh said.
Police of the sea
Mecherek is more worried than proud. “We don’t want to see all these corpses anymore. We want to catch fish, not people,” he said, adding his crew was growing uneasy. “I have 20 seamen on board asking, ‘Who will feed our families?'” he added.
“But local fishermen will never let people die at sea.” For Tunisian Red Crescent official Mongi Slim, the fishermen “are practically the police of the sea”, adding that many migrants say large ships won’t stop to help.
Under pressure to catch their quota during a short annual season, big tuna boats out of Zarzis often call the coast guard instead of stopping themselves to help. “We report the migrants, but we can’t bring them back to shore… We only have a few weeks to fish,” said one crew member. For Chamseddine, the summer months look difficult.
Semenya cleared by court to run 800m in Rabat
Organisers of the Diamond League had initially refused to allow Semenya to take part but on Friday they “confirmed her invitation”
Caster Semenya will run her specialist 800m distance at Rabat on Sunday, organisers said, after the South African two-time Olympic champion won the latest round of a bitter court battle over gender rules.
Semenya was cleared to take part in the Diamond League meeting after Switzerland’s top court rejected an IAAF request to re-impose rules obliging her to lower her testosterone before competing in certain events.
Organisers of the Morocco event had initially refused to allow the South African to take part but on Friday they “confirmed her invitation”.
“After checking the situation of Caster Semenya in the light of the decisions of the Swiss Federal Court, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the head of the international athletics meeting in Rabat, Alain Blondel, is happy to confirm the invitation,” said a statement on the event’s official site.
The Swiss federal court issued their order on Wednesday, explaining “this means that Caster remains permitted to compete without restriction in the female category at this time.”
The IAAF had earlier this month opposed a ruling by the court temporarily suspending the federation’s rules following an appeal by Semenya who won the women’s 800 metres at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
The athlete was contesting a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which previously found the rules were “discriminatory” but “necessary” to ensure fairness in women’s athletics.
The rules require women with higher than normal male hormone levels, a condition known as hyperandrogenism, to artificially lower the amount of testosterone in their bodies if they are to compete in races over distances of 400m to the mile.
“No woman should be subjected to these rules,” Semenya said in a statement, adding she had “thought hard about not running the 800m in solidarity unless all women can run free. But I will run now to show the IAAF that they cannot drug us.”
The athlete also dismissed the IAAF’s claim that it is committed to the full participation of women in sport.
“I am a woman, but the IAAF has again tried to stop me from running the way I was born,” she said in the statement, pointing out the hormonal drugs she had been required to take to compete had made her feel “constantly sick and unable to focus for many years.”
“No other woman should be forced to go through this,” she said.
Public health officials employ “time-honoured” tactics to combat dengue in Ivory Coast
Two people have died and 130 have fallen ill since the fever returned to the country last month.
“Cover your goods,” Diakaria Fofana, a doctor of public health charged with combating dengue, warns food vendors as a thick cloud of insecticide spray wafts down a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s economic capital. Men in protective clothes, goggles and masks are disgorging plumes of mosquito-killing chemicals in a bid to roll back an outbreak of dengue.
Two people have died and 130 have fallen ill since the fever returned to the country last month. The toll, so far, is tiny compared with other tropical countries, especially in Southeast Asia, where the painful and sometimes deadly disease is an entrenched peril.
But tackling the outbreak is a major challenge for Ivory Coast, having to resort to time-honoured, labour-intensive methods of spraying and neighbourhood awareness campaigns to prevent its spread. Female mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus transfer the pathogen when they tuck into a blood meal from someone.
A vaccine does exist, but is not available in Ivory Coast because “it has many secondary effects (and) it’s expensive”, explained Joseph Vroh Benie Bi, director of the National Institute for Public Hygiene (INHP). Developed by French pharmaceutical group Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine is recommended for use in people aged nine and older, and only for individuals who have already been infected.
Usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms, dengue makes some people very sick indeed, developing into a haemorrhagic fever that can cause difficulty breathing, heavy bleeding or even organ failure. While the first bout of dengue is rarely fatal, subsequent infections are usually worse.
Fighting the mosquitoes equals combating dengue
The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) says there are up to 100 million cases of dengue worldwide every year, and almost half the world’s population lives in countries where the disease is endemic. It kills more than 20,000 people each year. Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are the worst-hit areas.
There is no cure and the WHO recommends that patients take paracetamol, rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Five new vaccines are in development, but in the meantime, Fofana says: “The only effective means of fighting (dengue) is fighting the mosquito.”
In Ivory Coast, most recorded cases have occurred in Abidjan. Health workers are striving to enlist the public in tackling the mosquito, targeting its life cycle. “The larvae multiply in stagnant water, for example inside used tyres,” said Fofana, deputy director of the vector control unit at the INHP.
“People should never store water in buckets in the open air and they should regularly throw out the water in plates under houseplants.” But he faces an uphill job in a sprawling port city of 4.4 million people in the middle of the rainy season.
What’s more, people who are infected, even without knowing it, and can bring the virus to new areas when they are bitten by local mosquitoes. The WHO has set a goal to halve the number of dengue deaths by 2020, but, the incidence of the disease has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years.
“Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries,” it says.
Dengue – Malaria’s big brother
In Ivory Coast, where malaria accounts for a third of all medical consultations, many people self-medicate when they experience symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, nausea or aches and pains. “This is a real problem, because the symptoms of malaria, dengue, typhus and yellow fever are similar. Doing a blood test is absolutely indispensable,” said Fofana.
Treatment with the wrong medicines can worsen the situation, he stressed – aspirin or ibuprofen can increase the risk of bleeding, for example. In the meantime, the spraying goes on.
“We know the risks,” said Bamba Segbe, an Abidjan resident watching the masked men in action. “It’s not for nothing that we call dengue malaria’s big brother.”
Former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor
Church attacked and burnt down over imam arrest in Niger
GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya
Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali
Tunisia fishermen are the lifesavers of the Mediterranean
Gabon’s president sacks vice president and forestry minister
Voters in Malawi go to the polls in ‘unpredictable’ race
AFCON 2019 mascot unveiled as “Tut”
Nigeria’s economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk
Meet the candidates in Malawi’s unsettled presidential race
This startup is revolutionising Nigeria’s cash cow industry
Counting the cost: Africa and the US-China Trade War
Africa in 60 – June 14, 2019
The Big 5 Preview; June 14-16, 2019
Africa in 60 – June 13, 2019
Lifestyle News & Gists4 months ago
Five killed in South Africa coal mine blast, others trapped
Feature Stories & News1 month ago
Egypt’s new Ramadan series-streaming app scrutinised by critics
Op-Ed5 months ago
What are the critical issues facing Africa in 2019?
Top Story4 months ago
Spotting fake news: Which is the real video of VP Osinbajo’s chopper incident?
Op-Ed5 months ago
What Brexit means for Africa
Culture & Tourism5 months ago
The market in Togo where money doesn’t change hands
Politics5 months ago
No pay, no news. Guinea Bissau’s journalists go on strike
Culture & Tourism8 months ago
Congolese youth seek change through rap music