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Live Reporting

Lucy Fleming

All times stated are UK

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  1. Nigeria's freed schoolchildren 'need urgent help'

    An official embraces a girl who was kidnapped from a boarding school in the northwest Nigerian state of Zamfara, after her release in Zamfara, Nigeria - 2 March 2021
    Image caption: The girls from Zamfara state were released a few days after their dramatic abduction by gunmen

    Nigerian children traumatised after their abduction need urgent and specialised help to recover from their ordeal, UN experts say.

    Their statement comes a day after 279 girls were released following their recent kidnapping from a school in north-western Zamfara state.

    It was the third school kidnapping since December in northern Nigeria by criminal gangs known to demand ransoms. In all three cases the pupils have now been freed.

    “Social inclusion of these children requires the provision of long-term measures aimed at restoring their physical and psychological well-being,” the experts said.

    They pointed to the mass kidnapping in December at a boys boarding school in Kankara in Katsina state as an example of how things had gone wrong.

    “There has still not been an impartial, independent investigation into the abductions nor specialised rehabilitation for the children after the incident," they said.

    “Due to such incidents, many children have not returned to class and some schools have already closed down in the border areas out of fear of reoccurrence. This may mean an end to education for these children.”

    Kidnapping is a widespread criminal enterprise in Nigeria - and happens on an almost daily basis.

    The UN experts said this was of particular concern when it came to abducted women and girls.

    “We are alarmed at reports that an unknown number of women and girls have been abducted in recent years, and subjected to domestic servitude, forced labour, sexual slavery through forced marriages, forced and unwanted pregnancies.”

    They reminded the Nigerian government that it had international legal obligations to protect the right to life, liberty and security of a person “as well as the obligation to adopt effective measures and policies to prevent exploitation”.

  2. Senegal opposition leader 'arrested' after clashes

    Supporters of Ousmane Sonko throwing stones at the security forces, Dakar, Senegal - 3 March 2021
    Image caption: Ousmane Sonko's supporters were throwing stones at the security forces

    Prominent Senegalese opposition politician Ousmane Sonko has been arrested, his lawyer says.

    He is accused of disturbing public order in the capital, Dakar, as he travelled to court for a hearing in a rape case.

    His motorcade was followed by hundreds of chanting supporters, who were dispersed by police with teargas.

    Supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko gather in front of security forces in Dakar, Senegal - 3 March 2021
    Image caption: Supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko are angry about the rape allegation
    Gendarmes firing teargas at Ousmane Sonko's supporters in Dakar, Senegal - 3 March 2021
    Image caption: Gendarmes fired teargas to disperse Ousmane Sonko's supporters

    On Friday, Senegal's parliament voted to strip Mr Sonko of his immunity so the rape prosecution could proceed.

    Mr Sonko denies he raped a woman at a salon where he went to get massages.

    Ousmane Sonko
    Image caption: Ousmane Sonko finished third in presidential elections in 2019

    The 46-year-old, who heads the opposition Pastef party, says the charges are politically motivated to stop him running in elections in 2024.

    Mr Sonko came third in the 2019 presidential election and has accused President Macky Sall of manoeuvring to run for an unconstitutional third term.

  3. Nigeria kidnap gangs targeted in mining and jet ban

    Chris Ewokor

    BBC News, Abuja

    The girls taken from a boarding school in Zamfara lining up after their release
    Image caption: The girls taken last week were reportedly made to walk a long distance into the forest

    Nigeria has announced a ban on mining and a no-fly zone in the north-western state of Zamfara as part of efforts to clamp down on notorious criminal gangs often involved in kidnapping.

    Mining activities are believed to offer cover to these groups, which often invade communities and abduct villagers - many of them for ransom. Last week, 279 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school before being released on Tuesday.

    It is suspected that powerful figures engaged in illegal artisanal mining are arming the gangs.

    “Private jets are being used to ferry arms to Zamfara and then take gold to Dubai,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told the BBC.

    More on this topic:

  4. Saving Africa's vulture from an ‘extinction crisis’

    Anne Okumu

    BBC News, Nairobi

    Conservationists and communities in central Kenya are working together to save vultures which are on the brink of extinction.

    One species - the bearded vulture - has less than five individuals remaining according to conservationists.

    Poisoning has been cited as the major cause of the vulture population's decline over the past three decades.

    Watch how a conservation group, The Peregrine Fund, is working in Kenya’s conservancies through the Coexistence Co-op project to try and reduce human-wildlife conflict:

    Video content

    Video caption: Endangered vultures: A species on the 'brink of extinction' in Kenya

    Produced, filmed and edited by Anthony Irungu

  5. Tanzania nuns and priests dying 'with Covid symptoms'

    Athuman Mtulya

    BBC News, Dar es Salam

    A Catholic cathedral in Zanzibar, Tanzania
    Image caption: The Catholic Church in Tanzania has been outspoken about what it sees as a hidden epidemic

    Sixty nuns and 25 priests have died in Tanzania in the last two months after showing symptoms of coronavirus, the Catholic Church in the East African nation says.

    The church, which has been outspoken about coronavirus before in one of the few countries in the world not to publish its virus data, warned Tanzanians to take Covid-19 precautions more seriously.

    President John Magufuli has previously played down the virus - and last month the health minister said that Tanzania had no plans to vaccinate.

    But Father Charles Kitima, secretary of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) - an official assembly of Catholic bishops, said the Covid-19 threat was alive in Tanzania.

    “It is upon every one of us to make sure that we take all the required precautions and protect ourselves and others, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions,” he told a press conference in Dar es Salaam.

    Father Charles Kitima
    Image caption: Fr Kitima said the church was not allowed to test for Covid-19 at its 500 health centres

    Fr Kitima said the church could not say whether the deaths of the clergy had been caused by coronavirus as they had not been tested, though they had all shown signs of Covid-19, including “respiratory challenges”.

    “People are not tested. That’s a big challenge. The church has about 500 health centres across the country but we are not allowed to test and we don’t have the equipment to do so,” he said.

    Fr Kitima said the church had noted a recent change in tone from the government as far as Covid precautions were concerned, but said that a number of people were still not observing the restrictions as no punitive measures were being taken against them.

    This is the second time this year that the church has spoken out about the threat of the pandemic in the country, saying in January it had noticed a spike in deaths in its parishes.

    Tanzania has not issued any statistics on Covid-19 since May last year.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has pleaded for the country to do so – and review its position on the vaccines currently being rolled out through the Covax distribution scheme.

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  6. Rwanda receives first batch of Covax vaccines

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    A Covax shipment
    Image caption: The Covax scheme aims to reduce the divide between rich countries and poorer nations unable to buy doses.

    Rwanda has received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccine doses from the UN-backed Covax distribution initiative which it will use to immunise people identified as priority risk groups.

    The country received 240,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and with a further 102,960 doses of Pfizer vaccine expected to arrive later in the day, according to the health ministry.

    Doses of the two vaccines would be used to immunise a total of 171,480 from Friday, the ministry said.

    Rwanda expects to receive the total of 1,098,960 doses of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

    “Our target is to vaccinate 30% of our population by the end of 2021, and 60% by the end of 2022," Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said.

    Rwanda has reported more than 19,000 cases of Covid-19 and 265 death.

    Last month, the country started vaccinating “high risks groups” using the Pfizer vaccine “acquired through international partnerships in limited quantities”, the health ministry said.

  7. Ambulance occupants killed in Burkina Faso landmine

    BBC World Service

    A Burkina Faso soldier patrols at a district welcoming Internally Displaced People (IDP) from northern Burkina Faso in Dori, on February 3, 2020.
    Image caption: Attacks in Burkina Faso have caused more than 1,000 deaths and forced millions from their homes

    At least five people, including a pregnant woman, have been killed in Burkina Faso when the ambulance they were travelling in was destroyed by a landmine.

    The ambulance was carrying the woman, her husband, a girl and two other women.

    Officials say the incident happened in Gaskindé, close to the border with Mali - an area that has seen repeated attacks by militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

    Jihadist violence in the north and east of Burkina Faso has taken more than 1,000 lives and forced about a million people from their homes in recent years.

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  8. Ghana and UK sign post-Brexit trade deal

    Banana growers had been hit by stiff tariffs

    Generic photo of bananas
    Image caption: In January a shipment of bananas arriving into Portsmouth from Ghana was charged a tariff of £17,500

    Ghana and the UK have signed a new trade agreement worth £1.2bn ($1.6bn) that will allow free access and tariff reductions for certain goods between the countries.

    Before Brexit, the UK was automatically part of any trade deal the European Union had negotiated with another country.

    In its negotiations to leave the EU, the UK government managed to roll over most of the third-country trade deals it had as part of the union, but that did not include Ghana's - meaning importers faced tariffs and extra paperwork.

    For example, in January a shipment of bananas arriving into Portsmouth from Ghana was charged a tariff of £17,500.

    This meant the UK was no longer a profitable market for Ghanaian banana producers.

    But now Ghanaian products including bananas, tinned tuna and cocoa will benefit from tariff-free access to the UK.

    The UK's exports, including machinery, electronics and chemical products, will also benefit from a reduction in import duty taxes.

    "This deal secures tariff-free access for products that British shoppers love - and supports jobs in Ghana - paving the way for further economic growth as we build back better from Covid-19," said Ranil Jayawardena, the UK's minister for international trade.

    Ghana’s largest exports to the UK include mineral fuels and oil, preparations of fish, fruit, cocoa and cocoa preparations, a statement from the UK government website noted.

    Its top imports from the UK include textiles, machinery and mechanical appliances, and chemical products.

    View more on twitter
  9. Tanzania probes firm 'buying pregnant women's urine'

    The Tanzania drugs authority is investigating a company that has reportedly been collecting urine from pregnant women to make human medicine, local newspaper The Citizen reports.

    The Tanzania Medicines and Drugs Authority (TMDA) is quoted as saying it does not recognise and has never registered Polai (Tz) Co Ltd - the company said to be behind the business.

    The Citizen newspaper reported that its investigation showed the collection of the urine was being done secretly.

    It quoted an employee of the company admitting to getting the urine from pregnant women for production of drugs to treat conditions associated with infertility.

    There is no scientific evidence to show that urine has any medical benefits.

    The TMDA said it would take necessary action once it completes investigations.

  10. BBC reporter freed from Ethiopia detention

    Catherine Byaruhanga

    BBC News

    Girmay Gebru
    Image caption: It is not clear why the BBC's Girmay Gebru was detained

    The BBC reporter in Ethiopia's conflict-hit region of Tigray has been released from detention at a military camp in the regional capital, Mekelle.

    Girmay Gebru, who works for BBC Tigrinya, was released without charge and the BBC is not aware of the reason for his detention.

    BBC Tigrinya has also confirmed the release of local journalist, Tamirat Yemane, and two translators - Alula Akalu and Fitsum Berhane - who were working for the Financial Times and the AFP news agency, respectively.

    The region in northern Ethiopia has been the centre of a conflict between the federal government and its former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

  11. Nigerian violence 'forcing people to flee to Niger'

    People from the Nigerian town of Malam Fatori an its area, close to the borders with Niger and Chad, pass by a car with Chadian Gendarmes (in uniform) as they flee Islamist Boko Haram attacks
    Image caption: Violence in Nigeria has caused the exodus across the border

    Violence in north-western Nigeria is causing people to flee into neighbouring Niger, where violence is also on the rise, the United Nations has warned.

    Fear of armed groups and communal clashes in Nigeria had sent nearly 7,660 Nigerians fleeing into Niger's southern Maradi region since the start of the year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said

    "Most of the refugees are women and children, displaced following recent attacks in Nigeria’s Sokoto state," UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov said.

    The Maradi region, in southern Niger, now hosts nearly 100,000 displaced people, including 77,000 Nigerian refugees, who have fled relentless attacks in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states.

    Armed groups in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions have been fuelling one of the world’s "fastest-growing displacement and protection crises", with millions forced from their homes, the UNHCR says.

  12. South Sudan plane crash kills all 10 on board

    Nichola Mandil

    BBC News, Juba

    A map of South Sudan

    The authorities in South Sudan have confirmed that a small plane crashed on Tuesday evening in the eastern Jonglei State, killing all the 10 people on board.

    It happened at Pieri airstrip shortly after take-off while heading to the capital, Juba.

    A team of investigators was being sent to the site of the crash to conduct preliminary investigations, Transport Minister Madut Biar Yel said.

    The plane belonged to a local aviation company, the South Supreme Airlines. The firm has not yet issued a statement about the crash.

    Jonglei State Governor Denay Jock Chagor said he received the news with "shock and horror" and sent condolences to the families and friends of the deceased.

    South Sudan's air safety profile is not yet rated by the International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme.

    But the database on Aviation Safety Network (ASN) shows that at least 10 planes crashed in different locations in South Sudan between 2018 and 2020, which caused about 30 fatalities.

  13. Egypt and Sudan back DR Congo to mediate dam dispute

    A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on December 26, 2019.
    Image caption: Years of negotiations over the Nile dam row have failed

    Egypt and Sudan have backed the Democratic Republic of Congo to lead negotiations on their row with Ethiopia over the mega dam on the Nile River.

    A joint statement by their foreign ministers affirmed their support for an “enhanced structure” of negotiation sponsored by the African Union (AU) that include the US, the European Union and the UN.

    The ministers also noted that a unilateral filling of the dam for the second phase would be a direct threat to their countries’ water security.

    Egyptian President President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who met Sudan's Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq, said the dam was a vital issue for both countries.

    The plan for enhanced talks comes after Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi took over as AU chairman last month.

    Years of negotiations over the dam have been fruitless, including recent ones hosted by the US and the AU.

    Ethiopia sees the $4.8bn (£3.2bn) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as crucial to producing electricity to power its economic growth.

    But it has led to bitter disputes with Egypt and Sudan, both of which are downstream and fear the large dam will greatly reduce their access to water.

    More on this topic:

  14. France admits 'torture and murder' of Algerian

    BBC World Service

    Ali Boumendjel
    Image caption: Ali Boumendjel's death had originally been attributed to suicide

    French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged Algerian lawyer and nationalist Ali Boumendjel was tortured and murdered by the French army during the Algerian War of Independence in 1957.

    His death had originally been attributed to suicide.

    Mr Macron made the admission on behalf of France in a meeting with Mr Boumendjel's grandchildren.

    The act is one of a series of measures aimed at improving relations between France and Algeria and the way they remember the eight-year war that ended colonial rule.

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  15. Why are locusts invading East Africa again?

    Alan Kasujja

    BBC Africa Daily

    Desert locusts at maize field in Meru, Kenya.
    Image caption: The insects are able to eat their own weight in a day

    They move like thick, dark clouds, buzzing above your head. Swarms of locusts have, once again, been tearing through parts of East Africa… And they’re hungry.

    They have been devouring crop after crop, putting food supplies and farmers’ livelihoods at risk.

    These invasions aren’t new - and yet, they now seem to be happening more often than ever.

    “It’s actually [because of] the change in climate,” says Kenneth Mwangi, a Satellite Information Analyst in Nairobi, Kenya.

    “Locusts that otherwise would have scattered for not having vegetation to consume have... They are able to get lots of vegetation and it’s food to them.”

    But how did things get so bad? And can these locusts ever be stopped?

    Find out in Wednesday’s edition of Africa Daily.

    Subscribe to the show on BBC Sounds or wherever you get your podcasts.

  16. More African nations receive first Covid-19 vaccines

    A consignment of drugs, among the first batch the Covid-19 vaccines that arrived on a flight at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
    Image caption: Kenya was among the latest African countries to receive Covid-19 vaccinations

    More African countries have received their first batches of the coronavirus vaccines under the global Covax scheme.

    Kenya received more than a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday, becoming the third East African country to benefit from the UN-backed distribution initiative.

    The doses are enough to vaccinate 500,000 people in the first phase. Frontline health workers, teachers, police officers and the elderly will be first in line.

    In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Health Minister Eteni Longondo was at the airport on Tuesday night to receive 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

    The DR Congo is expecting a total 6.9 million doses to be delivered from now up till the end of May 2021.

    Angola received 624,000 doses of the vaccine, while The Gambia received 36,000 doses on Wednesday.

    The Covax scheme is a World Health Organization-driven strategy for a global and equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. It hopes to deliver more than two billion doses to people in 190 countries in less than a year.

    Read more:

  17. Wednesday's wise words

    Our proverb of the day:

    Quote Message: To appreciate the taste of any food, it must have been introduced to you by your mother at tender age." from A Lozi proverb sent by Mubiana Gilliam Njamba in Lusaka, Zambia
    A Lozi proverb sent by Mubiana Gilliam Njamba in Lusaka, Zambia
    A drawing of a bowl of food

    Click here to send us your African proverbs.