Africa News Roundup: Somalia’s New Prime Minister, Protests in Ethiopia, Bombings in Nigeria, Cabinet Reshuffle in Guinea, and More

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has appointed a new prime minister:

[Abdi Farah Shirdon] Saaid, a political newcomer, has been a prominent businessman in neighbouring Kenya and is married to Asha Haji Elmi, an influential Somali peace activist.

A Western diplomat said Saaid had a reputation for being above Somalia’s notoriously volatile clan politics, similar to the new president, and the news of his appointment would be welcomed by foreign governments.

“Like all the decisions the new president has made so far, this is a good one, and Somalia is on a bit of a roll with the election of (Mohamed Osman) Jawaari as parliament speaker and Mohamud as president,” the diplomatic source told the Reuters news agency.

Mohamud, a former academic and a political newcomer himself, was elected president in a secret ballot on September 10, a result hailed by his supporters as a vote for change in the Horn of Africa state ravaged by war and anarchy since 1991.
Saaid’s appointment as the prime minister will have to be approved by Somali legislators, diplomatic sources said.

VOA:

Ethiopian Muslims will elect a new Islamic Council this Sunday, October 7.  The election has stirred protest among many Muslims who believe the government is trying to influence the Council.
A protest erupted after the Friday prayer at the Anwar mosque, the largest mosque in Addis Ababa.  People were waving yellow papers, symbolizing a warning card for the government and the crowd was chanting for about 20 minutes, shouting slogans such as “let our voice be heard” and “release the prisoners.”  Dozens of protesters were brought to a police station during and after the demonstration.
The anger behind the protest started earlier this year, as some Muslims accused the government of interfering with religious affairs by trying to promote a more liberal form of Islam from Lebanon, known as al-Abhash.

Peter Tinti: “Understanding Algeria’s Northern Mali Policy”

In the recent killing of students in Nigeria’s Adamawa State, the prior destruction of mobile phone towers by Boko Haram seems to have contributed to victims’ difficulties in placing calls to warn others.

Two explosions in Nigeria’s Taraba State, in the town of Jailingo, occurred respectively on Thursday and on Friday/Saturday night, killing at least two persons and wounding at least nineteen.

Micah Zenko wonders, “Foreign governments and peoples ask for international humanitarian interventions all the time, so why do we only pay attention to some and ignore others?”

An unexpected cabinet reshuffle in Guinea.

IRIN reports on a cholera outbreak on the Kenya-Somalia border.

What else is happening?

Cholera Spreads in Mali and Niger

Earlier this month, a cholera outbreak occurred around rebel-held Gao in northern Mali. Although aid agencies and relief organizations said that cholera cases for West Africa are lower this year than they were at the same point last year, the outbreak in Mali has created fears of a localized upsurge of cases in Mali and Niger. An outbreak also began around Tillaberi, Niger (map) in January. Within the zone of concern, the epidemic is now spreading:

A cholera epidemic in Niger has killed 58 people and spread to a refugee camp housing Malians who have fled the unrest in the north of their country, the UN said on Thursday.

“The overall number of cases reported as of 15 July is 2 900, with 58 deaths,” the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report issued from Niger’s capital Niamey.

“The number of cholera cases continues to increase [and] the … situation remains worrying with the arrival of the rainy season,” it added.

Cholera rarely spreads directly from person to person; rather, it spreads through contaminated water, especially in areas with poor sanitation. The article above does not say whether Malian refugees have carried the disease with them from Mali, but in any case the camps seem to have inadequate sanitation. As the crisis continues in Mali and the epidemic spreads in western Niger, cholera cases seem likely to increase in the sub-region.

For more, see AFP‘s report from Gao on how the interlocking crises of “conflict, hunger, cholera, and locusts” are killing people and disrupting life in northern Mali.

Cholera in the Sahel

News of an outbreak of cholera in Islamist-held Gao, northern Mali (map), has focused some international attention on the problem of cholera across the Sahel region. You can read about cholera’s causes, symptoms, and treatments here.

UNICEF (via VOA) released a statement this week expressing concern about the recent uptick in cholera cases in the western Sahel sub-region:

Since mid-June, the number of people affected by the deadly highly infectious water-borne disease has shot up in the Sahel, especially in Niger’s regions bordering the Niger River, where the Ministry of Health reports nearly three times as many cholera patients over the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year.

Niger is home to about 400,000 children who are expected to require life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition this year.

Cholera is a recurrent threat throughout the Sahel. Last year, over 67,000 cholera cases were reported mainly around the Lake Chad Basin countries (Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria), with 2,153 deaths and an average case fatality rate of 3.2 per cent.

But this year, the outbreaks appear to be concentrated further to the west around Niger and Mali, where its impact is aggravated by massive displacement of people fleeing the conflict in northern Mali and puts more strain on the children already affected by an acute nutrition crisis. While cholera cases appeared in Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria earlier this year, several other Sahel countries are now facing significant risks, with a sharp increase of cases expected with the onset of the rainy season.

As IRIN summarizes, the number of cases in parts of the Sahel, such as the Lake Chad basin, is lower than it was in 2011, but in Mali and Niger the number is set to rise between August and December, which is peak cholera time.

Decreases in cases this year in countries like Chad and Guinea are due to a combination of acquired immunity, prevention methods, and vaccines.

The Red Cross has worked near Gao to prevent the spread of cholera there, supporting “a treatment centre set up on the spot by the health authorities to prevent the disease from spreading…Local radio stations have begun to broadcast warning messages and recommendations, and Mali Red Cross volunteers are going door to door to distribute treatment products and water.” The Islamist group the Movement for Unity/Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) has also reportedly “told people not to drink the river water or bathe in it in a bid to contain the outbreak.”

Nevertheless, ongoing violence in northern Mali between various rebel groups could complicate efforts at prevention and treatment, potentially allowing the disease to spread. Cholera’s spread would add to the burdens Mali, Niger, and other countries in the sub-region already face, including displaced persons and lack of food. UNICEF, the Red Cross, and other organizations are stepping up their efforts to monitor and contain outbreaks, but the present chaos in northern Mali may well work against them.