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How effective will the Ebola summit be?

A conference involving world leaders meeting in Brussels aims to mobilise efforts to put an end to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

The gathering is organised by the European Union and seeks to sustain the international momentum in the fight against the virus. The conference also discusses ways to help the affected countries revive their economies.

West African leaders have said that a real recovery will require what they described as a Marshall Plan.

But could the money allocated during this conference be of any significant help? And what does it take to prevent a new Ebola outbreak?

Presenter: Sami Zeidan


Salifu Mamudu - Liberia Country Director for Oxfam.

Jonathan Rosenthal - Africa Editor for the Economist.

Pieter Desloovere - Spokesman for the World Health Organisation in Sierra Leone.


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Footballers changing lanes

More and more African countries are now looking to Europe for ready-made top-class talent with ancestral link to make them more competitive in the international arena.

With the exception of South African and Zimbabwe, all squads at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations included players born or raised in Europe. Sixteen out of 23 Algerian players were born in France while hosts Equatorial Guinea had 14 players who were born in Spain.

The numbers reflect the demand on an up-and-coming new generation of talent born in Europe but of an African descent. But some countries have been handed multiple brush-offs lately.

'Lost African sons'

Marseille midfielder Mario Lemina rejected his country of birth Gabon's call after being named in their squad for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. His reason: "My wish is to play for France".

These minor setbacks, however, have not deterred the quest to convince 'lost African sons' to return to their rightful African 'homes'.

For some, there are no incentives in playing for a country where they have never lived in, visited or rarely know but are only tied to by ancestry. It's an easy choice to play for the European country in which they are born and raised.

They are also highly motivated to emulate 'fellow Africans' and 1998 World Cup winners Zinedine Zidane, Marcel Desailly and Patrick Vieira – all sons of African immigrants.

Difficult choice

One of the stars of this year's tournament, Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie, was torn between two tough choices.

Eligible to represent France (birth), England (upbringing) and DR Congo (parentage), Bolasie rejected the chance to play for the latter at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations because he needed time to consider playing for England or DRC.

Four months later, he eventually chose DRC and won his first international cap against Libya in a World Cup qualifier. Now enjoying a regular international career, the 25-year-old is a favourite with DRC fans.

"I was always in two minds, but at the end of the day I thought I'd go and play for my parents' country," Bolasie said. "They were really happy too, watching the game online.”

For every Bolasie who had to make the choice on his own, there are many others who are deprived of a golden chance of playing for the African country of their parents, either by choice or by their European clubs.


With African football chiefs are desperate not to allow exciting talent to slip away, European officials have also intensified efforts to guard against the poaching of their prospects. One player confirmed to Al Jazeera that despite a dual citizenship, there was a clause in his contract that prevented him from representing his African country.

And there are several who, in their formative years, chose to play for a European junior side but never progressed beyond the under-21 level.

These days, French-born talent of African descent are increasingly benefiting from a FIFA regulations change and enjoying international careers for a new country, even after they have played for France.

Previously, any player who had played for one country in a competitive international, even if it was U17, would never be allowed to play for another country. That was the case even if he obtained, or already possessed, the nationality of the second country.

Rule change

But keen to attract a generation of Europe-born talent of African descent, Algeria proposed a change in 2001.

After much thought, FIFA introduced a new rule on January 1, 2004 that allows a previously capped footballer capped at junior level to be able to represent another country later. But only as long as he possessed dual nationality and made the request before turning 21.

French-born defender Antar Yahia became the first footballer to take advantage of the new rule when he made his debut for Algeria in an Olympic Games qualifier.

Yahia, then from the French first division club Bastia, scored the only goal in the win over Ghana for the Algerian U23 side. He was followed by Samir Beloufa and Ouadah Abdelnasser who were also French junior internationals, but opted for international careers with Algeria.

Restrained by the age-restriction dilemma in this rule, African officials approached Fifa to change their statutes to allow all eligible players benefit from this 'second opportunity'. In June 2009, FIFA's congress approved a motion from Algeria to abandon that restriction by removing the age limit for players who want to switch allegiance.

Back to the roots

It was evident at AFCON 2015 that this rule has given some African countries the chance to become more competitive while also improving the quality of play.

Born in France to Algerian parents, Yacine Brahimi played for the French youth teams from U16 to the U-21 before switching allegiance to Algeria at senior level in 2013.

"It's not something you just wake up to do [switch allegiance],” Brahimi, who scored a fantastic goal against South Korea in the group stages of Brazil 2014, said.

“I wanted to connect more with my roots and this gives me an opportunity to do just that."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, played for France at under-21 level in a friendly match in February 2009, but six weeks later he scored for Gabon on his debut in a 2010 World Cup qualifier.

It took more than a year of persuasion before he decided his international future was African rather than with the country of his birth.

But one player, France-born Hatem Ben Arfa, did turn his back on his fatherland. In May 2006, Hatem, the son of former Tunisian international Kamel Ben Arfa, rejected a possible place in Tunisia's World Cup squad.

Having represented France at youth level, the youngster ‘wanted to continue playing for France instead'.

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Somalia: A land of opportunity?

Somalia was once seen as a failed state, suffering from violence and lack of governance.

But now hundreds of Ethiopians are moving to Somalia in search of a better life - although Somalia is a much poorer country.

And while many of these migrants help boost the local economy, they face xenophobia and hostility from some locals who want to see them deported.

Abdi Noor Galayr, one community leader, says: "We are not happy with their presence. They have brought many problems in terms of health. We don't know what health issues they may have. They brought criminals to this town like people smugglers. They are also putting pressure on the job market."

Al Jazeera's Hamza Mohamed reports from Mogadishu.


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Are African leaders failing to prove excellence?

Namibia's outgoing president Hifikepunye Pohamba has won the 2014 Ibrahim prize for African leadership.

The award recognises democratically elected African leaders who excel in governance and who step down voluntarily from office at the end of their terms.

Sudanese-born mobile phone billionaire Mo Ibrahim established the annual prize, and the foundation that bears his name in 2006.

It is seen as a reflection of how well nations are doing when it comes to things like human rights, the rule of law and the economy.

For the winner it means a cash prize of $10m over 10 years, followed by $200,000 for life, making it the world's most valuable individual award.

But since its inception there have only been four recipients, raising questions about eligibility and suitability.

So what does it say about leadership in Africa?

Presenter: Sami Zeidan


Javas Bigambo - consultant and political analyst who was at Monday's prize announcement.

Adama Gaye - author and political commentator and former Director of Information for the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS.

Henry Malumo - Africa Advocate for Action Aid International and a specialist on good governance.

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Al Jazeera talks to Goodluck Jonathan

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has pledged to defeat Boko Haram, the armed group that has killed thousands of people in the country's northeast.

Jonathan denied mishandling the Boko Haram crisis and allegations that a recent escalation in military operations against the group was politically motivated.

He also expressed fears about violence during the upcoming presidential election which was postponed because of a lack of security.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege spoke to Jonathan in Lagos.


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South Africa urged to decriminalise prostitution

About 60 percent of sex workers are HIV positive in South Africa, according to human rights groups who are using the figures to try and persuade the government to decriminalise the industry.

They say a change in the law will help give sex workers more rights.

Al Jazeera's Tania Page reports from Johannesburg.


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Ebola and Africa’s medicine men

Macenta, Guinea - In Guinea, a land where witchcraft is sought for curing illness more than science, medicine men say the Ebola epidemic would have been over by now had they been properly included in the outbreak response.

From broken bones, to impotence, to madness, these traditional healers say they have a potion, spell or touch for many ailments Western doctors can't treat.

But there's only one cure for Ebola they say - knowledge.

In the forest region of southeastern Guinea, where the virus was detected last March, disseminating information using modern technology has proved challenging.

Karamoko Ibrahima Fofana, president of the association of traditional healers in the town of Macenta, said guérisseurs, as they are known, have unique access to remote villages.

"Guérisseurs are often the first port of call for the sick," said Fofana, 69, who is also an imam at the central mosque in Macenta, a hot, dusty town carved out of the forest.

"We could have spread information on how to protect against Ebola or told people with symptoms to seek help in the treatment centres."

Instead, the traditional healers were sometimes accused of spreading the deadly virus.

After all, it was the claim of a guérisseur in Sierra Leone that she could cure Ebola that drew the first Guinean victims across the border, Fofana recalled.

Ebola has infected more than 23,000 people in West Africa and killed about 9,000, nearly all in the three worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It is transmitted through blood, vomit, diarrhoea and other bodily fluids.

Health officials are exploring ways to prevent similar disease outbreaks around the world, with epidemics expected to be a focus at a global conference on risk reduction in Japan later this month.

Fofana admits the guérisseurs in his association didn't know what Ebola was at first, but after training from United Nations staff they were keen to spread information - and not the virus.

"If a guérisseur has been trained on Ebola and is then caught treating a suspected case, they are fined 50,000 GNF ($7), stripped of their membership, and reported to the police," he said.

Jean Marie Dangou, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Guinea, said the "Stop Ebola" campaign, based on modern communication technology, had all but failed.

"For about one year the main communication strategy was built around media, mainly radio and TV, but it wasn't successful. The country is still dealing with tough and repetitive resistance," Dangou said.

West Africa has recorded some weekly declines in new confirmed cases of Ebola since the start of 2015, but resistance in some communities has undermined efforts to end the epidemic.

The main message from this outbreak is that communication must be adapted to fit the local culture, Dangou said.

Word of mouth may be a better way of getting information out than modern methods in parts of the world where broadcast signals are weak and power for electrical appliances is scarce.

"Lessons learned from Ebola in Guinea can be applied to cholera, malaria or any other infectious disease in other parts of the world that rely on an oral tradition," Dangou added.

At the start of the outbreak, traditional healers were viewed as part of the problem, rather than being recruited to help halt the disease.

"Our communication was top down and the way we delivered the messages was wrong. We told people to stop doing things without explaining why," Dangou said.

In a shift in policy, community leaders, including healers, are given information and asked to act on it as they see fit. As a result, many have appropriated the "Stop Ebola" messages.

Traditional healers are also supplementing disease surveillance and helping response teams that search for cases.

"Most traditional healers are now aware of the risk of treating Ebola patients. More and more patients are coming to health facilities after a referral from their healer," said Dangou.

Given their important role in efforts to stamp out Ebola, the services of traditional healers should come at a price, said Joseph Souro Mamadouno, 58, a Catholic guérisseur from Macenta.

"Ebola is here today, but it could be cholera tomorrow. We can spread health messages, but the government should cover costs of transport, food and the time we take off work," said Mamadouno, who also works at the local agriculture school.

According to the healers' association, some 2,000 herbal practitioners in Macenta, a district with a population of about 300,000 close to the Liberian border, are out of pocket as a result of the Ebola response.

Ebola shares symptoms with less serious diseases traditional healers say they can treat: fatigue, fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhoea. But now these cases are referred to hospitals.

Koly Beavogui, 80, an animist traditional healer from Macenta, said she and other female guérisseurs have been reduced to begging for food from neighbours and foraging in the forest.

The scrawny woman, with a wrinkled face and toothless smile, used to treat five to six people a day, but now hardly sees anyone.

"When the sick come to see me, I only ask them to give me whatever they can afford, because we don't buy illness, so we shouldn't have to pay for treatments," said Beavogui, sitting outside her freshly swept, mudbrick house.

But others are fearful of turning Ebola into an industry.

"I'm not in favour of incentives, because it looks like we are in an Ebola business. These people should become agents of change in their own community without any kind of payment," the WHO's Dangou said.

This article is the first in a Thomson Reuters Foundation series ahead of a conference on reducing the risks of disasters in Sendai, Japan, in mid-March

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Namibian President Pohamba wins lucrative African award

Outgoing Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has been announced as the winner of the Mo Ibrahim award for African leadership - a lucrative prize worth millions of dollars.

Pohamba was announced as the winner of the award at a ceremony in Nairobi on Monday.

According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's website, "the Ibrahim Prize recognises and celebrates African leaders who have developed their countries, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity".

The award - worth $5m over ten years and then $200,000 per year thereafter - is only open to former African executive heads of state or government who have left office in the last three years after being democratically elected.

They also must have served their constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership, the foundation's website says.

Pohamba became the first winner of the award since Cape Verde's ex-President Pedro De Verona Rodrigues Pires won in 2011.

Only five people have ever won the award, including the late former South African President Nelson Mandela, who was given an honorary prize.

The award is given out by the foundation of Mohamed "Mo" Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British former mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire.

Ibrahim founded mobile phone company Celtel, which he sold in 2005 for $3.4bn.

He then set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations' performance in categories such as human rights, development and the rule of law.

Referring to the index, the foundation said that Pohamba ticked nearly all the boxes of excellence.

Pohamba will leave office later this month after serving two five-year terms in office.

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Mali’s main rebel group asks for delay on peace deal

The Malian government has signed a peace agreement with some northern rebel groups but the main Tuareg armed coalition asked for more time to consult its grassroots.

The deal, hammered out in eight months of tough negotiations in neighbouring Algeria, provides for the transfer of a raft of powers from Bamako to the north, a large swath of territory the rebels refer to as "Azawad".

The Tuareg rebel alliance that includes the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad said it had asked for a "reasonable delay" for consultations before signing.

Ethnic divisions run deep in the west African nation's northern desert, the cradle of a Tuareg separatist movement which has spawned several rebellions since the 1960s.

Algeria and the United Nations have led mediation talks in the capital Algiers since last July between ministers and six armed rebel groups amid a surge in violence that threatened to jeopardise the peace process.

The armed organisations which took part are dominated by Tuareg and Arabs, however, and no "jihadist" group was invited to the dialogue.

Fighters linked to al-Qaeda seized control of northern Mali for more than nine months until a French-led military intervention launched in 2013 partly drove them from the region.

The 30-page "Agreement for Peace and reconciliation in Mali from the Algiers Process", seen by the AFP news agency on Friday, calls for "reconstruction of the country's national unity" in a manner that "respects its territorial integrity and takes account of its ethnic and cultural diversity".

The draft deal proposes the creation of powerful elected regional assemblies led by a directly elected president, as well as "greater representation of the northern populations in national institutions".

From 2018 the government will set up a "mechanism to transfer 30 percent of budget revenues from the state to local authorities... with particular attention to the North", the document said.

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Vote counting begins after Lesotho snap elections

Vote counting has begun in the southern African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, after a snap election aimed at resolving a political crisis triggered by an alleged coup bid.

Tensions were high ahead of Saturday's parliamentary poll, which was called two years ahead of schedule, but election day passed off without incident, according to observers.

"Everything I've come across tells me everything has gone extremely well," Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of neighbouring South Africa, who is acting as regional mediator, said shortly after polls closed at 15:00 GMT.

"From my side it is congratulations to the people of Lesotho for having come this far to hold a peaceful election," Ramaphosa said.

Lesotho's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also said the election had proceeded largely without incident, although some ballot papers in two of over 2,000 polling stations did not have the names of all candidates.

"The voting has been proceeding peacefully and according to plan," said IEC chairman Justice Mahapela Lehohla.

According to local media, about 1.2 million people – out of a population of 2.2 million - were registered to vote.

Political crisis

Lesotho has been in crisis since June 2014, when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a motion that would have seen him ousted from power after his fragile coalition government fell apart.

On August 30, soldiers attacked police headquarters, looting weapons and killing one officer.

Thabane described the violence as a coup attempt fuelled by the opposition and fled to neighbouring South Africa.

Both the military and opposition denied any bid to topple him.

The army was confined to barracks during Saturday's vote.

Ramaphosa was appointed by the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) last year to try broker an end to the deadlock.

Landlocked Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is heavily dependent on its bigger neighbour in economic terms.

Analysts have warned the election could turn violent if any one party wins an outright majority - particularly Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC).

Two other parties - the Democratic Congress led by former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili and the Basotho National Party (BNP) - are contesting the parliamentary elections.

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