Addis Ababa, Oct 25 (AP/UNB) — Ethiopian lawmakers have unanimously elected the country's first female president, days after approving one of the world's few "gender-balanced" Cabinets.
Seasoned diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde succeeds Mulatu Teshome in the largely ceremonial post.
She calls Ethiopia's recent transfer of power to a reformist prime minister "exemplary" and says she will focus on bringing together all sides to achieve peace in a country with multiple ethnic-based conflicts in recent months.
The prime minister's chief of staff says that "in a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life."
Ethiopian lawmakers last week approved a new Cabinet with a record 50 percent female members, including the country's first woman defense minister.
Johannesburg, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Congolese rebels killed 15 civilians and abducted a dozen children in an attack at the epicenter of the latest deadly Ebola outbreak, Congo's military said Sunday, as the violence again forced crucial virus-containment efforts to be suspended.
"It will be very hard to stop the outbreak if this violence continues," said the World Health Organization's emergencies chief, Peter Salama.
A regional WHO official told The Associated Press that it was difficult to say how long work would be affected.
Confirmed Ebola cases have reached 202 in this outbreak, including 118 deaths.
Allied Democratic Forces rebels attacked Congolese army positions and several neighborhoods of Beni on Saturday and into Sunday, Capt. Mak Hazukay Mongha told the AP. The U.N. peacekeeping mission said its troops exchanged fire with rebels in Beni's Mayangose area.
Angry over the killings, residents carried four of the bodies to the town hall, where police dispersed them with tear gas. While some health workers took refuge in a local hospital, the protesters destroyed a number of government buildings and blocked all traffic, Congo's health ministry said.
Vehicles of aid organizations and the U.N. mission were pelted with stones, the U.N.-backed Radio Okapi reported.
The ADF rebels have killed hundreds of civilians in recent years and are just one of several militias active in Congo's far northeast.
Another deadly attack last month in Beni forced the suspension of Ebola-containment efforts for days, complicating work to track suspected contacts of infected people. Since then, many of the new confirmed Ebola cases have been reported in Beni, and the rate of new cases overall has more than doubled, alarming aid groups.
Health efforts in recent weeks had started to show results, and this new attack "will bring us back," Dr. Michel Yao, WHO's incident manager for Ebola in North Kivu province, told the AP.
Work in Beni was suspended on Sunday and "tomorrow, we don't know yet," Yao said, noting that the burials of victims can be tense. "We understand. We are sympathetic. It's not easy to lose relatives. At the same time, it could affect the (outbreak) response."
The attack came after two medical agents with the Congolese army were shot dead by another rebel group — the first time health workers have been killed in this outbreak.
Congo's health minister called it a "dark day" for everyone fighting Ebola.
Mai Mai rebels surged from the forest and opened fire on the unarmed agents with the army's rapid intervention medical unit outside Butembo city, the health ministry said.
Health workers in this outbreak, declared on Aug. 1, have described hearing gunshots daily, operating under the armed escort of U.N. peacekeepers or Congolese security forces and ending work by sundown to lower the risk of attack.
Community resistance is also a problem, and Congo's health ministry has reported "numerous aggressions" against health workers. Early this month, two Red Cross volunteers were severely injured in a confrontation with wary residents in a region traumatized by decades of fighting and facing an Ebola outbreak for the first time.
"Our agents will continue to go into the field each day to fulfill the mission entrusted to them," Health Minister Oly Ilunga said. "They are true heroes, and we will continue to take all necessary measures so that they can do their job safely."
On Wednesday, WHO said it was "deeply concerned" by the outbreak but that it does not yet warrant being declared a global emergency. An outbreak must be "an extraordinary event" that might cross borders, requiring a coordinated response. Confirmed cases have been found near the heavily traveled border with Uganda.
In the latest example of the rumors that pose another serious challenge to containing the virus, the health ministry said 22 young people in Butembo dug up an Ebola victim and opened the body bag to verify that health workers had not taken organs from the body.
They ended up touching highly infectious bodily fluids, the ministry said. "The next day, they agreed to be vaccinated," joining the more than 20,000 people who have received vaccinations so far.
Johannesburg, Oct 21 (AP/UNB) — Nigeria's government says 55 people have been killed in the latest eruption of communal violence in north-central Kaduna state.
A spokesman says President Muhammadu Buhari condemns the fighting that led to Thursday's killings in Kasuwan Magani and that "frequent resort to bloodshed by Nigerians over misunderstandings that can be resolved peacefully is worrisome."
Kaduna's governor cites the state police commissioner as saying that more than 20 people have been arrested. The governor urges "peace and harmony despite ethnic and religious diversity."
Central Nigeria has seen bouts of deadly communal violence that some blame on ethnic and religious differences and others blame on tensions over increasingly scarce resources in Africa's most populous nation.
Nigeria is about equally divided between a largely Christian south and Muslim north.
Kampala, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — Kanye West handed Uganda's president a pair of his autographed sneakers on Monday during a visit to the East African nation in which the rapper is said to be recording music in a tent.
The 74-year-old President Yoweri Museveni said he and West held "fruitful discussions" about promoting tourism and arts. He also gave West and his wife, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, "Ugandan" names, the State House said in a Facebook post.
The couple has been vacationing in a national park in Uganda while excited tourism officials see the visit as an endorsement of the country's tourism potential.
While Uganda's presidency released photos of a hoodie-wearing West meeting Museveni at the State House, some Ugandans wryly pointed out that the president cracked down on hoodies earlier this year, saying motorcycle riders could no longer wear them in a bid to fight rising crime.
Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, has been at the center of unrest in recent weeks after a local pop star-turned-opposition lawmaker, Bobi Wine, alleged torture by security forces. The government denies it.
Uganda's large youth population has increasingly expressed frustration over unemployment and accused the president of being out of touch. The government recently imposed a tax on social media and the constitution was changed to remove an age limit on the presidency, leading some to worry that Museveni plans to rule for life.
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Malaysian Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said he felt "vindicated" after taking his oath as a lawmaker Monday, marking his return to active politics three years after he was imprisoned for sodomy in a charge that critics said was politically motivated.
The swearing-in ceremony in parliament followed Anwar's landslide win in a by-election Saturday in the southern coastal town of Port Dickson in which he defeated six other candidates. The seat was vacated after a lawmaker from his party quit, paving the way for Anwar's political comeback.
Anwar, 71, joins his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail — currently Malaysia's deputy prime minister — and his eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, in parliament. He has said that his by-election victory is a "vote of confidence" in the new government.
"I have been deprived of my right from time to time and I have to go through a by-election to come back ... I feel vindicated," Anwar told reporters Monday. He reiterated support for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's leadership to ensure a stable government and pledged to focus on parliamentary reforms.
"Our parliament has in the past been considered or dubbed as a rubber stamp ... we would like to ensure a new approach where parliament is more effective," he said.
Once a high-flying member of the former ruling coalition, Anwar was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle with Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003. He was freed in 2004 but was once again convicted for sodomy in 2015, charges that he said were concocted to destroy his political career.
Angered by a massive corruption scandal at a state investment fund involving then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, Mahathir made a political comeback and formed an alliance with Anwar, with the two setting aside their bitter feud ahead of May's general election.
Following their stunning election victory, Anwar was designated as Mahathir's successor.
Anwar was freed from prison and received a royal pardon days after the polls. Mahathir, the world's oldest leader at 93, has said he expects to step down in two years and will keep his promise to hand over power to Anwar.
"Of course I am happy he is back ... we expected him to come back. We knew he was going to win," Mahathir was quoted as saying by local media on Monday.