Operation to save African elephants from starvation underway

Between 10 and 20 elephants have already died, says Mel Hood of Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ), which is supporting the “Feed Mana” rescue programme.

Among the dead are four calves who died in the last few days, weakened by hunger – and those are just the ones seen by safari operators and wildlife fans. The real number of deaths isn’t yet known.

Taking strain

But harrowing images have emerged: lions feeding on the carcass of an elephant that had collapsed from hunger; an elephant mother standing beside her dead calf.

An elephant cow stands beside her dead calf at Mana Pools National Park. Tessa Arkwright

“The elephants are definitely the ones taking strain. They came out of the last season thin, so they’ve had a bad year. There are quite a few casualties,” said Dave McFarland, a safari operator in Mana who is helping to co-ordinate the relief effort.

McFarland has had to dig elephants and their calves out of thick mud after they got stuck trying to find water.

“The first one – we got there too late – and its little calf had its face and trunk eaten off by a hyena. That’s a hell of a way to go.”

Worst drought in years

Zimbabwe’s drought, the worst in over two decades, has wiped out crops and worsened human hunger: more than five million people here will require food aid before the next harvest in April.

Summer rains, if they fall, are still 6-8 weeks away.

“This year is worse than previous years. The early end to the rainy season as well as the poor rainfall have really exacerbated the situation,” Hood told RFI.

“With the animals having little or no chance to move out in search of other feeding grounds, we feel that it is our responsibility to at least try and keep them going until the rains come.”

Nigerian paints fetched £1.1m at London auction house

London (AFP) – A painting by the Nigerian artist responsible for the “African Mona Lisa” sold at auction in London on Tuesday for £1.1 million after the family who owned it googled the signature and realised its importance.

“Christine”, by 20th century master of African modernism Ben Enwonwu, had been in the sitter’s family home ever since it was painted in Lagos in 1971.

“The family were unaware of the significance of the painting or the importance of the artist, until a chance “googling” of the signature led them to Sotheby’s free Online Estimate Platform,” said the London auction house.

The painting fetched over seven times the pre-auction estimate, finally going under the hammer for £1.1 million (1.3 million euros, $1.4 million).

The work precedes the artist’s 1974 painting of Ife royal princess Adetutu “Tutu” Ademiluyi, which recently turned up in a London flat after not being seen in decades. 

The portrait is a national icon in Nigeria, with Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri telling AFP that it was thought of as “the African Mona Lisa”.

Enwonwu, who died in 1994, is considered the father of Nigerian modernism.

He made three paintings of “Tutu”, the locations of all of which had been a mystery until the recent discovery.

The works became symbols of peace following the clash of ethnic groups in the Nigerian–Biafran conflict of the late 1960s.

Migrants left home for a reason. Returning is a struggle –

OCTOBER 11, 2019 


Reintegration programs can help would-be migrants get back on their feet if they decide to come back home. But they also serve as a test: What does it take to keep more citizens from wanting to leave in the first place?

Ashley Okwuosa

Olanipekun “Tope” Adenike arranges items for sale in her convenience shop in Sagamu, Nigeria. Ms. Adenike began the shop with help from a small grant from international agencies for Nigerian migrants returned from Libya.

  • By Ashley Okwuosa Contributor


Aformer political office is an unlikely location for a small convenience store, but it works for Olanipekun “Tope” Adenike. When offering directions to her business, she simply tells people to “come to the PDP shop.” 

The green awning with the People’s Democratic Party logo scrawled in white sits on a narrow street across from looming billboards of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, promising progress and change. 

But every year, many Nigerians decide their best chance to find progress and change is in another country. They set out across the Sahara toward Libya and then Europe, and many don’t make it. This year alone, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has repatriated more than 340 Nigerians from Libya, and Ms. Adenike is one of the many  early last year. Since 2015, more than 40,000 migrants have been returned to their home countries from Libya, where abuse of migrants is widespread.

The Nigerian government facilitated the return, with a promise to reintegrate returnees and create opportunities so fewer Nigerians seek greener pastures abroad. Ms. Adenike says that when she arrived, she was taken back to her home state of Ogun, where officials welcomed her. “They told us that now that you’re back to your fatherland we will help you and if you want to continue with your studies or you want to start a business, we are ready to finance it.” 

But today, Ms. Adenike says, all she has received is 5,000 naira ($14) they gave her to get home.

“They are the ones that said we should come home, but yet they have nothing to offer us,” she says, as the generator powering her store hums loudly in the background.

This shop in the southwestern town of Sagamu, where she now sells sardines, tins of milk, and soft drinks, was made possible by a small grant from international agencies. Several similar programs for returnee rehabilitation and training have been launched by partnerships between the IOM, the Nigerian government, and the European Union’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which was set up in 2015 during the height of the Mediterranean migration crisis.

The trust fund allocated more than  ($132 million) to Nigeria for projects meant to address the root causes of irregular migration, from job creation to conflict prevention, and keep more would-be migrants at home. Critics have argued the fund  to ensure enough funds are spent on development, rather than border security. Others argue the international assistance is vital, but only a short-term lift – masking some home countries’ challenges reintegrating their returnees.

“What the IOM and EU are doing is temporary. … Who takes it up from there?” says Osita Osemene, the executive director of the Patriotic Citizens Initiative, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate Nigerians about the dangers of irregular migration. “The long-term solution is not feasible because the government is not fully involved. They have not been able to take ownership of the problem.”

Flood of requests

The  was expected to run for three years, and initially earmarked to provide assistance to . But the immediate need in Nigeria was overwhelming. 

“During the first few months of the project, we already surpassed the initial target,” says Saskia Kok, a migrant protection and assistance officer at the IOM office in Lagos. 

Between November and December of 2017, the agency fielded requests for assistance from close to 5,000 returnees, Ms. Kok says. In 2018, Britain pledged to extend  to 1,700 returnees through a partnership with the IOM and Nigerian government.

Ms. Adenike was one of them. Before leaving for Libya, she studied business at the National Open University, but could barely afford tuition; she had hoped to find work to finance her education. After returning home, she struggled to find a full-time job without a degree, and finally secured one teaching Yoruba language and social science to first grade students. But the position lasted for only three months because the school was unable to pay her, she says.

So when IOM called to offer assistance starting a business, she was overjoyed. “By then I had already lost my hope,” she recalls. 

Struggle stemming the flow

In late 2017, governments and nongovernmental organizations around the world were outraged after CNN reports appeared to confirm many African migrants, including Nigerians, were being sold as slaves in Libya. The viral video elicited  to reduce the number of Nigerians who felt the need to leave the country, by strengthening the economy and increasing access to health care and education. 

In the country’s , the government allocated 100 billion naira ($280 million) to zonal intervention projects, which include reintegration efforts for returnees; Edo state, in the south, has offered monthly stipends for returnees. Nigerian papers have reported  for some development projects, however. For example, Innocent Duru, a journalist who has covered the increase in Nigerians migrating to Libya for the newspaper The Nation, uncovered a case of local leaders  allocated to create agricultural training programs for returnees. 

Meanwhile, emigration continues. Many cite Nigeria’s growing unemployment rate as a reason for their departure. In 2018, people without work , up from 18.1% the year before. 

If returnees continue to come back to Nigeria without stronger assistance, Mr. Duru says, many will turn to crime or simply leave Nigeria again – if not for Libya, then somewhere else. “They say it’s all suffering here, that they don’t have a future here.” 

This August, President Buhari established the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, which will coordinate rehabilitation and reintegration efforts. Its creation is “a strong indication of the seriousness with which the Nigerian government regards issues of humanitarian intervention,” says Tolu Ogunlesi, the special assistant to President Buhari on digital and new media. He notes that the new minister was formerly in charge of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons.

Choices ahead

Since her return, Ms. Adenike has founded a local organization she calls ROSE – Returnees Organization of Surviving Emigrants – to educate others about the dangers of irregular migration.

“I wish I was made aware, I would not have fallen into the road of Libya,” she says. But despite her crusade, Ms. Adenike’s thoughts about leaving the country are nuanced. 

She has always wanted to own a supermarket and feels the IOM funding has set her on a path to do so, she says, as her customers chat, the bright afternoon sun reflecting off her red-sequined blouse. 

Still, if she could leave Nigeria to complete her education, she would. And most important, she says, there is so much left for her to see. “I still want to learn more, I still want to know what is going on outside of Nigeria.”

“If I see the opportunity to travel out of Nigeria to a better country that is not Libya,” she adds, “I will be joyful and happy to go.”

Sudan appoints woman first judge

Sudan’s Nemat Abdullah Khair on Thursday became one of a small number of female judiciary heads on the African content, following her appointment to the position by the ruling Transitional Sovereignty Council.

This is the first time the Arab Muslim nation will have a female leading the judiciary, which has in the past been accused of enabling former president omar al-Bashir’s regime to suppress dissent and lock up opposition figures.

The Supreme Court Judge was nominated by the judges’ professional association, which was part of a protest movement that helped oust Bashir in April.

The 11-member Transitional Sovereignty Council formed in August, also appointed Taj-Elsir Ali, a former prosecutor and lawyer, as the public prosecutor.

The two judicial officials “will carry out their tasks in addressing corruption cases and other cases”, the sovereignty council member spokesman said in a statement without giving details.

A cabinet formed in September included the country’s first female foreign minister, Asmaa Abdallah.

The other female chief justices on the African continent include;


Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed appointed the country’s first female chief justice, Meaza Ashenafi in November last year.

Ashenafi, who founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, EWLA, currently serves as President of the federal Supreme Court. READ MORE: Ethiopia PM lauded for promoting gender parity


Hon. Dr. Mathilda Twomey is the 7th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. In 2011, she became the first female judge in the history of the Indian Ocean island-nation, and in 2015 made history as the country’s first female chief justice. Twomey was last year exonerated by an impeachment inquiry that was investigating allegations of abuse against her.


Irene Mambilima has been Zambia’s chief justice since 2015. She had served as deputy chief justice since 2008. Mambilima also oversaw elections in 2006,2011 and 2015 as the country’s electoral commision chairperson. Zambia’s first female chief justice has considerable international experience having served as a sessional judge of the Supreme Court of Gambia, and taken on election observer missions in Liberia, Kenya, Mozambique and Seychelles.


Appointed chief justice of Lesotho in 2014, Nthomeng Justina Majara is the first woman to hold this office.

‘‘I got messages of encouragement from all spectrums of society. I felt honoured and humbled by such a huge vote of confidence in me,’‘Majara told local media when asked about reactions to her appointment.

‘‘I’m notorious for being a very firm person. Nobody would want to intimidate me simply because I’m a woman.’‘

Majara was last year suspended from office, pending an impeachment inquiry against her. She has been temporarily replaced by another woman, Maseforo Mahase as the acting Chief Justice.

Ethiopian Prime minister, wins Nobel Prize

Ethiopia’s prime minister was on Friday named winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, recognised for his peacemaking efforts which ended two decades of hostility with longtime enemy Eritrea.

Though Africa’s youngest leader still faces big challenges, he has in under two years in power begun political and economic reforms that promise a better life for many in impoverished Ethiopia and restored ties with Eritrea that had been frozen since a 1998-2000 border war.

“We are proud as a nation,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, hailing a “collective win for all Ethiopians, and a call to strengthen our resolve in making Ethiopia – the new horizon of hope – a prosperous nation for all.”

Nobel Committee explains choice of Abiy

The Nobel Committee said Abiy had won the prestigious prize for “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”

It said the prize was meant to recognise “all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.”

The Nobel Committee’s decision appeared designed to encourage the peace process, echoing the 1994 peace prize shared by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the 1993 award for moves towards reconciliation in South Africa, said Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“It is a case of wanting a constructive intervention in the peace process … to give leverage and encouragement,” he told Reuters.

“The challenge now is internal for Abiy Ahmed, with Ethiopia needing to deal with the consequences of long-term violence, including three million displaced people and the need for continuing the political process.”

Abiy had been bookmakers’ second favourite to win, behind the teenage Swedish climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg.

More work to do

Abiy, now 43, took office in April 2018 after the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn following three years of street unrest.

From partial liberalisation of the state-controlled economy to overhauling the security forces that had helped the ruling coalition maintain a tight grip on power since 1991, the promises have raised hopes in the country and abroad.

Abiy’s landmark achievement to date is securing peace with neighbouring Eritrea.

He faces resistance to change from vested interests within his coalition and the possibility that violence, including in June when a rogue state militia leader killed the region’s state president and other top level officials, could escalate.

What remains to be seen is whether Abiy – who joined the Ethiopian army in his teens and rose through the ruling EPRDFcoalition over the past two decades – can reshape Ethiopia and open it up to the world from within the current system.

Abiy also faces high expectations from young Ethiopians who want jobs, development, and opportunities.

Ethiopians react

News of the award trickled slowly down to the streets of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Bisrat Hadte, a 45-year-old businessman, said he was glad but the government still had much to do to improve daily life in the country of about 100 million.

“The prime minister also has to work on to improve the economy and drive down the cost of living,” he told Reuters.

“As an Ethiopian actually I am very happy that the prime minister won the Nobel peace prize,” said Desalegn Chane, president of the new National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) party told Reuters by phone.

“However, we still have legitimate concerns and grievances that Abiy needs to address. The political repression our people the Amhara have been suffering from has continued under Abiy.”

“Three of our party leaders are still in jail suspected of being the plotters of the June coup attempt but still haven’t been formally charged,” he said.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

Brexit deal can be done by October 31, Ireland says after ‘positive’ Johnson meeting

With just three weeks to go before the United Kingdom is due to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc, it remains unclear on what terms it will leave or indeed whether it will leave at all. 

After Brexit descended into a public row between London and Brussels earlier this week, Johnson, the British prime minister, met Varadkar at Thornton Manor in Cheshire on Thursday in a last ditch bid to avert an acrimonious divorce or another delay. 

“I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement, to have a treaty agreed, to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion and to have that done by the end of October,” Varadkar told Irish reporters. 

“But there’s many a slip between cup and lip and lots of things that are not in my control,” he said. 

When asked about who made concessions to break the impasse, Varadkar said: “I don’t think this should be seen in the context of who’s making concessions, or who the winners and losers are, I don’t think that’s the game any of us want to play.”

The UK is proposing a “pared-down” free trade agreement to make a deal done by the end of October, Sky news reported on Thursday, citing sources.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pitched the offer, which focuses on a more limited free trade (FTA), to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar during talks on Thursday, the report said.  

Aisha Shater of Egypt still in hospital for a week following hunger strike

Aisha Al-Shater , daughter of the deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Khairat Al-Shater

Aisha Al-Shater has been in hospital for a week after her health seriously deteriorated following a second hunger strike in protest against her prison conditions.

The daughter of top Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat Al-Shater was arrested in November 2018 and forcibly disappeared for 28 days before appearing in Al-Qanater women’s prison. She was one of 19 human rights activists arrested that night.

Aisha first went on hunger strike in mid-August to protest against the fact that her family, including her children, were not allowed to visit her, which is against Egyptian law, and that she was being kept in solitary confinement.

During a court hearing in June Aisha said she was using her pocket as a toilet because she had no access to a toilet or a shower and was not being provided with sanitary products.

The rights organisation We Record has documented the deterioration of Aisha’s health in prison where she has been exposed to electric shocks and wears thin prison clothes despite the cold.

In early September Aisha was transferred to Al-Qanater Prison Hospital. Prison authorities tried to persuade her to end her strike by offering to allow her children to visit, take her out of solitary confinement and give her more time out of her cell.

She agreed, but when the concessions did not materialise she resumed her hunger strike. She has now been in hospital for a week after her health deteriorated once again.

Like most members of the opposition, Aisha has been accused of a vast array of terror charges, yet We Record has said that her detention is unfounded and should be considered in the context of the Sisi regime’s ongoing repression of women.

“There are no legitimate penal reasons for such practices by the Egyptian authorities other than its desire to punish women prisoners and destroy their morale.”

The Egyptian government has arrested a number of women, including 83 in the month of September alone, which marks a different policy from previous regimes which saw women as a red line.

Since July 2013 the Egyptian government has arrested 2,762 women, 125 of which are currently imprisoned.


Tomatoes lays in ruins as Nigeria closes boarder with Benin

Charles Acakpo runs a vegetable growing collective in Houéyiho in Cotonou. (Photo by Michael Tchokpodo.)

Jean Adounsiba, another vegetable farmer who works with the collective in Houéyiho, said he is facing the same struggles:

‘We’ve reduced our production because we can’t sell as many vegetables’ 

Nigeria closed its border with Benin on August 20 in an attempt to stop the smuggling of contraband goods, including food and petrol, across the border. This decision by Africa’s leading economic power has had disastrous effects on vegetable growers in Benin, who are now struggling to sell their produce. Now it is common to see spoiled, unsold vegetables abandoned by the side of the road or, in some cases, even rotting on the vine.

Nigeria made the unilateral decision to shut its border with Benin in August and soon after also closed sections of its border with Cameroon and Niger, in an attempt to clamp down on the smuggling of contraband goods, including petrol and food. One key concern cited by authorities was the rice that Beninese traders import from Asia and then illegally re-export to Nigeria. According to the Nigerian authorities, the importation of these goods jeopardises the country’s agricultural policy aimed at achieving food autonomy.

But these protectionist measures taken by President Muhammadu Buhari have had disastrous consequences on Beninese farmers, many of whom sell their produce on the Nigerian market. They’ve suffered significant losses since the border closure.

‘It’s been hard since Nigeria shut its border’ 

Charles Acakpo is the president of a vegetable-growing collective in Houéyiho, a swampy area measuring about 37 acres in the centre of Cotonou. A total of 337 farmers grow their vegetables on this land as part of the collective.

We grow all different kinds of vegetables on our plots, including carrots, turnips and different kinds of greens.

Before the borders were closed, lots of Nigerians came to buy our produce. We sold them about 15 tons of vegetables a month, which represented about 75 percent of our total production. They were especially fond of our lettuces and our carrots.

But it has been really hard since Nigeria closed its borders. We are really struggling to sell our produce. Here in Cotonou there is much less demand. People aren’t buying, so we’ve suffered enormous losses.

We’d like our government to negotiate a re-opening of the border with the Nigerian government. That would be a good thing for us and business could start back up on both sides of the border.

The majority of our sales were to Nigerians so, since the border closed, we’ve reduced our production because we can’t sell as many vegetables. So we are sitting here, twiddling our thumbs. If the border stays closed, the future is gloomy.

‘I visited one farmer’s garden where the tomatoes were just rotting on the vines’ 

In the past, a large portion of the 300,000 tons of tomatoes produced annually in Benin were sold in Nigeria. Since the borders closed, social media has been full of photos of spoiled tomatoes rotting on roadsides in Benin. Some of these photos were taken by AFP photographer Yanick Folly.

In the communities close to the border with Togo, many rotten tomatoes have been abandoned on the side of the road as there aren’t enough buyers. In Grand-Popo [Editor’s note: A coastal town in Benin located on the border with Togo], I visited one farmer’s garden where the tomatoes were just rotting on the vines because the Nigerian customers hadn’t come. He had taken out a loan for 3.5 million CFA francs [Editor’s note: equivalent to €5,400] to buy seeds and fertiliser for the season and now he can’t pay it back. It was a major loss for him.

In this Facebook post (translated from French), AFP photographer Yanick Folly explains that tomatoes have been left to rot in fields and on the side of the road since the border between Benin and Nigeria was closed. Benin’s farmers sold a large percentage of their produce to Nigerians.

In this Facebook post, Comlan Hugues Soussoukpé explains (in French) that, since the closure of the border between Nigeria and Benin, it has been hard for Benin’s farmers to sell their tomatoes. He calls on Benin’s government to help farmers by buying the tomatoes, a move he says was taken by the Togolese government.

On September 7, Benin’s agriculture minister, Gaston Dossouhoui, promised to look for new markets for the vegetables that have already been harvested.

In 2004, authorities in Benin signed a memorandum of agreement with Nigerian authorities that listed about 30 products that were banned from import into Nigeria. The list included food products as well as car accessories. But Benin doesn’t always respect this agreement. According to the World Bank, about 20 percent of Benin’s GDP comes from the informal exportation and re-exportation of products to Nigeria.

Uk issue alerts over suspected Tanzania Ebola cases

October 01, 2019: UK issues travel advisory

Hardly days after the United States issued a travel advisory to its citizens in Tanzania, the United Kingdom has followed suit.

Tanzania has repeatedly denied the possibility that it is hiding an Ebola case, even as the World Health Organisation reiterates the importance of sharing information with all stakeholders.

Around 75,000 UK nationals visit Tanzania every year,and the country’s tourism sector is likely to bear the brunt of the fallout from this Ebola scandal.

September 27,2019: US issues travel advisory

The United States on Friday warned its citizens to take extra care when visiting Tanzania amid concerns over Ebola, adding to calls for the East African country to share information about suspected cases of the deadly disease there.

U.S. travellers should “exercise increased caution”, the State Department said in an updated travel advisory that cited reports of “a probable Ebola-related death in Dar es Salaam”.

Days earlier, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travelled to Tanzania at the direction of U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, who had also criticised the country for not sharing information.

Tanzania denies the reports, saying no cases of Ebola have been confirmed, but with transparency key to combating the deadly and fast-spreading haemorrhagic fever, the government is under mounting pressure to provide clarification.

The foreign affairs ministry was not immediately available on Saturday for comment on the U.S. advisory.

Authorities in east and central Africa have been on high alert for possible spillovers of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a year-long outbreak has killed more than 2,100 people.

Tanzania and DRC share a border that is separated by a lake.

September 24,2019: WHO official summoned

Tanzania on Tuesday summoned the World Health Organization’s local representative, who over the weekend asserted that the government refused to share information on suspected Ebola cases.

Transparency and speed are key to combating the deadly hemorrhagic fever because it can spread rapidly. Anyone deemed to have been in contact with potentially infected people must be quarantined and the public warned to step up precautions such as handwashing.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said on Twitter that WHO country representative Tigest Ketsela Mengestu was summoned by deputy foreign affairs minister Damas Ndumbaro, in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

“The representative insisted that the WHO has not declared that there is Ebola in Tanzania, nor does it have any evidence on that and pledged to cooperate with the government,” Abbasi said.

“During the talks, the WHO agreed to strictly follow guidelines outlined by the agency itself and ratified by the government if it wants to get any additional information from the Tanzanian government.”

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that the agency had not received any information after it had requested Tanzanian authorities to assess potential risks from the recent incidences.

She ruled out any punitive action, and reiterated that WHO had advised against any travel or trade restrictions based on the present circumstances.

“What we need to do is to continue communicating with them and provide them with help and expertise. We cannot sanction a country. It is not our mandate,” Chaib said.

September 21,2019: Tanzania withheld information: WHO

WHO said late on Saturday it was made aware on Sept. 10 of the death of a patient in Dar es Salaam, and was unofficially told the next day that the person had tested positive for Ebola. The woman had died on Sept. 8.

In its weekend statement, WHO said it was unofficially told that Tanzania had two other possible Ebola cases. One had tested negative and there was no information on the other.

Officially, the Tanzanian government had said in the previous week it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola. The government did not address the death of the woman directly and did not provide further information.

September 18,2019: WHO confirms Tanzania’s Ebola denial

Tanzania has refuted allegations of harbouring an Ebola case in the country, formally telling the World Health Organisation (WHO), it had conducted investigations on suspicious cases and ruled out the deadly virus.

“This followed earlier rumours of the death of one person and illness in a few others,” the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Tanzanian authorities did not indicate what the cause of the illnesses might have been.”

The WHO received the notification on Sept. 14, the statement said. It was unclear why it took four days to make it public.

Suspicions of Ebola

The suspicion of Ebola in Taanzania had been fuelled by a woman died there earlier this month from an unknown illness following Ebola-like symptoms.

The WHO announcement came a day after the head of a U.S. government health agency travelled to Tanzania at the direction of America’s health secretary, Alex Azar.

Azar criticized Tanzania earlier this week for not sharing information, saying on Monday he was aware of a death in Tanzania and that the government had reported two suspected cases who tested negative for Ebola.

“The government of Tanzania, however, has not made available the samples or the ability to test the index case of the individual who died, nor has it made available any other information,” Azar told reporters during a prearranged tour of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to evaluate their Ebola response, according to a transcript of his remarks.

He called on Tanzania to comply with international obligations to share information and allow independent verification of test results.

READ MORE: Ebola survivors bear risk of death despite recovery
Tanzania comes clean

Tanzania’s health minister said on Saturday that the government had investigated two recent cases of unknown illnesses, but they were not Ebola.

“The two patients did not have Ebola,” Ummy Mwalimu told reporters. “There is no Ebola outbreak in Tanzania as we speak, people should not panic.”

She did not say if the two cases investigated included the death of the woman. The ministry did not answer calls on Wednesday.

There is increased vigilance across East Africa after an outbreak of Ebola in the DRC killed more than 2,000 people. It is the second-largest Ebola outbreak in global history.

Concern has focused on a woman who died on Sept. 8 in Dar es Salaam, after exhibiting symptoms common to several diseases, including Ebola. There was no indication the woman had travelled to an affected area or had contact with an infected person.