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Live Reporting

Emmanuel Onyango and Evelyne Musambi

All times stated are UK

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  1. SA Covid-19 variant found in four African countries

    Rhoda Odhiambo

    BBC Africa Health, Nairobi

    Image caption: The spread of the variant was attributed to movement of people

    Botswana, Zambia, Gambia and Kenya have detected a variant of the Covid-19 virus that was first identified in South Africa last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

    WHO's Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, attributed the spread to the movement of people across the continent.

    “It may also be that the new strain is circulating in different African countries but have not been identified. We are now working with scientists in different laboratories with the capacity to determine the complete DNA of the virus to boost their surveillance," Dr Moeti told journalists in a virtual press conference.

    Kenya’s Health Director General, Patrick Amoth, told the BBC the variant was found on two South African passengers who had travelled to Kenya one month ago.

    “Through routine testing for anyone coming into the country, we were able to detect the new strain from samples collected. The two men are already back in South Africa," Dr Amoth said.

    South Africa is the worst-hit country by the pandemic in the continent.

    A team of researchers from three South African Universities working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases found that the current vaccines being used may not be effective against this new strain.


  2. Talented Senegal student missing in France says 'on a break'

    A talented Senegalese student who went missing in France has said she was on "a little break to regain her senses".

    Diary Sow did not return to school after the Christmas holidays, causing concern in Senegal and France. She was studying at a prestigious Paris school.

    Described as "the best student in Senegal", Ms Sow won several national academic prizes and published her first novel last year.

    In a letter she sent Water and Sanitation Minister Serigne Mbaye Thiam, she said she was "not the victim of any kind of pressure" and apologised to those worried about her.

    "It is not about overwork, or madness, or the desire for freedom," she said.

    View more on twitter
  3. Kenya defends Naomi Campbell tourism role

    Kenya's Tourism Minister Najib Balala and British model Naomi Campbell
    Image caption: British model Naomi Campbell was named tourism international ambassaor

    Kenya's Tourism Minister Najib Balala has defended the decision to name British model Naomi Campbell as the country's international tourism ambassador.

    During a public event, Mr Balala acknowledged that many Kenyans had questioned why Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong'o wasn't picked for the position.

    He said Ms Nyong'o has been unreachable for the last five years.

    The Kenyan Oscar winning actress was proposed by many Kenyans on social media as the perfect international ambassador.

    Mr Balala said Ms Campbell had taken up the role pro bono and that the government was working on the details on how to use her influence to promote tourism, local media report.


  4. Buhari approves funds to curb Nigeria oxygen shortage

    Is’haq Khalid

    BBC Africa, Abuja

    Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the equivalent of $17m (£12m) for the construction of 38 oxygen plants across the country.

    The West African country is grappling with a shortage of oxygen for Covid-19 patients amidst a second wave of the pandemic.

    The number of Covid-19 patients in need of oxygen support is unclear, but the authorities have said that the situation was critical.

    In a statement, the government said it had earmarked an additional $671,000 for repairs of existing oxygen generation facilities in five hospitals.

    Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, told a meeting of the National Economic Council that the construction of the new plants was necessitated by an increase in the number of patients in need oxygen.

    It’s not clear when the new oxygen plants will be completed.

    On Thursday Nigeria recorded 1,964 infections - its highest number of new daily cases so far.

    In total the country has recorded 116,655 cases since the pandemic started, including more than 93,000 recoveries and 1,485 deaths.

  5. CAR declares state of emergency over rebels

    BBC World Service

    UN peacekeepers on patrol near the capital, Bangui.
    Image caption: There are almost 12,000 UN peacekeepers in the country

    The Central African Republic has declared a state of emergency as armed groups try to lay siege to the capital, Bangui.

    It will last for 15 days and allow the authorities to detain suspects without the authorisation of prosecutors.

    Rebel factions now control most of the country and are calling for the resignation of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the winner of December's election.

    Last week the rebels launched attacks on the capital's suburbs, but withdrew after an intervention by the UN peacekeeping force.

    The UN envoy has asked the Security Council for more troops.

    The fighting has forced nearly 60,000 people to flee the country.

    Read more:

  6. UK bans travel from Tanzania and DR Congo over Covid

    Athuman Mtulya

    BBC News, Dar es Salam

    Britain"s Transport Secretary Grant Shapp
    Image caption: Secretary Grant Shapps said the ban starts on Friday

    The UK has banned all arrivals from Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo from Friday to stop the spread of the South Africa variant of Covid-19, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

    "All passengers from these countries except British & Irish Nationals and third country nationals with residents rights will be denied entry," he said in a tweet.

    View more on twitter

    "We are continuing to monitor Covid-19 rates and new strains of the virus across the globe, this alongside the suspension of travel corridors and pre-departure testing will help protect our borders," he added.

    Only British, Irish nationals and third country nationals with residents rights will be exempted.

    Earlier this month passengers from 11 other Southern African countries were banned to enter UK for similar reasons.

    The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Thursday said the continent's Covid-19 death rate now stands at 2.5%, higher than the global average of 2.2%.

    It listed Democratic Republic of Congo among 21 African nations with a death rate above 3%.

    The authorities in Tanzania have downplayed the extent of the epidemic in the country and have not been releasing any data on infections or deaths.

    However, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the country’s strategy on Covid-19.

  7. Friday's wise words

    Our African proverb of the day:

    Quote Message: Don’t eat it all in the evening, because tomorrow asks questions." from A Bulu proverb sent by Sylvie in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
    A Bulu proverb sent by Sylvie in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
    A drawing of a plate of food

    Click here to send us your African proverbs.

  8. Video content

    Video caption: When her friends died in childbirth, a Nigerian woman hatched a plan to make a difference

    When her friends died in childbirth, a Nigerian woman hatched a plan to make a difference.

  9. Scroll down for Thursday's stories

    We'll be back on Friday

    That's all from the BBC Africa Live team for now. 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 our wise words of the day:

    Quote Message: Life is like a mud pot; handle with utmost care." from A Sudanese Arabic proverb sent by Omar Haiba in Nigeria
    A Sudanese Arabic proverb sent by Omar Haiba in Nigeria

    Click here to send us your African proverbs.

    And we leave you with this shot by photographer Siphiwe Sibeko of children playing football earlier on Thursday in Lehae, South Africa:

    Children playing football in Lehae, South Africa - 21 January 2021
  10. Somali refugee: 'Trump messed up our lives'

    Emmanuel Igunza

    BBC News, Nairobi

    The reversal of Donald Trump's travel bans by the new US president has been greeted with relief by many Somalis living in Kenya.

    Somalia was among the first of mainly Muslim countries hit by the ban in 2017 – affecting refugees who were hoping to go to the US

    Ali Mohammed, a Somali refugee living in Kenya for years after fleeing fighting in her homeland, hopes that the waiting will finally be over.

    Quote Message: I would like to appeal to President Joe Biden to fast track the resettlement process. We have been stuck here in the last five years. I have gone through the final interview in September 2016. Others have been waiting for resettlement since 2015.
    Quote Message: Some had to go back home with their bags from the holding area before their flights after the ban was announced. Trump has indeed messed up with our lives."

    President Biden has also proposed to Congress a landmark policy document that will provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who do not have legal status in the US.

  11. South Sudan army 'to probe oil town killings'

    Nichola Mandil


    South Sudan’s army has sent a team to investigate the killings of civilians in Paloch, a town close to many oil fields in Upper Nile State, local media reports.

    Seven people were shot dead as they slept in their homes by unidentified armed men, Number One Citizen Daily Newspaper said.

    Paloch is a busy town thanks to the oil industry and many foreign nationals also live there.

    Many blame the incident on the administrative vacuum in the Upper Nile, South Sudan’s largest oil-producing state.

    A power-sharing agreement - part of last year’s peace deal aimed at ending six years of civil war - means that the party of Vice-President Riek Machar gets to choose the governor for Upper Nile.

    But President Salva Kiir has refused to formerly appointment Mr Machar’s candidate Gen Johnson Olony Thabo, a former commander of the ethnic Shilluk militia.

    The president says Gen Olony is still a warmonger and unless he returns to the capital, Juba, and relinquishes violence, he will not be appointed.

  12. Bernie Sanders' mittens memes hit Africa

    Social media has been awash with memes of US Senator Bernie Sanders wearing his woollen mittens while attending the outdoor inauguration of President Joe Biden in the US capital, Washington DC.

    The grumpy-looking politician has been Photoshopped into new surroundings, including some in Africa.

    This tweet shows him sitting on the roadside with Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, on a matatu bus in East Africa as an attendant offers hand sanitiser to passengers, with Kenyan comedian Felix Odiwuor, AKA Jalang’o, on his Bonga Na Jalas YouTube show and taking a ride on a motorbike taxi:

    View more on twitter

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  13. Sierra Leone to 'impose Covid curfew and travel ban'

    Sierra Leone is to impose a nationwide curfew and restrict travel in and out of the capital, Freetown, the Reuters news agency quotes the government as saying.

    The restrictions are being imposed because of an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases after the holiday season.

    From Monday, people wanting to leave Freetown and its surrounding area must present a recent negative Covid-19 test and their movements will be monitored by an electronic pass system, Reuters reports.

    The night curfew will start at 22:00 until 05:00.

  14. EU mulls training Mozambique troops to fight militants

    Jose Tembe

    BBC News, Maputo

    The European Union may help train Mozambican troops to help step up the fight against Islamist militants.

    The announcement was made by Portugal’s Foreign Minister, Augusto Santos Silva, who is on a three-day visit to Mozambique representing the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell.

    After meeting President Filipe Nyusi, Mr Santos Silva said the president had been very clear in identifying the areas where increased security co-operation could immediately benefit Mozambique.

    Humanitarian assistance for the population of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, which has been under attack from militants since October 2017, driving an estimated 570,000 people from their home, was also mentioned.

    The Portuguese diplomat said EU support might also be extended to the Agency for the Integrated Development of the North, a recently established body intended to drive the development of all three northern provinces, namely Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula.

  15. Egyptians breaking FGM ban face 20-year jail term

    BBC World Service

    A knife used to when performing female genital mutilations
    Image caption: It is estimated one in 20 girls and women in the world have undergone some form of FGM

    The Egyptian cabinet has approved the toughening of a law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) by raising the maximum penalty to 20 years in prison.

    A survey in 2016 found that almost 90% of Egyptian women between 15 and 49 had undergone FGM, despite a ban that was imposed in 2008.

    Under the new amendments to the law, anyone requesting FGM would also face jail.

    The law still has to be passed by both parliament and the president.

    Women's rights groups say the ban has never been properly enforced.

    More on FGM:

  16. Nigerian boy's blasphemy jail term quashed

    Ishaq Khalid

    BBC News, Nigeria

    Sharia police in Kano, Nigeria - archive shot
    Image caption: Islamic courts have their own police force in Kano

    A secular appeals court in the northern Nigeria city of Kano has overruled an Islamic court that had sentenced a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in jail for blasphemy.

    There was an outcry in September after the Sharia court’s judgement, with the UN children’s agency and human rights campaigners calling for it to be quashed.

    One hundred-and-twenty volunteers, led by the director of the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland, had offered to serve part of the 10-year jail sentence.

    But on Thursday, the appeals court said the ruling could not stand as the child was a minor when he allegedly made the uncomplimentary remarks about God in an argument with his friends.

    It is not clear whether the Kano State authorities, which initially brought the case, will appeal.

    Kano is among around a dozen states in northern Nigeria that practise the Sharia legal system alongside the country’s secular laws.

    Only Muslims can be tried in the Sharia courts.

    The appeals court also ordered a retrial in another blasphemy case involving a singer sentenced to death by a Sharia court for using lyrics about Prophet Muhammad deemed to be blasphemous.

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