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  1. Passengers pray on Lagos-bound flight as smoke fills cabin
  2. Lawyers for Zambia's opposition leader aim to quash treason charges
  3. Nigerian authorities to investigate incident
  4. Seventeen more mass graves found in DR Congo
  5. Uganda ends search for Lord's Resistance Army leader Kony
  6. Nigeria to probe head of the National Intelligence Agency over $43m cash find
  7. Burundian report criticises treatment of workers in Saudi Arabia
  8. Australia's high court confirms Kenya-born Lucy Gichuhi as senator
  9. Five Malian soldiers killed by suspected Islamist militants
  10. Email stories and comments to - Wednesday 19 April 2017

Live Reporting

By Dickens Olewe and Damian Zane

All times stated are UK

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Scroll down for Wednesday's stories

We'll be back tomorrow

That's all from the BBC Africa Live page today. Keep up-to-date with what's happening across the continent by listening to the Africa Today podcast or checking the BBC News website

A reminder of today's proverb:

If a man says he will swallow an axe, hold the handle for him."

A Fulani proverb sent by Usman Usman, Kaduna, Nigeria

Click here to send us your African proverbs

We leave you with this photo of the seaside from @africashoboy Instagram account

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'Sim card registration party in Uganda'

Earlier today Uganda's government extended a deadline for mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards to great relief of many. 

An earlier order from the communication authority had given people a week to register their cards which many felt was too a short period.  

A local nightclub seems to be capitalising on the news by organising a themed party: 

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Nigerian bank robber arrested in New York

A Nigerian journalist and former United Nations employee has been charged with robbing or attempting to rob four Manhattan banks during his lunch breaks. 

Abdullahi Shuaibu is accused of stealing $10,000 (£7,800) from banks near the UN headquarters in New York over the past two months. 

Prosecutors said he told bank staff he had a gun and thanked them for their understanding. 

He was caught after an image released by the police was recognised by a UN guard. 

Mr Shuaibu was briefly employed by the United Nations before working as the UN correspondent for a Nigerian press agency.

Abdullahi Shuaibu
Mr Shuaibu's image was recognised by a UN guard

Class, race and cultural identity through West African art

Artist Larry Achiampong explains how he draws on his Ghanaian heritage and colonial history to explore ideas around class, race and cultural identity.

He mixes highlife music with hiphop and video game sound effects to create a unique sound.

 He's just released his third album 'Untitled' and has been speaking about it to BBC's Focus on Africa programme:

Zambia opposition leader waves to supporters

Zambia's opposition UPND party has shared two pictures of party leader Hakainde Hichilema leaving the court in the capital, Lusaka. 

Mr Hichilema is facing treason charges over allegations that he plotted the overthrow of President Edgar Lungu.

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The party says that 10 other party officials facing charges of obstructing the president's motorcade were released on bail.

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Nigeria to probe smoke-filled plane

Nigeria's aviation authority is investigating how the cabin of a domestic flight ended up filling with smoke on Tuesday leaving the passengers fearing for their lives, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

On a video circulated on Twitter you can hear passengers praying during the flight from Port Harcourt to Lagos (see earlier story).

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Sam Adurogboye, from Nigeria's civil aviation authority, said that the aircraft was grounded for investigations, NAN reports.

The airline, Aero Contractors, has also ordered an investigation.

NAN quotes its spokesperson Simon Tumba as saying: "the management of Aero regrets any inconveniences the incident might have caused its esteemed passengers and assured it will get to the root cause of the matter".

All the passengers arrived safely in Lagos and there were no reported injuries.

Mayor recognised for help given to thousands of migrants crossing to Europe

The mayor of the small Italian island of Lampedusa has won a major humanitarian award for her work in saving the lives of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.

Giuseppina Nicolini won the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize (named after a former president of Ivory Coast) along with the NGO SOS Mediterranee.

The mayor of Lampedusa, Giuseppina Nicolini, poses on July 7, 2013 near the harbor of Lampedusa
Giuseppina Nicolini has taken a major role in helping migrants on Lampedusa

The acting head of the jury, former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, said "after examining conditions around the world, the jury determined that refugees and migrants constitute one of the crucial issues of our day, notably in the Mediterranean where nearly 13,000 men, women and children have perished in shipwrecks since 2013”.

Thousands of refugees arrive on Lampedusa, which lies between African and mainland Europe, after being rescued from the sea

A statement from the UN's cultural organisation, Unesco, which sponsors the prize says that the Ms Nicolini has been widely recognised for her "boundless humanity and unwavering commitment to refugee crisis management". 

Migrants in Lampedusa
Many migrants trying to reach mainland Europe end up in Lampedusa

World Bank reports bullish prospects for Africa's economy

Africa's economic prospects this year are positive despite a recent slowdown in growth, the World Bank said in a report. 

In its latest Africa Pulse report, a biannual analysis, it says economic growth was seen expanding to 2.6% this year and a further to 3.2% in 2018 and 3.5% the year after. 

It says growth will be driven by commodity prices, an uptick in the global economy and improvements in the domestic market. 

It says the slowdown in 2016 was the worst in decades and attributed it to poor performances in Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. 

"This low growth rate was driven mainly by unfavourable external developments, with commodity prices remaining low, and difficult domestic conditions," the report said.

Angola's growth was dragged by a fall in oil production while South Africa's economic expansion slowed to 0.3% due to contractions in the mining and manufacturing industries and the effects of drought on agriculture.

"Excluding these three countries, growth in the region was estimated to be 4.1% in 2016," the report said.   

Angola's capital, Luanda
Angola's growth was dragged by a fall in oil production

Tanzania to recruit doctors blocked by Kenyan courts

Tanzania's President John Magufuli has ordered the recruitment of 258 of the 500 doctors who were to be sent to neighbouring Kenya to address a shortage of medics there. 

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A Kenyan court today extended an order barring the recruitment of the foreign medics. 

Kenya's doctors' union says the government should instead recruit 1,000 local unemployed physicians. 

According to Tanzania's Citizen newspaper, a study revealed that the country was training more doctors than it can absorb.   

Ontlametse's hometown celebrates her life

Residents of Hebron, a small town near South Africa's capital, Pretoria, have today gathered for a memorial service to celebrate the life of Ontlametse Phalatse who died last week aged 18

Ontlametse had a premature ageing disorder progeria and was well known and liked. 

She was known as the "queen of positivity",

A local artist drew her portrait: 

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View more on twitter

Nigeria to investigate graft allegations over funds for the north-east

We've reported about Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari suspending the head of the National Intelligence Agency over a large cash find (see earlier entry), and in the same press release the head of state also mentions an investigation into another top official.

Mr Buhari has also suspended David Babachir Lawal, the secretary to the government, in connection with questions over how contracts were awarded for the Presidential Initiative on the North East (Pine).

Pine was set up to help the millions suffering from food shortages in an area threatened with famine.

SA #FeeMustFall protester graduates with distinction

A South African student who led protests against an increase in tuition fees at the Durban University of Technology has graduated cum laude - or one of the top students in his year, TimesLive reports

Bonginkosi Khanyile, who was studying public management and economics, said he wrote exam in prison. 

 "I’m graduating on Tuesday‚ 9 May ‚" he said in a brief phone conversation. "I wrote exams in prison. It was a difficult experience.", the report says.

Mr Khanyile was arrested for being part of the #FeeMustFall protests last September. 

He was denied bail on several occasions and was only released after taking his matter to the constitutional court in March.

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Trump imagined as a military strongman

If you've ever wandered what US President Trump Donald Trump could look like in military dress then look no further.

A Reuters journalist in Nigeria has spotted work by an artist who imagined how the US leader might appear:

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Penguin kidnapping case 'dropped'

Two South African students accused of kidnapping a penguin from a marine park and releasing it into the wild have had the charges against them dropped, the AFP news agency is reporting.

Adrian Donian and Emile du Plessis took the penguin, Buddy, in a demonstration against animals being kept in captivity.

At the time, Dylan Bailey, the manager of Bayworld in Port Elizabeth, said the penguin was "completely ill-equipped to survive in the wild".

Buddy has never been found.

AFP reports that the magistrate dropped the charges because the authorities took too long deciding whether to go ahead with the prosecution.  


Hichilema charge 'ploy to keep accused in custody'

We've been getting more details of the court case in Zambia involving treason charges against opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (see earlier entry).

Initially, he was charged with endangering the life of the president over an incident where Mr Hichilema's convoy appeared not to make way for the president's motorcade.

Then the reason for the treason charge was switched on Tuesday. Prosecutors alleged that the opposition leader had been planning to overthrow the president.

In court today, Mr Hichilema's lawyers criticised the lack of detail in the new charges, the AFP news agency is reporting.

It quotes one of his lawyers, Vincent Malambo, as asking the court "to determine whether the charge is not a mere fact or ploy of keeping the accused in custody."

The case has been adjourned until tomorrow when the prosecutors will get a chance to respond.

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema waves to supporters from a police van as he leaves a courtroom in Lusaka on April 18, 2017.
Hakainde Hichilema was pictured being driven to court

Buhari suspends Nigeria's spy chief over $43m cash find

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has suspended the boss of the intelligence agency, Ayo Oke, and ordered an investigation following last week's discovery of $43m (£33m) in cash in a flat in an upscale estate in Lagos, a statement from his office says.

The money was neatly arranged and hidden in wardrobes, investigators say

The money, which was uncovered by the anti-corruption agency following a tip-off has been claimed by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the statement says. 

Mr Buhari has ordered investigators to find out how the NIA came in possession of the funds and to establish if they broke any law. 

A statement from the presidency says a committee, headed by the vice president will conduct the investigation and submit a report to him within 14 days.

Watch: Inside the Nigerian flat full of cash in Lagos

Uganda extends SIM card registration deadline

Uganda's government has extended the deadline imposed by the communication commission for all mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards by 20 April. 

A letter from the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda orders the commission to allow the registration to continue until 19 May. 

The commission had directed all subscribers to update their details using their National Identification Card. 

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Campaigners in Uganda had gone to court to challenge the order saying that it had not given enough time for people to register. 

The government says the move is necessary to track criminals, amid heightened security concerns following the murder of the country’s police spokesperson last month.

There are an estimated 19 million mobile phone users in the country.   

Uganda traders protest against foreign hawkers

BBC Monitoring

News from around the globe

Traders in Uganda's capital, Kampala, closed their shops for several hours today in protest at what they see as unfair competition from Indian and Chinese rivals. 

Local newspapers are reporting that a leader of the protest action David Lwanga was taken away by police. 

Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago, addressed the protesting traders who deal in construction materials. 

The New Vision newspaper said the protesters complained that they paid taxes to import goods from China, while their Chinese counterparts allegedly didn't have to pay any taxes and undercut local traders. 

New Vision quoted one trader, Ronald Kiwuwa, as saying: "If they are here as investors, let them go and start factories, production plants and leave retail business for Ugandans."

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French soldier faces prison over Burkina Faso 'child sex abuse'

Prosecutors in France have requested a sentence of six month in prison against a French soldier who has been on trial in Paris for child sex abuse in Burkina Faso. 

The soldier initially denied the allegations before admitting inappropriate contact with two minors. 

Prosecutors say 40-year-old Sebastien L, filmed himself touching two young girls sexually in a hotel pool in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou in 2015. 

The children's mother then found the footage on a camera that the soldier left behind.

He was flown out to France to stand trial after the incident was brought to light. 

The prosecutors asked the court for a one-year suspended prison sentence in addition to the actual six-month prison term.

They also want the court to order the serviceman to take a compulsory counselling to address psychological issues as well as a problem with alcohol.   

Uganda says Kony is no longer a threat

Uganda's army says it has begun pulling its forces out of the Central African Republic where they have been fighting members of the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, were notorious for terrorising the population of northern Uganda in the 1990s and the first decade of this century.

Its fighters, including Kony, were forced from Uganda into neighbouring South Sudan. Later, under pressure from an international force, they went into the Central African Republic.

The Ugandan army says that the LRA's "capacity and means of making war against Uganda have been degraded".

In a statement, it goes on to say:

[Joseph Kony] with less than 100 armed fighters is now weak and ineffective. He no longer poses any significant threat to Uganda's security."

file photo taken on November 12, 2006, shows the leader of the Lord"s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony founded the LRA in 1988

Read more about Joseph Kony.

Kenya court halts plan to hire Tanzanian doctors

Kenya's high court has extended an order barring the government from hiring 500 doctors from neighbouring Tanzania, a local TV station reports.

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The government initiated the move to address a shortage of medical professionals and also to deal with effects of a three-month doctors' strike that paralysed public hospitals nationwide. 

The doctors union has opposed the move saying that the government should instead hire 1,000 local physicians who are unemployed. 

Kenya's Daily Nation reported in March that Tanzania produces more medical doctors than it can absorb in its hospitals.  

Algeria parties ordered to show female faces on posters

Algerian political parties have agreed to show female candidates' faces after some posters displayed blank avatars instead, the state news agency says.

Parties in Bordj Bou Arreridj Province had been showing hijabs surrounding blank spaces alongside photos of male candidates.

On Tuesday the election authorities gave parties two days to display photos or be removed from the vote.

An official said the practice was illegal.

Read the full story

Several parties blanked out female candidates' faces

More mass graves found in DR Congo

Seventeen more mass graves have been found in the Democratic Republic of Congo's central Kasai region bringing the total found since last August up to 40, the UN says.

The region has been the "scene of clashes between soldiers and members of a local militia knosn as Kamuina Nsapu", the statement adds.

The government is fighting to put down a rebellion that began after a regional chief was killed.

Both sides have been accused of committing human rights violations.

UN investigators heard that at least 74 people, including 30 children, were killed in fighting at the end of last month.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the DR Congo government should take "meaningful steps, which to date have been lacking,  to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent, and independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties, and other abuses of justice".

Congolese army soldier walks at the frontline, November 12, 2008 in the outskirts of the town of Goma,
DR Congo's army has been fighting a militia group in the central Kasai region

Read more about the events in Kasai.

Niger education minister removed over student protest

Niger's Minister of Higher Education Mohamed Ben Omar has been removed from his position after a violent wave of student protests hit the capital Niamey, the AFP news agency reports.

Students have been demonstrating since 10 April and have been involved in violent clashes with security forces. 

The incidents resulted in the death of one student in circumstances that are still unclear.  

The removal of Mr Omar was among several conditions students have put forward for talks with the government over their movement. 

A government spokesman said his removal as education minister was "necessary fo the return of calm within the higher education sector".

But Mr Omar remains a member of the cabinet in a different capacity. 

Students burn tyres during a protest in Niamey
Students in Niger have been demanding that the minister should be fired

US praises AU push for peace in South Sudan

The US has praised the African Union's efforts to find peace in South Sudan.

The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley made the comments when she met the new head of the African Union commission Moussa Faki Mahamat in New York, a US government statement says.

She "encouraged him to lead efforts to seek justice for victims of the country’s civil war", the statement adds. 

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Bid to throw out Zambia treason charges

The legal team of Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has asked a court in the capital, Lusaka, to "discharge" treason charges against him, his United Party for National Development (UNDP) has tweeted.

The charge sheet failed to properly explain how Mr Hichilema had plotted to overthrow the government, and was probably drawn up by someone who had never drafted a treason charge before, the lawyers said. 

The UNDP is tweeting the arguments they are presenting to the magistrate:

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SA's new finance minister: 'No radical changes planned'

South Africa's new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has been trying to reassure investors and the ratings agencies that his policies will not be a radical transformation from the past, the Reuters news agency is reporting.

Mr Gigaba was appointed after President Jacob Zuma sacked Pravin Gordhan as part of a major cabinet reshuffle at the end of last month.

That move led to two global ratings agencies downgrading South Africa's debt to junk status.

Mr Gigaba has been speaking on the eve of an overseas trip where he is set to meet investors and officials from the International Monetary Fund.

He said that there were no plans to nationalise the country's banks or mines.

This was a direct riposte to comments made by one of his advisers Chris Malikane, who said that a radical transformation of South Africa's economy was needed.

The finance minister also stressed that there would be continuity with Mr Gordhan's policies. 

South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba talks to the media after a meeting with the former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
Malusi Gigaba has been in the job for less than three weeks

Burundians held in 'slave-like conditions' in Saudi Arabia

Prime Ndikumagenge

BBC Africa, Bujumbura

Woman in maid's uniform holding mobile phone
Many women go to Gulf states in the hope of finding good jobs

Burundi's government should repatriate some 800 women and girls who were trafficked to the Middle East last year to work in conditions similar to slavery, a local rights group has said. 

Only 30 have so far been repatriated, including one who was sexually abused in Saudi Arabia and who was now confined to a wheelchair, the National Observatory Against Transnational Crime said in a report. 

More than 820 women and girls were trafficked last year, mainly to Saudi Arabia and Oman, it added. 

They were promised good jobs, but ended up doing house work in extremely difficult conditions which some of them compared to slavery, the group said.

Read: How a woman was abused by her Saudi employees


Terrified passengers on 'smoke-filled' Nigerian plane

People in Nigeria are sharing a video of what appears to be smoke filling a plane while in flight.

Some of the passengers appear calm, but you can hear the sound of people praying and chanting.

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One of the clips has been taken from the Twitter account of a passenger who has also been tweeting details of what happened.

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She says she was on a flight from the southern city of Port Harcourt to the commercial capital, Lagos, when the cabin started filling with smoke and people started praying.

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She then says that the plane landed safely in Lagos with the emergency services on hand to help.

It is not clear exactly what happened and there are no reports that anyone was hurt.

Mali 'Islamist militant attack' kills five

Caskets of slain Malian solders wrapped in the national flag
Deadly attacks against soldiers are common in northern Mali

Five Malian soldiers have been killed by suspected Islamist militants on Tuesday in the northern city of Timbuktu, BBC Afrique reports. 

According to an official statement, the soldiers were killed in a raid carried out at dawn on a camp in the remote Gourma Rharous area about 120 km (75m) from Timbuktu. 

Officials have blamed the deadly attack on what they describe as "a terrorist group". 

Ten of the attackers have reportedly been killed by French soldiers while they tried to retreat after the raid. 

French soldiers are part of a multi-national force combating Islamist militancy in the region.

Northern Mali had been taken over in 2012 by Islamist groups, which briefly imposed Sharia law before they were driven out by foreign troops led by the French army. 

SA to honour Ontlametse Phalatse in memorial service

President Jacob Zuma and Ontlametse Phalatse
South Africa gather to celebrate the 'queen of positivity'

Mourners will gather today for a memorial service at a local school in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, to celebrate the life of Ontlametse Phalatse who was known as the "queen of positivity", a week after she died of lung failure aged 18, news24 reports

Ontlametse captured the hearts of many South Africans for her brave battle against premature aging disorder progeria. 

She died on the eve on President Jacob Zuma's birthday party where she had been expected to be a special guest. 

Mr Zuma paid tribute to her in his speech at the party and fulfilled one of her wishes by handing over a car to the family. 

He said he was saddened by Phalatse's death and would make sure that a home is built for the family  

Read more about her.

Deadly attack near Egypt's old monastery

One policeman has been killed by gunmen who opened fire on a checkpoint near St Catherine's monastery in Egypt's south Sinai, officials say.

Another three police officers were injured in the attack several hundred metres from the church entrance.

So-called Islamic State group said its fighters carried out the attack.

Located at the foot of Mount Sinai, St Catherine's is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world and a Unesco world heritage site.

It is part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Tuesday's attack comes just days after bombings at two Coptic Christian churches left 45 people dead.

The attacks have raised security fears ahead of a visit to Cairo by Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

St Catherine's monastery
St Catherine's monastery is located at the foot of Mount Sinai

Read more from BBC News Online

Kenya-born lawyer confirmed as Australian senator

An Australian court has dismissed a challenge on the eligibility of Kenya-born lawyer Lucy Gichuhi from serving as senator, Sky News Australia reports. 

It said the challenge came too late. 

Ms Gichuhi, from the small Family First party, will now assume office as a representative of South Australia, taking over from her party leader Bob Day whose election was invalidated.

Questions about her citizenship had threatened to end her election before it even started with the Labor party saying she held a dual-nationality. 

She however said that she was "eligible to serve". 

Her lawyer said the Kenyan High Commission provided a letter stating that Ms Gichuhi was not regarded as a Kenyan citizen. 

She became an Australian citizen in July 2001 after migrating from Kenya in 1999.  

In comments after the ruling she said she was looking forward to play a part in serving Australia: 

This is not about me as Lucy Gichuhi or any other party or political party but it about the integrity of the institutions of this country which I hope I will play a part in serving."

View more on twitter

'Phenomenal' progress in fighting tropical diseases

Jane Dreaper

Health Correspondent

There has been a record-breaking achievement in distributing tablets to fight neglected tropical diseases, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says.

The effort has ramped up since a key meeting in London five years ago.

In 2015, one billion people worldwide were treated for at least one tropical disease. Companies have donated seven billion treatments since 2012.

The World Health Organisation said improving water and sanitation was key to driving further progress.

The London meeting resulted in a pledge to control or eliminate 10 neglected tropical diseases - including guinea worm, river blindness and trachoma - by 2020.

Some 170,000 people die from one of the illnesses every year, but their biggest impact is disabling their sufferers.

Man sitting in front of a house
Louise Gubb
More people are now getting treatment for lymphatic filariasis which makes limbs swell

Read more from BBC News Online.

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