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Jun 21, 2014

Mauritanians vote in presidential poll amid opposition boycott

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) – Mauritanians voted on Saturday in an election certain to return President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to office for another five years, but he struggled to secure a turnout high enough to give him a convincing mandate amid a poll boycott.

The bulk of the opposition boycotted last year’s parliamentary elections – saying the organisers were biased and the process flawed – and talks to try to persuade them to take part in Saturday’s vote broke down in April.

Jun 21, 2014

Voting slow in Mauritanian presidential poll amid boycott

NOUAKCHOTT, June 21 (Reuters) – Voters trickled into polling
centres in Mauritania on Saturday in an election where incumbent
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was counting on a high turnout
to see off an opposition boycott and boost his authority.

Abdel Aziz – an ally of Western powers in the fight against
al Qaeda-linked Islamists in West Africa – is sure to win the
poll in the desert nation straddling black and Arab Africa.

Jun 21, 2014

Mauritanian vote gets off to slow start amid opposition boycott

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) – Small groups of voters trickled into polling centers in Mauritania early on Saturday in an election where incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was counting on a high turnout to see off an opposition boycott and boost his authority.

Abdel Aziz – a Western ally in the fight against al Qaeda-linked Islamists in West Africa – is sure to win the poll in the nation straddling black and Arab Africa.

Jun 11, 2014

Suicide car bomb kills four UN soldiers in northern Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Four United Nations peacekeepers were killed and others wounded in a suicide attack on their base in the town of Aguelhoc in Mali’s restless desert north on Wednesday, the country’s U.N. mission said.

The blast came as the U.N. and Mali’s international partners scrambled to salvage a foundering northern peace process following a spate of renewed clashes between government forces and Tuareg rebels last month.

Jun 10, 2014

Mali PM warns of Islamist threat within Tuareg rebels

BAMAKO (Reuters) – The international community is underestimating the threat posed by Islamist fighters sheltering in areas of Mali’s far north controlled by Tuareg separatist rebels, Prime Minister Moussa Mara said.

When Mara traveled to the Tuareg stronghold of Kidal last month, clashes broke out between rebel groups there and troops.

May 25, 2014

Nigeria’s Boko Haram kills 28 in three village attacks

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Suspected Islamist Boko Haram gunmen rampaged through three villages in northern Nigeria, killing 28 people and burning houses to the ground in a pattern of violence that has become almost a daily occurrence, according to police and witnesses.

All three attacks happened on Thursday in remote parts of Borno state, the epicenter of Boko Haram’s increasingly bloody struggle for an Islamic kingdom in religiously mixed Nigeria.

May 23, 2014

Nigerian president, leaders to discuss African militant threat

ABUJA/MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, facing a mounting Islamist insurgency at home, will fly to South Africa to discuss ways of tackling militancy across the continent with African heads of state, his spokesman said.

The meeting follows warnings from Nigeria and its neighbors that Boko Haram – which has killed thousands of Nigerians during its five-year-old insurgency, and last month kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls – now threatens the security of the region.

Apr 24, 2014
via Photographers' Blog

Bissau: fashion, flair and hip-hop


Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

By Joe Penney

If you drive through the Mistra neighborhood of Bissau – the charming, ramshackle capital of Guinea-Bissau – signs of peoples’ love for American hip-hop are everywhere.

The local football pitch is named “California” after Tupac’s song “California Love.” Clothes reading “50 Cent” or “Thug Life” are commonplace, and Rihanna’s latest hits blare out from rusty radios beneath the mango trees.

Jan 16, 2014
via Photographers' Blog

The practice of breast-ironing


Douala, Cameroon

By Joe Penney

Every Friday afternoon, Julie Ndjessa, 28, invites the teenage girls in her neighborhood in Douala over to her house on a dirt road where she lives with her mother, father and cousin. Giggling, they play clapping games and chat loudly with each other about the week’s escapades. Then Julie got down to business: educating the young women in her community about the many dangers they face before reaching adulthood.

Over the past few years, one of the main topics she discusses is called “breast-ironing,” a practice used by some mothers in Cameroon to flatten their pubescent daughters’ growing breasts. Done with the goal of protecting young women from early pregnancy by making them less attractive to men, breast ironing is extremely painful and has dangerous long-term health consequences.

Dec 6, 2013
via Photographers' Blog

Bureaucrats in a conflict zone


Bangui, Central African Republic

By Joe Penney

On Thursday, the volatile Central African Republic was host to a bloodbath. Hours of fighting between the former “Seleka” rebels that took power in a March coup d’etat and local militia and fighters loyal to the deposed president, Francois Bozize, killed over a hundred. As the situation continues to deteriorate, France is set to take a bigger role in its former colony’s security, sending hundreds of troops in the coming days.

Yet while security is what is grabbing the headlines at the moment, CAR’s problems lie much deeper. Already an unstable state in the run-up to the coup, the Central African government is now in tatters and just going through the motions. During the coup, most ministry buildings were looted for cash, computers and anything hungry rebels could get their hands on. Little has since been replaced.