Sierra Leone president sacks three over Hajj scam

By Newsdesk

The Sierra Leonean President, Ernest Bai Koroma, has sacked three top government officials over a major scandal involving arrangement for this year’s pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Of the three officials sack by government for allegedly monetising Hajj scholarships meant for the indigent citizens include two presidential advisers and an aid to the country’s Vice President.

They were: Special Assistant, Social Affairs, Office of the President, Sheka Kamara; Special Assistant, Political Affairs, Office of the President; Nurideen Sanko Yilla and Minister of State, Office of the Vice President; M A Bah.

Before their dismissal, the officials were tasked with overseeing selection of intending pilgrims to benefit from government funding.

It costs roughly $5000 for a return ticket to attend Hajj in Saudi Arabia.Very few Sierra Leoneans can afford that.

Therefore, the government, with support from donors, usually provides scholarships to poor pilgrims who are supposed to be selected through stringent criteria.

Earlier, It was gathered that the Hajj Committee of 2017 were been accused of asking people to pay half of the cost ($2,500) to get their names included in the list.

The report also said non-Sierra Leonean nationals from Guinea and Mali have had their names included in the list, apparently have paid for the price.

A statement from the President’s office Saturday evening announced the institution of an enquiry into the matter.

The three men are presently in Saudi Arabia and, according to the presidential statement, they have been ordered to return home.

Kenyan police launches manhunt for three terror suspects

By Newsdesk

The Kenyan police has launched manhunt for at least three terror suspects that escaped during a gun duel with the law enforcement officers where a terror kingpin died in coastal city of Mombasa.

Manhunt for the three suspects came barely 24 hours after the police killed Hussein Omar also known as Babley in his hideout where he engaged police in a shootout.

Coast Regional Police Commander, Larry Kieng, who announced commencement of the manhunt in an interview newsmen in Mombasa on Saturday, said they believe the three suspects escaped with injuries during the operation mounted by special anti-terrorism police unit on Friday evening.

Kieng, who disclosed that Babley had been on their wanted list lately, added that the four were planning a major terrorist attack in Mombasa County.

“We are reliably informed the three were planning attack on Friday but our officers acting on intelligence information thwarted the imminent terrorist attack,” the police commander said.

He said security have intensified intelligence gathering and patrols in war on terrorism, saying, the enhancement in operation came after the killing of Omar, one of the most wanted terror suspects in the country.

Omar is the logistician for Al-Shabaab militia operating in Boni forest, even as he was before his death, led several attacks were Kenyans in Mwalei, Pandanguo and Milihoi.

Omar, whose brother identified as Dogo who also a terrorist, came to limelight in 2013 where he was involved in facilitating a group of French foreign fighters as they were running away from Al-Shabaab militant group.

He later on took up a bigger role in facilitation when his brother Ahmed alias Dogo left for Somalia and sent a cell of fighters back in late 2014.

The late Omar has been involved in various circles of financiers who supported local harakat and his brothers’ needs in Somalia.

He later joined Ismael Shosi at majengo house raid last year and later Junda residence of Salim Hanjaury alias Mario.

Early this year, the government released names and photos of seven most wanted members of the Jaysh Aman cell operating from Boni and placed a $20,000 bounty on each.

They are Idriss Issack, Mohamed, Abdullahi Diyat alias Ubeyd, Sharif Arab, Ahmed Mohammed alias Jerry, Andikadir Haret Mohammed Yusuf Kuno alias Abu Ali and Ahmed Bashir.

Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet, said the seven are believed to be operating on the Kenya-Somalia border and allegedly behind terror attacks in the Northeastern region, particularly in Mandera County.

Uganda declares end of bird flu outbreak

By Newsdesk

The Uganda Government has declared end of bird flu outbreak which has led to death of thousands of birds and crippled the country’s poultry export for seven months since its outbreak.

Bird flu outbreak was declared in January affecting domestic and wild birds in three central districts of Wakiso, Kalangala and Masaka, along the shores of Lake Victoria.

Since outbreak of the flu, at least 50,000 domestic birds and 10,000 wild birds have been killed by the government, aimed at ending the outbreak.

Minister of Agriculture, Christopher Kibanzanga, who announced end to avian influenza outbreak in an interview with newsmen on Saturday, said that Uganda is free from bird flu.

“The laboratory samples collected from domestic poultry birds and wild birds have been confirmed negative since March to date,” Kibanzanga said.

He lamented that the outbreak had negatively impacted on Uganda’s economy, resulting from trade bans on export of poultry products to neighboring Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The minister hinted that the Kenyan government has agreed to partially lift the poultry trade ban through compartments.

Uganda is among the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that face a high risk of a bird flu outbreak as it is crisscrossed by several routes for migratory birds, which are carriers of the virus.

Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

The infection can cause a wide spectrum of symptoms in birds, ranging from mild illness, which may pass unnoticed, to a fatal disease that can cause severe epidemics.

According to the WHO, avian influenza viruses do not normally infect humans but there have been instances of certain highly pathogenic strains causing severe respiratory disease in humans.

Mali president postpones referendum on constitutional reforms

By Newsdesk

After several protests by oppositions, the Malian President, Ibrahim Keita, has announced postponement of the planned referendum on constitutional reforms that had met stiff opposition and ignited regular street protests.

The constitutional changes would have given extra powers to the president, afford him opportunity to create new regions and establish a new Senate chamber.

Also included in the changes was recognizing claims by ethnic Tuaregs in north and approve some degree of autonomy by officially labeling their desert provinces with the name ‘Azawad’.

It would be recalled that opposition parties had kicked against extra powers that would be accorded to the president under the new reforms, including being able to nominate a quarter of the Senate and remove the prime minister at will.

The president in a live broadcast yesterday where he announced the postponement, hinted that it would not be wise to increase the challenges confronting the country.

He said: “I have decided in all responsibility to postpone the organization of a referendum on the constitutional revision. I have done this because, given the way that our country is confronted with so many major challenges, we cannot add to the existing problems … controversy and misunderstanding.”

Malians have allegedly become disillusioned with Keita’s administration after level of insecurity increased, spreading across the country.

The reforms were agreed as part of a peace deal with mostly ethnic-Tuareg rebels in Mali’s north in 2015. But the deal has so far failed to quell unrest in the north, where rival pro and anti-government factions are locked in a cycle of tit-for-tat killing, while Islamists continue to launch devastating attacks.

It would be recalled that suspected Islamist gunmen attacked a United Nations peacekeeping base in northern city of Timbuktu recently, killing seven people including five Malian security guards, a gendarme and civilian.

Sources said that another attack in the central town of Douentza killed a Malian soldier and a U.N. peacekeeper.

South African minister resigns amid assault probe

By Newsdesk and agency report

A South African deputy minister, Mduduzi Manana, has resigned his appointment after a video allegedly indicted him of assaulting a woman in nightclub.

The emergence of a footage apparently showing deputy higher education minister recently sparked outrage from civil society and opposition parties, prompting Manana to offer a public apology.

Manana’s resignation was confirmed by the president’s office in a statement on Saturday, commending the ex-minister for his service to the country.

“President Jacob Zuma has received and accepted the resignation of the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana.

“The President has thanked Manana for his contribution to the work of government during his term of office,” the presidency added in a statement.

The police ministry confirmed earlier this month that a case of assault was being investigated against Manana.

Apparently worried by the outrage that had greeted the footage, the country’s Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, assured South Africans that justice would be served fairly, saying, no one is above the law irrespective of their position in society.

Al-Shabaab militant behead three in Kenya

Newsdesk and agency report

A suspected member of Somali Islamist militant group, Al-Shabaab, has beheaded no fewer than three persons and set several houses ablaze during an attack in Kenya’s coastal region of Lamu.

Several communities in northeastern Kenya border with Somalia have been target of Al-Shabaab terrorists who have killed scores of citizens since Kenyan soldiers entered Somalia six years ago to protect both countries’ shared border.

The Kenyan Coast regional Police Commander, Larry Kieng, confirmed the attack at Maleli on Friday, saying security officers were already pursuing the attackers.

“We have launched investigation into the attack at Maleli village by suspected Al-Shabaab militants, who also torched several houses,” Kieng

It would be recalled that a suspected member of al-shabaab fighters beheaded nine men during an overnight assault on a village in Kenyan coastal district of Lamu, days after the armed group killed three police officers in an attack on a nearby village.

“They raided Jima and Pandanguo villages and killed nine men. They were slaughtered like chickens, using knives,” said a witness.

Kenya’s Interior Ministry announced that curfew was imposed in three districts following the attack.

Africa must solve its problems – Osinbajo, Kagame

By Newsdesk

Apparently concerned by Africa’s continued reliance on Europe for solutions to its problem, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo and newly re-elected President, Paul Kagame, have said that the continent must search inward for solutions to its numerous problems.

Both leaders stressed that Africa could indeed solve its own problems but requires everyone to look inward to discover the required solutions.

They spoke on Friday in Kigali, the Rwandan capital at the inauguration of the country’s President Paul Kagame for a third term.

Osinbajo, in an interview with newsmen shortly after the inauguration ceremony said that the plans have been discussed at different African Union sessions.

He said: “This is very resonant that we must solve our own problems. Africa can solve its own problems and I think African nations have begun to demonstrate that.

“Africa can take leadership in various respects, leadership in our economy, handle the commanding heights in our economy, be directly involved in the destiny and future of our countries.

“And I think the point that Kagame made is an important one and is one that is being demonstrated all over Africa,” he added.

On how Nigeria has led the campaign, Osinbajo noted that the country commenced it with proffering solutions to crisis that North-East of Nigeria.

 

The acting president however described Kagame as an excellent leader whose style could be adopted by any of the African leaders, just as he attributed victory achieved by the president at the polls to his outstanding performance and leadership qualities.

Earlier in his inauguration speech titled, A day of renewal and gratitude, Kagame urged African leaders to unite and ensure even development in the continent.

According to him, there is no single model of nation building. Good choices are built on the mindset summarized as doing it yourself’.

“The governance and prosperity of Africa cannot be outsourced. There is exceptional leadership and ingenuity amongst us.’’

The newly sworn-in President stressed that Africa had necessary capabilities to transform its economy and lives of its people for the better with little or no external influence.

Kagame, however, promised to lead the present generation of Rwandans to era of prosperity, sustainability and self-reliance economy.

Death toll in Sierra Leone mudslide hits 400, 600 missing

By Newsdesk

Barely 24 hours after burial of 350 victims of  Sierra Leoneans mudslide commenced, United Nation (UN) and Red Cross have disclosed that the death toll from floods and mudslide in Sierra Leone has risen to 400 with 600 still missing.

Increase in death toll came barely 24 hours after the country’s government disclosed that number of causalities was 350.

Announcing increase in death toll, Secretary-General, Red Cross, Ehadj Sy, lamented that efforts to get any survivor has continued to shrink daily.

According to Sy, we still have hope to find survivors but the chances are getting smaller every day.

Worried by possible implication of the death toll to the residents, UN agencies have launched operations to aid affected communities and to stem possible disease outbreaks.

The Spokesperson, World Food Programme (WFP), Alexandra Vellucci however, hinted that the agency has intensified efforts towards providing food assistance to 10,000 people.

“The main priority for children is to prevent the spread of diseases,cholera, of course which is endemic in Sierra Leone, but also other diarrhoea-causing diseases,” spokesman of the UN Children’s Fund, Christophe Boulierac said.

Since the tragedy occurred, countries have announced aid to assist the West Africa country. Among the countries is China

According to the UN, China has announced one million dollars in aid to Sierra Leone, while the European Union pledged an initial $350,000.

In a ceremony attended by the country’s President, Ernest Bai Koroma, wooden coffins were lowered into hurriedly dug graves at a cemetery in Waterloo, as the country tried to begin recovering from one of Africa’s worst flood disasters in living memory.

“Today is another sad moment for our compatriots who have suffered a tragic death,” Koroma told mourners, hinting at the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic, which killed 4,000 people in the former British colony.

 

 

40 die, scores missing in DR Congo landslide

By Newsdesk and agency report

As Sierra Leone completes recovery of bodies in communities hit by mudslide, no fewer than 40 persons have been killed Democratic Republic of Congo during a landslide in the country.

Confirming the tragedy, the deputy governor of Ituri province, said that the landslide occurred in Pacifique Keta on Thursday.

The Seismic and volcanic activity have been responsible for a number of landslides in the region in recent years.

According to statements from the governor’s office and hospital officials, five persons have been rescued while efforts were under way with hundreds of other villagers missing.

A doctor at the Tshomia Hospital, Herve Isamba, told newsmen that medical officials were treating four patients

Congo is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, with about 7.7 million people on the verge of starvation, according to UN food agencies.

It would be recalled that seven years ago, a mudslide swept over the eastern Congo village of Kibiriga and killed 19 people. Bodies of 27 others were never recovered.

Also, two years after about 50 people were found dead after a wave of mud and rocks hit the eastern town of Uvira, submerging about 150 homes.

AU deploys election observers to Angola ahead general election

By Newsdesk and agency report

Ahead of next weeks general election in Angola, African Union (AU) has approved deployment of no fewer than 40 election observers to the country, to access conduct of the poll.

The 40-member team led by Cape Verde former Prime Minister, Jose Maria Neves, were drawn from AU Permanent Representative Committee, Pan-African Parliament, Election Management Bodies, Civil Society Organizations and academia.

Neves and other members of the team appointed as observe for the Angolan general elections scheduled to hold Aug. 23, would submit their report which recommendations would be adopted for future elections.

AU Commission, Chairperson, Moussa Mahamat, in a statement on Wednesday, said that the team has been approved as AU Election Observation Mission (AUEOM), for the poll in the country.

The mission has objectives of providing an accurate and impartial reporting or assessment of the quality of the general elections in Angola, including the degree to which the conduct of the elections meets regional, continental and international standards for democratic elections.

“It is also with objective of demonstrating AU’s interest to support Angola’s elections and democratization process to ensure that the conduct of genuine elections contributes to the consolidation of democratic governance, peace and stability in Angola in particular and the Southern Africa sub-region in general,” the statement added.