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Ghana tackles power crisis

An ambitious programme to hike electricity generation has been launched in Ghana to help alleviate the frequency of blackouts, with a particular focus on...

Guinea declares 45-day Ebola health emergency

Guinea's President Alpha Conde has announced new emergency measures enabling authorities to restrict movements in western Guinea where Ebola transmission continues a year after the epidemic was declared.

More than 10,300 people have died from Ebola in West Africa and while cases are thought to have peaked, Guinea is struggling to stamp out the virus partly due to often violent resistance to officials working to end it.

Following a dip in new cases in Guinea in January, they have spiked again since early March in and around the capital, prompting officials to announce a new phase of the epidemic.

"I declare in the districts of Forecariah, Coyah, Dubreka, Boffa and Kindia a reinforcement of emergency measures for a period of 45 days," Conde said on state television late on Saturday.

"Wherever the need may be, throughout this period, measures of restriction and confinement will be taken," he said in what would be a first for the country since the outbreak began.

Food and medical supplies would be given to the affected communities, Conde added. He not specify where or when such restrictions would take effect.

Medical staff infected

The Reuters news agency reported last week that three doctors in a Conakry hospital had been infected with the virus because of a lack of infection control in a sign that the lapses that fuelled the outbreak a year ago are dogging the final stages of the fight.

Since then, a further six medical staff across three clinics in western Guinea have been infected, including two doctors, according to a report written by France's coordination team which provides technical assistance to Guinea on Ebola.

"Indefensible instances of negligence are showing up at the heart of our healthcare system," Conde said. Centres where medical staff had caught the virus will be closed, he added.

The World Health Organization declared in January that the epidemic was finally declining in West Africa after Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - the three countries at the epicentre - recorded a steady drop in cases.

But renewed concern has been triggered by fresh setbacks in the worst-hit nations.

Sierra Leone on Friday began a new three-day nationwide lockdown sparked by fears that the virus was making a comeback in certain parts of the country and Liberia on Saturday announced the death of a woman who last week became the country's first new Ebola patient in more than a month.

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Kenya hits out after UK issues travel warning

Kenya's government said it was "shocked and concerned" over the latest travel warnings issued by the UK and others and said security conditions in the east African country were improving.

The UK told its citizens in an updated advisory issued on Friday to avoid most Kenyan coastal resorts, citing such threats as al-Shabab fighters who have killed more than 200 people in Kenya over the past two years.

"We are particularly concerned that the countries that have issued the advisories are considered friends," Joseph Nkaissery, cabinet secretary for Interior and Coordination, told a news conference on Saturday, in comments clearly aimed at the UK, the Reuters news agency reported.

"This is in spite of the fact that the situation on the ground has been improving steadily owing to the ongoing operations."

The tougher advisory deals another blow to Kenya's battered tourist industry, a valuable source of foreign exchange. The downturn in visitors has put pressure on the Kenyan shilling and forced some hotels out of business.

Australia warned its citizens on Friday that al-Shabab might be planning an attack in Nairobi, without naming any groups.

The new British warning did not mention any specific threats of an attack.

The move came barely a week after Kenyan officials urged visiting UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond to lift an earlier warning that had advised against travel to a smaller portion of the coast, areas near the Somali border and parts of Nairobi.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, was behind a deadly raid on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in 2013 in which 67 people were killed. It also killed about 100 people in attacks in Lamu County last year.

The fighters say the attacks are in revenge for Kenya sending troops to Somalia, who are now part of an African Union peacekeeping force, to tackle the armed group.

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Nigeria’s mass migration ahead of super close election

Abuja, Nigeria - The airport is abuzz with cars lined up in half-hour queues outside, their passengers glancing absently at their watches. In the domestic terminal, travellers brave huge check-in lines and jostle for attention at last minute ticket stands.

"It's not normally like this," says Samari Zakari, who works at the airport. "Since Monday it has been so busy."

The reason is Nigeria's presidential election on Saturday. The vote is fuelling a mass migration in the country of 170 million people, because citizens are obligated to return to the state in which they registered to cast their vote.

Among Abuja airport's travellers is Ahmed Ahmed. He has stood in line for hours as he tries to catch a flight home to Taraba state, a day's drive east from the capital.

"It costs a lot of money going there and coming back," he laments, sweat dripping from his brow. "I don't know if I will get on a flight. I just want to go and fulfil my civil responsibility."

Last minute scramble

Even election officials are not immune to the logistical difficulties. Joseph Chimi, a protocol officer for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is trying to get to Sokoto, a city in Nigeria's dusty northern perimeter, where he is supposed to be overseeing the vote.

"We don't have transport," Chimi says. "The airline is fully booked. We have to wait until tomorrow."

If he makes it, Chimi will be presiding over the first democratic transfer of power since Nigerian independence.

President Goodluck Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled Nigeria almost unopposed since the return from military to civilian rule in 1999. On Saturday, it may be knocked from its position of power by the All Progressives Congress (APC), a two-year old coalition led by the former military leader Muhammadu Buhari.

Chiefly, that is because many Nigerians are frustrated with the government's perceived opacity and poor performance against Boko Haram, which has waged a six-year insurgency in the northeast.

"You can't ignore the fact that there has been industrial scale corruption under this government," says Martin Roberts, senior analyst for IHS Country Risk, an analytics firm. "They never made much effort to hide it, because they never envisaged that they'd face opposition."

The challenger Buhari makes vague promises of a tougher stance on these problems.

Disappointment

Yomi Owonikoko, an Abuja taxi driver, is one of the former general's supporters.

"In 2011, I fought for Goodluck, but he has disappointed me. Money did not come," says Owonikoko, gleefully pointing out that his name means "money is the main thing" in the Yoruba dialect of southwestern Nigeria.

"This time I will vote Buhari," he says, "because of corruption."

Nigerian polling is not particularly reliable, but public figures dating from February suggest the two parties are neck-and-neck, with 42 percent of the vote each.

"It's too close to call," says Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst with the UK-based consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

The closeness of the race has ratcheted up tensions. Insiders for both parties say they are confident of victory. It seems likely that a tight result would be contested by the loser - especially if the vote is deemed to be manipulated.

The use of biometric readers for permanent voter cards will make that harder than in previous elections, but there may be glitches.

"Using this kind of technology for the first time is relatively high risk. It may not work across the entire country," says Thomas Hansen, West Africa analyst for Control Risks.

Tens of people have already been killed in pre-election violence, and further bloodshed appears almost inevitable.

Volatile times

Observers say if Buhari loses, some of his supporters in the mostly Muslim north are expected to begin violent protests. Former fighters in the oil-rich Niger delta, now fat off amnesty payments from President Jonathan, may take up arms if he wins.

As the day nervously approaches, Nigeria is grinding to a standstill. Land and sea borders are closing, and military checkpoints have sprung up, holding up traffic in busy cities.

Because of political uncertainty, companies have stopped signing contracts. Bank branches were closed on Friday. The refrain "after elections" echoes round the hotel bars where Abuja businessmen hold their meetings.

In the north, where electoral violence has historically been most pronounced, citizens are stockpiling days' worth of food to avoid venturing outside during volatile times.

Fearful of security forces, and depressed by the choices on offer, many Nigerians are choosing not to go to the polls at all.

"I would have voted for Jonathan," says Bayo Oriadetu, a Lagos-based taxi driver. "But now I am just going to stay inside. Keep safe. That is the most important thing."

Like him, many Nigerians just want the whole affair over and done with, so that life can go back to normal.

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Nigeria candidates deliver final messages to voters

Campaigning for Nigeria's presidential elections has ended with the two leading candidates delivering their final messages to supporters before the crunch vote.

Saturday's election is seen as the closest race in the country's history, with President Goodluck Jonathan facing a strong challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

Land and sea borders were shut at midnight on Wednesday (2300 GMT) as part of stringent security measures that also include an eight-hour restriction on movement when polling stations open.

Nigeria has a history of election-related unrest and both candidates appeared keen to prevent a repeat of 2011, when 1,000 people were killed in clashes after the results were announced.

This time around, fears of Boko Haram suicide attacks and bombings at vulnerable targets, including polling stations, have seen unprecedented calls for vigilance from the security services.

Commitment to peaceful vote

Jonathan and Buhari signed a pledge of non-violence in January and on Thursday repeated their commitment to peaceful elections.

Buhari, 72, who headed a military government in the 1980s and describes himself as a "converted democrat", has for his part pushed an agenda of "change".

He criticised "insecurity, broken infrastructure and growing inequality", vowing action against Boko Haram and corruption, which he said had made Nigeria "a laughing stock of the world".

"Rebuilding the army and other security agencies will... be a top priority of my government. I will ensure that never again will terrorists find a safe haven in Nigeria," he added.

He said he would also reunite the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the group in April last year with their families.

Recognising the challenge from Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) which could see his ruling party defeated for the first time since the end of military rule in 1999, Jonathan, 57, is campaigning for continuity and has vowed to complete the work he started in his first four years in office.

"I need you to vote for me in this election, not just because of me, but so that we consolidate on the progress we have made," he wrote in a message published on the front page of many national newspapers.

Meanwhile, the electoral commission charged with organising the election in Africa's most populous nation said it was on track for a smooth operation.

Some 68.8 million voters out of a total population of some 173 million are registered to vote in Nigeria, which is also Africa's leading economy and top oil producer.

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Nigeria presidential candidates pledge peaceful polls

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and the main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, have signed a pledge for peaceful elections in an effort to prevent violence days before the polls..

Thursday was the second time such a pledge was made in three months. The accord was signed in the presence of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a hotel in the capital, Abuja, and broadcast live on television.

Security is a major concern at Saturday's vote, with fears of both attacks by armed group Boko Haram on polling stations and clashes between rival supporters.

In 2011, hundreds of people were killed in violence after Jonathan beat Buhari to the presidency.

"Now that the campaigns have come to an end, we meet to renew our pledge for peaceful elections," read a document signed by the two men and made available to reporters.

"We therefore call on all fellow citizens of our dear country and our party supporters to refrain ‎from violence or any acts that may in any way jeopardise our collective vision of a free, fair and credible election."

The duo also pledged to "respect‎ the outcome of free, fair and credible elections".

The document was also signed by the chairman of the National Peace Committee Abdulsalami Abubakar, who like Buhari is a former military ruler.

It was also witnessed by Nigeria's most senior Muslim leader, the Sultan of Sokoto Saad Abubakar and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan.

Jonathan and Buhari signed another pledge of non-violence in Annan's presence on January 14.

At that stage, elections were set for February 14, but the vote was subsequently delayed to March 28 because of violence tied to Boko Haram.

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Nigeria: Vote violence haunts religiously divided Jos

Jos, Nigeria - Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims has led to deaths and destroyed property for more than a decade in this city, and people here fear another outbreak ahead of Saturday's election.

In a closely contested election, President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from Nigeria's south, goes up against the main opposition candidate, former general Muhammadu Buhari.

Jos was among several cities in Nigeria that experienced religion-based post-election violence in 2011, after Buhari was defeated by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) Jonathan.

More than 800 people were killed and 65,000 displaced, according to Human Rights Watch. The United States Institute of Peace described the 2011 presidential election as the best run - but also the country's most violent.

"People are looking for an opportunity to explode - all they need is a trigger," says researcher Joseph Lengman from the Center of Peace Studies at the University of Jos.

"March 28 could be that trigger if the elections are seen as fraudulent."

Nestled in Nigeria's Middle Belt region on the central rocky highlands, Jos represents the country's ethnic and religious diversity.

Christian missionaries flocked here decades ago, preaching to the indigenous ethnic groups, including the Berom and Ngass. Hausa-Fulani communities settled here also, building mosques and Islamic schools in their neighbourhoods.

Over time, conflicts over resources and power, alongside partisan politics, have produced a combustible situation. Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday, and while residents in Jos are hoping for peace, many are nervous the past can become the present.

Anger and arson

Jos resident Abba Rabiu admits involvement in some of that violence. Rabiu marched the streets in northern Jos, a predominantly Muslim area, with a gang of friends, anger seething because of their belief the PDP stole the vote.

The mood was foul - a dangerous blend of frustration and betrayal. He and his friends pooled their money and bought several cans full of petrol. Rabiu says he ran towards a used car lot where old tyres were stacked up, doused them, then took out a lighter.

The black smoke from the fire he started billowed high into the sky. Rabiu and his friends ran around town, lighting more blazes.

"We were on the street shouting 'we want Buhari, we want Buhari'," Rabiu told Al Jazeera, sitting in a chair in an administrative office at the central mosque.

He says he had voted - illegally since he was only 15 years old at the time - for Buhari, a fellow Muslim whom he believes is the right person to lead Nigeria.

"The nature of violence in Jos has always been religious in nature," says Ishaq Lawal, a lawyer and legal advisor to the state chapter of Jama'atu Nasril Islam, the national umbrella group for Islamic organisations.

'Our Gaza'

Across town on the south side, children kick around a football in the heat of the afternoon. The ball rolls over piles of rubbish and boulders. They laugh in glee, surrounded by dilapidated buildings set on fire during an outbreak of sectarian violence in 2008 and 2010.

The place now has a new name. "This is our Gaza," says resident Kitgak Gowan.

He says he cherishes the city as his home and laments the destruction that has claimed so many lives. Gowan blames politicians for the violence that has occurred here, saying many hire young males to commit crimes and intimidate the public.

"Politicians come around with selfish interest and use religious sentiments," Gowon says, pointing to burned out and abandoned shops and homes. "They use young people. It's high time for young people to know that there is no politician worth dying for."

Gowon hops over sewage in the road between the crevices of another boulder. "Why should we be killing ourselves when our roads are like this?" he asks.



Wounded by gunfire

The recent college graduate remains a firm advocate for peace in a city that has seen sectarian killings and destruction every year since 2001. This year, even suicide bombings have occurred.

Scars running down the right side of Gowon's neck remind him of the day he nearly died. In January 2010, he says he felt something pierce his neck and then blood came gushing out.

He did not have time to tend to the wound because he was carrying the body of a young man who had just been shot. He and a friend drove to the Plateau State Hospital and found no one there, as all the health workers were on strike. They drove 15 minutes to a private hospital, but the wounded young man had died in the backseat.

Gowon says the people of Jos are tired of violence. He dismisses rumours circulating that young men are collecting weapons.

"No this time the weapon is our permanent voters card," says Gowon. A Christian, he says he is collaborating with Muslims in his neighborhood to keep the peace on election day.

A prominent lawyer in Jos, Muhammad Lawal Ishaq says he would not be surprised if weapons were being stockpiled, adding communities have to protect themselves because they cannot rely on police.

"The problem of weapons in civilian hands is a problem that has bedeviled this country for long. The issue of arms in the hands of private citizens is an open secret in Jos," Ishaq says.

"Communities are likely amassing arms because they don't know what will happen on March 28 and the days after. You can't rely on security officials to help."

Police presence?

State police spokesman Emmanuel Abuh told Al Jazeera that security forces have been recently trained on electoral law. He says a mobile police squad, the counterterrorism unit, anti-bomb squad, and special protection unit will be deployed in case of any violence.

But apprehension remains.

"There is a sort of graveyard peace right now," says Lengman from the University of Jos. "Those grievances have not gone away."

Lengman says many young men are angry at the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which has governed the country since 1999, ending decades of military rule. President Jonathan's leadership is seen by many here as a "colossal failure", he says.

Stanley Kavwam, leader of the main opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) party youth league, says the ruling party has institutionalised corruption.

"Nigeria is a failed state but it just has not collapsed yet," says Kavwam, 30, a former member of the ruling party before switching sides.

"Polls show that 80 percent of this state is APC. If this election shows anything otherwise, there is the tendency that people may resort to self-help."

Edmund Zungdet, the ruling party's youth-wing leader, accuses the opposition of using extreme language, adding he is confident the PDP will remain in power.

Free and fair?

A new voter-card reader system in place will hinder attempts to rig the elections, but Nigeria is infamous for high levels of voter intimidation at the polling stations.

Last week, Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) held a town hall gathering to remind the community to uphold peace.

"Some people at the meeting actually confessed that they were planning to attack, if they felt rigging had taken place," says Umar Farouk Musa, secretary of JNI's youth wing.

He says he encouraged them to remain peaceful and use legal routes to express grievances.

JNI and the Christian Association of Nigeria have pushed for measures to ensure a free-and-fair election, but both they say many members haven't received voters' card.

Rabiu says he and his friends have agreed not to perpetuate violence again. Gowon, meanwhile, say he hopes the voting-card "weapon" will have the final say.

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Nile River: Balancing interests and rights?

It is the longest river in the world, and one that has given life to generations of Africans for millennia.

But the Nile has come under increasing pressure in recent years, as growing populations have come to depend on the resource.

For Egypt, the water supply underpins its very existence; for Ethiopia, it is providing a new opportunity for economic development, while Sudan sees both needs and opportunities.

All three have now come together to sign a deal to co-operate over a giant hydro-electric dam being built in Ethiopia, and the sharing of Nile waters.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said: "I want to assure the people of Egypt and the people of Sudan that this construction will cause no significant harm to the people of the three countries and specifically to that of Egypt."

Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, responded: "You will develop and grow and I am with you, but beware that in Egypt the people live only on the water that comes from this river."

So, can the competing partners balance the need to share the Nile's waters with the demands for economic development?

Presenter: Dareen Abughaida

Guests:

Marwa Maziad - Middle East Researcher at the University of Washington, and a specialist on Egyptian politics.

Mwangi Kimenyi - Senior Fellow at the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institute.

Therese Sjomander Magnusson - Director, Stockholm Institute of Water.

http://bc05.ajnm.me/665003303001/201503/3441/665003303001_4132222094001_20150324-INSIDESTORYY-NOSTRAPS.mp4?videoId=4132081730001

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Nigerian women demand greater political role

Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday for presidential and parliamentary elections.

It is a political field dominated by men with only one female candidate vying for the top office.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege reports from Abuja.

http://bc05.ajnm.me/665003303001/201503/2576/665003303001_4131342346001_20150324-nigeria-yne-femaleelec-nostraps.mp4?videoId=4131325129001

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Dealing with diamonds

Diamonds are one of very few, perhaps the only, luxury commodity that has risen in price in recent times.

Global diamond sales grew 3 percent to a new record of $81bn - with the strongest growth coming from the United States, China and India.

So if there is a company that is really benefitted from this, it is De Beers - which produces one-third of the world's rough diamonds by value.

But finding those diamonds is getting tougher because, simply, the easy-to-find diamonds have already been dug up.

From London, the CEO of De Beers, Philippe Mellier speaks to Counting the Cost.

http://bc05.ajnm.me/665003303001/201503/1377/665003303001_4125598412001_CTC-Clip---Diamond-prices.mp4?videoId=4125330995001

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