Friday, 26 September 2014


The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Congolese authorities' decision to expel a freelance journalist from the country and calls on them to allow her to enter the country and report freely. Before her expulsion, Sadio Kante reported receiving threats in connection with a series of stories she published on the attack of another journalist.
Kante was arrested on Monday and held overnight in the capital, Brazzaville, before being expelled to the Malian capital of Bamako early Tuesday, according to news reports. Police accused her of disturbing the peace, drug consumption, and illegal residence, the reports said. Kante denied the allegations and said she was a Congolese citizen because, although her father is Malian and her mother Senegalese, she was born in Brazzaville, according to news reports and a copy of her birth certificate and a Congolese identity card CPJ has reviewed.
Under a 1961 Congolese citizenship law, anyone born of foreign parents in the Congo is a citizen of the country if the person resides there. The Congolese constitution recognizes that every Congolese shall "have the right to Congolese citizenship ... [which shall not] be arbitrarily taken" away.
Kante told the online Oeil d'Afrique in an interview on Tuesday that her coverage of an attack on Cameroonian journalist Elie Smith and his family had angered Brazzaville police. She said that a friend of high-ranking police officials had threatened her after her story was published, according to the interview. Kante did not elaborate in the interview on the kind of threat she received or what was said.
Kante told CPJ from Mali that the Brazzaville police kept her handcuffed for more than two hours before deporting her and refused to allow her to take her belongings and work equipment.
Kante has also reported being threatened and attacked by Congolese police officers in recent months, according to news reports.
An aide to government spokesman Bienvenue Okiemey declined to comment to CPJ, saying the spokesman would return the call. CPJ did not immediately receive a call from the spokesman.
"The Congolese government's decision to expel Sadio Kante from the country and tag her as an illegal resident smacks of a deliberate ploy to silence her for her journalism," said Peter Nkanga, CPJ's West Africa representative. "We call on authorities to reverse this decision and allow Kante to return to her country of birth and to her journalism practice."

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


A journalist and two media workers were killed on September 16 while covering an Ebola education campaign in Guinea's south-eastern forested region, according to news reports and local journalists.
The bodies of Facély Camara, a journalist with the privately owned radio Liberté FM at N'Zérékoré, and Molou Chérif and Sidiki Sidibé, a technician and a technician intern, respectively, with the community station Radio Rurale de N'Zérékoré, were found alongside five other victims in a septic tank in Wome, a village near Guinea's south-eastern N'Zérékoré region where the first cases of Ebola were documented in March, according to news reports.
"It is tragic that those who could provide help or report on the needs of communities were the ones targeted. Fear and misinformation, like the virus, can be deadly," said Peter Nkanga, CPJ West Africa Representative. "The authorities must carry out a full and thorough investigation and bring those responsible to justice. Anything less could encourage further such attacks."
In a statement, government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said that the victims, including local administrators, medical officers, and a preacher, were part of a delegation that had been visiting towns and villages as part of a public education program about the disease. Residents began throwing stones at the group and, while some managed to hide and escape, others were caught and had their throats slit, Camara told Reuters in an interview.
Radio Rurale editor Christophe Millimono, who was part of the delegation and managed to escape, told CPJ he couldn't understand the motive because the group had been well received before they were suddenly attacked. Many villagers have accused health workers of spreading Ebola, the BBC reported.
Guinea authorities have already arrested six suspects, and promised that the investigation into the attack would bring all those responsible to justice, according to news reports.

Monday, 22 September 2014


When Margaret Chan was elected to lead the World Health Organization, she said the agency’s priority was to improve the health of people in Africa.
A Muslim faithful on pilgrimage to Mecca undergoes health
checks for the ebola virus at the Hajj Camp, Murtala
Mohammed International Airport in Lagos
Eight years later, the 67-year-old Chan is under attack for letting an Ebola outbreak there spiral beyond control, and this week her group found itself eclipsed as the leader of humanitarian efforts to control the epidemic.
The United Nations said it would create a separate Health Mission to coordinate care in West Africa, and the U.S. announced it would send 3,000 troops to build hospitals there. Those plans come after Chan delayed designating the outbreak as a global emergency until thousands were infected in three countries, and in the wake of complaints her agency had done too little to manage the response. Now, the WHO is in the awkward spot of being little more than a voice in the crowd, critics suggest, and Chan is seen by some as being partly to blame.
It is “so sad to see the WHO so much on the sidelines of a global heath crisis,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of health law at Georgetown University in Washington.
The delayed decision to recognize the outbreak as an international emergency, a declaration designed to signal to the world at large that immediate action is needed, was the WHO’s “Katrina moment,” said J. Stephen Morrison, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The reference is to the U.S. government’s slow response to the hurricane that flooded much of New Orleans nine years ago.

Right Timing

Chan sees it differently.
 “You pull out the tool when it’s the right time to do so,” she said of the declaration during a telephone interview. “You can’t abuse it or under use it. Over or under use would compromise the credibility of the organization.”
On May 1, she met with the leader of Guinea, where the outbreak originated, and warned the government needed to take strong action, according to Chan.
“I insisted he not drop the ball,” she said.
When the disease moved into neighboring countries at the end of June, she met with those leaders as well, she said, after mobilizing WHO experts and setting up a sub-regional hub in Conakry to coordinate the response. She turned to the global emergency declaration only after these early efforts failed.

Judgment Issue

“The judgment issue is important,” Chan said. “It’s easy for people who have the benefit of hindsight to say whatever they’re saying. When you’re in the position of being the director-general of the WHO, you need to look at the evolution of the outbreak. We have taken country-level action, we have taken regional level-action and then I said to my colleagues, if these actions are still not sufficient to bring the outbreak under control, I’m going to sound an alert.”
South African health minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who has worked with her closely, said it’s unfair to criticize Chan’s response to the outbreak. The first cases appeared in December and Chan wasn’t fully informed of the extent of the disease until March, he said.
 “She responded in a way that a normal person would,” Motsoaledi said in an interview at Bloomberg News in New York. “It would be wrong to judge her on Ebola.”
Still, in an earlier interview, Chan admitted the agency “underestimated the magnitude, the complexity and the challenges. Can all of us do better? The answer is yes,” she said during an interview in Washington a week ago. “But this is too big for any organization.”

Rising Cases

Since the start of the outbreak, the virus has infected 5,357 people, killing 2,630, according to a Sept. 18 WHO report. Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating the virus could spread to hundreds of thousands more by the end of January, with a worst-case scenario of 550,000 or more infections.
The CDC report, scheduled to be released next week, isn’t yet complete and the figures may change. It assumes no additional aid or intervention by governments and relief agencies, which are now mobilizing to contain the Ebola outbreak before it spins further out of control.
Chan, meanwhile, has said she will continue to push governments to contribute to the effort.
A petite woman whose mother tongue is Cantonese, Chan is a consensus builder who tends to take her lead from the WHO’s member states rather than impose her own agenda on the agency, according to Georgetown’s Gostin. In contrast, Gro Harlem Brundtland, an earlier director who led the 7,000-person UN agency through the lethal SARS outbreak, had a more direct style that was suited to getting things done in times of crisis, he said. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014


As the Ebola virus continues to ravage West Africa on an unprecedented scale, the world’s largest multilateral and bilateral donors have heightened their response.
A delivery of medicines and other essential supplies funded by the
World Bank for Ebola-hit Sierra Leone.
The World Bank announced Tuesday a $105 million grant — with additional financing expected to come — to contain the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as bolster struggling public health systems in those countries to prevent future outbreaks.
The grant, to be managed by a unit of the International Development Association tasked with helping poor countries recover from severe natural disasters or economic crises, is part of the $200 million Ebola emergency mobilization approved in August and will give $52 million for Liberia, the country with the highest number of Ebola infections, $28 million to Sierra Leone and $25 million for Guinea, based on the World Health Organization’s assessment of the relative severity of the epidemic in each country. Up to 40 percent of the money from the new grant can be directed to retroactive financing of eligible Ebola containment efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, said the funds will help give hazard pay to health personnel — including volunteers — who work in emergency treatment centers and referral centers, dispense in-country medical care to exposed health workers and death benefits to their families, as well as recruit, train and deploy international medical doctors and nurses.
The grant does not explicitly contemplate paying the salaries of local health workers, but part of the funds can be used for that purpose if their governments “come under financial pressure as a result of the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak.”

Obama: ‘We can’t dawdle on this one’

In addition to those funds committed by the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development on Tuesday also detailed plans to spend $75 million on supporting the development of Ebola treatment units, as well as provide 50,000 home health care kits to improve treatment and containment of the disease.
The Obama administration has also pledged to build a staging base, send 3,000 troops to assist relief efforts on the ground and train up to 500 health workers per week, among other commitments featured in the latest fact sheet published by the White House. USAID deployed in August a Disaster Assistance Response Team to coordinate the U.S. response to the outbreak while the Department of Defense has requested Congress to channel $500 million in funds originally earmarked for overseas contingency operations to the fight against the disease.
After visiting on Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta, U.S. President Barack Obama admitted in a speech that the response has been slow, but it’s not too late to wipe out the virus and to assist the affected countries.
“International organizations just have to move faster than they have up until this point. More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly,” Obama said. “We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives. But we have to act fast. We can’t dawdle on this one.”
Other notable donors to the Ebola response in West Africa include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which last week pledged $50 million for containment and relief efforts.