Landmark New Report Shows Use Of Contraception Growing Fastest In Africa, With 24% Of Women Of Reproductive Age Now Using Modern Methods

New analysis shows better family planning can break the cycle of poverty, drive new economic growth, and improve the health of a country’s citizens

A groundbreaking new report on family planning in the world’s 69 lowest-income countries released today shows use of contraception is growing fastest in Africa, with 24% of women of reproductive age now using modern methods. Across the 69 countries studied globally, more women and girls than ever before are making the voluntary choice to use contraception in their everyday lives.

More importantly, country governments are prioritizing family planning programs as an essential part of their development strategies.

  • In Eastern and Southern Africa, 63% of demand for modern contraception was met in 2018, up from 54% in 2012
  • In Central Africa: 27% of demand was met in 2018, up from 21% in 2012
  • In Western Africa: 38% of demand was met in 2018, up from 32% in 2012
  • More than 317 million women and girls are now choosing to use a modern method of contraception.
  • This is 46 million additional users than in 2012, the year FP2020 was launched, and is 30% higher than the historic trend.
  • Between July 2017 and July 2018, the use of modern contraception prevented more than:

The report also shows how better access to family planning can deliver a powerful ‘demographic dividend’ that can help transform economies, as birthrates drop and the ratio of adults to dependent children increases. With fewer dependents to support, a country can invest more in education, infrastructure, and other productivity-enhancing measures.

“Family planning empowers women, and empowered women are economic dynamos: joining the labor force, starting their own businesses, and investing in their communities. This sparks a ripple effect that generates vast benefits across society, driving productivity, prosperity, and sustainability,” Schlachter said.

Remarkably, if women were able to participate in the economy at the same level as men, it would add some US$28 trillion to global GDP by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

The report also reveals that after two years of declines, global donor funding for family planning is on the upswing, with a 6% increase since 2016. Bilateral donations in 2017 were led by the U.S. (US$488.7 million, representing 38% of total global bilateral funding), followed by the U.K. (US$282.4M, 22%), the Netherlands (US$197M, 16%) and Sweden (US$109.2M, 9%).

Among African countries, domestic government spending on family planning (2016) was led by Ethiopia (US$21M), Kenya (US$19M), and Zimbabwe (US$18.1M).

While progress on key family planning outcomes has been impressive in recent years, there remains far more work to do, and an increasingly important role for cross-sectoral collaboration. For example, today’s report shows innovative new partnerships with communities of faith where leaders in many parts of the world exert significant social influence, and discussions on sensitive cultural topics often take place.

The report is available in electronic format at [progress.familyplanning2020.org]. Country fact sheets with new data from the report, and other information, are available at www.familyplanning2020.org

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Family Planning 2020

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Burning Cameroon: Images you’re not meant to see

A man calmly sets fire to a house, watched by a group of at least 12 men dressed in fatigues, helmets, and black webbing consistent with those worn by an elite army unit in Cameroon.

“I want to die,” a village chief tells his tormentors as they beat and threaten to kill him. They appear to be members of a separatist militia.

Captured on video and shared widely on social media, these are among dozens of clips that have been pouring out of Cameroon over the last six months, some of which have been analysed by BBC Africa Eye.

Some of them show burning villages. Others record acts of torture and killing. Many are too graphic to show.

Though often confusing and hard to verify, these films show a nation sliding towards a brutal civil war as the government tries to suppress an armed insurgency in the English-speaking areas of western Cameroon.

The crisis in Anglophone Cameroon:

What’s happening in Cameroon?

‘I share my home with 28 refugees’

Footage recorded in late April this year shows a unit of at least 13 soldiers setting fire to a house in Azi, a village in Cameroon’s Anglophone South-West region.

BBC Africa Eye has confirmed the location by matching buildings to satellite imagery, and comparing the fire damage shown in a subsequent video from the same village.

These men appear to be members of the government’s security forces. Their fatigues, helmets and webbing are all consistent with those worn by Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite army unit that has been equipped and trained by the US and Israel.

A local resident also told the BBC that the troops who destroyed homes in Azi belonged to the BIR. But a government spokesperson says the men’s identity is unclear.

“They [the separatists] are able to acquire military uniforms of the Rapid Intervention Battalion or any other brigade of the defence forces in order to perpetrate their crime and blame our defence and security forces for it,” Cameroon’s Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said.

He told the BBC the incident was being investigated to “shed light on what exactly happened”.

Burnt to the ground

Amateur footage captured another attack on 29 April, this time on Munyenge, also in South-West region, showing the centre of the village ablaze.

The BBC has spoken to three residents of Munyenge who all say that the village was destroyed by government forces.

One man said that troops burned many houses, killed civilians and decapitated a body.

Satellite imagery from before and after this attack shows the extent of the destruction.

Interactive

Slide to see the destruction in the village of Munyenge

2 June 2018

Village of Munyenge, Cameroon

28 January 2018

Village of Munyenge, Cameroon

A few days later, in early May, a video posted to Facebook showed the nearby village of Kuke Mbomo after a raid allegedly by soldiers.

BBC Africa Eye examined the footage frame by frame and confirmed its location.

The video shows a man holding live ammunition and shouting to the camera: “These are for us, for civilians, to kill us!”

Anglophone activists say close to 70 villages in the South-West have been targeted over the past year – and that the violence is continuing.

Using satellite imagery, the BBC has identified at least four villages that have been extensively damaged by fire in recent months.

Interactive

Slide to see the destruction in the village of Bekora

3 June 2018

Village of Bekora, Cameroon

27 May 2018

Village of Bekora, Cameroon

Although we cannot confirm who is responsible for torching these villages, lawyer and activist Agbor Nkongho blames government forces.

Colonial roots

This is a conflict that has been building for decades.

The division between Cameroon’s French-speaking majority and its English-speaking minority has its roots in the colonial era.

Cameroon was colonised by Germany and then split into British and French areas after World War One.

After French-administered Cameroon gained independence in 1960, the two parts of the country formed a single nation the following year.

This followed a referendum, when British-run Southern Cameroons voted to join the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon in 1961, while Northern Cameroons voted to join English-speaking Nigeria.

Even then, some English-speakers felt they had been forced into the new republic.

Cameroon became a federation of two states – one English-speaking, the other French-speaking – under one president.

A decade later in 1972, another public vote saw Cameroon dropping its federal form to become a unitary state.

Ever since, many Anglophones have complained that their regions were being neglected and excluded from power.

Mobile phones banned for officers

These simmering tensions bubbled over into violence in 2016.

It started as a protest by lawyers and teachers demanding better provision for the use of English.

But tensions rose, leading to confrontation between the security forces, a 93-day blackout of internet services across Anglophone Cameroon, and separatist militants fighting for the breakaway state of “Ambazonia”.

Since then, there have been reports of atrocities on all sides – kidnappings, extra-judicial killings and the burning of villages.

Amnesty International says that English-speaking Cameroon is now gripped in a “deadly cycle of violence”.

The rights group alleges the government crackdown and unrest has gradually turned into an armed conflict, leaving the general population at the whim of two opposing forces.

The government has taken some steps to address the issue of language, which sparked the crisis, setting up the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism last year.

The communications minister also says incidents of alleged tortured are being investigated after a video, recorded in May 2018, appears to show military police officers abusing a separatist commander. BBC analysis places the footage outside the military police post in the village of Nkongle.

“If a soldier or soldiers were to be found guilty of such behaviour, I am telling you that they would be court-martialled immediately,” Mr Bakary said.

Schools torched by rebels

It is not just the government accused of committing abuses. Separatist rebels have also killed Cameroonian security forces and attacked civilians accused of working with the government.

The rebels have also attacked and burnt down schools – according to Amnesty at least 42 schools were attacked by armed separatists between February 2017 and May 2018.

Anglophone activists called for a complete school boycott last year to exert further pressure on the authorities. Amnesty has images of a teacher who was shot for keeping his school open.

A new video shows a village chief being beaten, apparently by a rebel who threatens to kill him.

The government says that 81 members of the security forces and more than 100 civilians have been killed by separatists in the past year.

No official figures are available for civilian and separatists’ deaths at the hands of the security forces.

Prime Minister Philémon Yang has accused Cameroonians living overseas of using social media to “spread hate speech and terror” and “order murders”.

More from BBC Africa Eye:

This week, the gendarmerie – Cameroon’s military police force – banned officers from using mobile phones or social networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter without permission.

Aid agencies’ efforts to assist civilians have been frustrated by the struggle to access conflict areas.

As Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis continues, both the UK and France have discreetly pressed for dialogue.

The US Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Barlerin, has taken a harder stance. He recently accused the army of burning and looting villages and also suggested that after 35 years in power, President Paul Biya might want to consider stepping down.

Cameroon faces increasing international scrutiny in its approach to the crisis, with general elections scheduled for October 2018.

Thousands of families have been forced from their homes by the fighting.

While 21,000 people have fled across the border into Nigeria, the UN estimates that a further 160,000 are displaced within Cameroon.

Many others are still hiding in the forest.

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Would a legal market deter poachers?

It’s now legal to trade rhino horn in South Africa after the highest court in the land lifted an eight year ban on a technicality.

The domestic sale of rhino horn will be allowed to resume, but only with a permit and only within the country’s borders.

There’s not traditionally been much demand for rhino horn in South Africa, so there a question mark over just how much of an impact the ruling will have.

The biggest market for rhino horn is Asia, and an international treaty still prevents its export and sale to many countries.

But some big conservation organisations, such as the WWF, believe it will encourage the illegal trade, which causes the poaching of more than a thousand South African rhinos a year.

To trade or not to trade?

The Private Rhino Owners’ Association, which backed the court challenge against the 2009 moratorium on the rhino horn trade, is delighted and believes it will help conserve the protected species.

To trade or not to trade? – be it rhino horn or ivory – is one of the big questions which divides the world’s conservationists and wildlife protection groups.

And it’s complicated.

“We as the private sector bought and own a third of the national rhino herd – more than 6,500 black and white rhinos,” said Pelham Jones from the Private Rhino Owners’ Association.

“We have a huge vested interest in their conservation and have spent billions of rand protecting and managing our herd – ‘sustainable utilisation’ is in the constitution,” he said.

And what he means is private owners want to remove and sell rhino horn to fund their conservation – and also to make profit.

Painless process

The world’s largest owner of rhinos is John Hume, who regularly ‘harvests’ rhino horn – cutting them off and storing them.

It’s a painless process and the horns do grow back.

He has around 1,400 rhinos on his ranch in South Africa and a stockpile of perhaps five tonnes of horn.

At a market price of $90-100,000 a kilogramme he is sitting on a fortune – if he can get his produce to market – to Asia, where it is used as a medicine and to make cups and jewellery.

But even with the lifting of a ban on domestic trade, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) prevents its sale abroad.

“We will set up our own central selling organisation,” said Pelham Jones, who believes commodities speculators will buy rhino horn in South Africa, and that so-called ‘blood horns’ – illegally poached horns – won’t enter the market.

“There are a lot of unknowns here, but everything else that has been tried to prevent poaching has failed.”

‘Blood horns’

But those opposing the trade say it will muddy the waters when trying to stop the illegal trafficking of rhino horn.

“We are concerned by the court’s decision,” said Dr Jo Shaw, manager of WWF South Africa’s rhino programme.

“Law enforcement officials simply do not have the capacity to manage parallel legal domestic trade on top of current levels of illegal poaching and trafficking,” she said.

“We worry about the resultant impacts of the laundering of so-called ‘blood horns’ upon our wild rhino populations.”

Dr Shaw accepted the value to conservation of captive breeding, and that new sources of income were needed to protect the species, but said opening up trade was too great a risk to their dwindling numbers.

The South African government placed a moratorium on rhino horn trade in 2009 after evidence showed the legal domestic trade was leaking into the illegal international market.

But by not consulting widely enough on the issue with interested parties, it left itself open to the legal challenge which the Constitutional Court has just upheld.

The Minister for Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, said trade would not be allowed without government approval.

‘It’s going to be heading for Asia’

Those selling rhino horn – and those buying – will both require permits which can be audited at a later stage to ensure the horns have not been sold on.

Draft legislation from the South African government suggested some limited export of rhino horn might be allowed for “personal use” – two horns per person, per year.

But Esmond Bradley-Martin who has researched the price of ivory and rhino horn for decades, said he feared the lifting of the ban could increase corruption and the power of the cartels.

“I can’t see this working in the future without improved law enforcement – there is almost no demand in South Africa, so it is going to be heading to Asia,” he said.

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Uganda school ‘arson’ kills 10 students

An alleged arson attack on a boys’ boarding school dormitory in southern Uganda has left at least 10 people dead and dozens more injured.

Reports suggest the fire began early on Monday morning at a block that housed dozens of students from St Bernard Secondary School in Rakai.

Officials have said the dormitory’s doors were padlocked, trapping dozens inside.

Henry Nsubuga, the school’s headmaster, described the fire as a “heinous act”.

Ben Nuwamanya, a local police commander, told the AFP news agency that three people, including a school guard, had been arrested by police for questioning.

He also confirmed that 20 other students were in hospital in a critical condition, with officials warning the death toll may rise.

Police spokesman Patrick Onyango told Reuters that the authorities were investigating whether expelled former students were involved in the alleged arson.

Gerald Karasira, a local councillor, said people living nearby desperately tried to put the fire out using sand, water and bricks but rescue efforts were complicated by the locked doors and heavy smoke inside the property.

“Had the firefighting truck been near within the district, maybe we would have saved lives and property,” he is quoted as saying by New Vision newspaper.

The Rakai district where the school is located is about 280km (170 miles) south of the Uganda’s capital Kampala, near the country’s border with Tanzania.

A number of senior government officials, including the education and security ministers, have travelled to the school in the aftermath of the blaze.

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Africa Code Week Drives Inclusive Education With Coding Workshops For Hearing-impaired Children In Mozambique

Is coding a universal language that can bridge not only the gender and income gaps but enable also inclusive access to 21st century education? For the passionate team of Africa Code Week ambassadors in Mozambique, the answer is a resounding yes. “Coding is a language that everyone can – and should – speak in order to be active participants in the global digital economy,” says Sonia Santos, local coordinator for Africa Code Week. “With the support of our public and private sector partners, Africa Code Week is delivering on its vision of a 21st century inclusive education by reaching Mozambique’s hearing-impaired community for the first time.”

With more than 1.8 million young Africans already introduced to coding skills over the past three years, Africa Code Week has made a lasting contribution to the continent, enabling free access to thousands of digital skills development workshops while building teaching capacity in ICT education through the training of over 28,000 teachers and community members so far.

Africa Code Week’s coding workshops for hearing-impaired children in Mozambique are part of SAP’s broader commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 4, which aims to ensure quality and inclusive education for all. The programme also gives credence to SDG goal 17 through sustainable partnerships with its Africa -wide partnership network. According to Santos, the response to their first foray into providing inclusive coding workshops for local deaf communities was overwhelmingly positive. “Earlier in October, we held hugely successful Master Trainer sessions in Maputo where 24 teachers from several special needs local schools were trained in coding skills. These teachers then led the coding workshops with support from volunteers in Maputo, where a total of 105 hearing-impaired students participated over two days.”

Mozambique has an estimated 305 000 deaf people. However, due to a lack of adequate support structures and on-going stigma, many are unable to access formal education or work opportunities. “Mozambique only has three schools dedicated to teaching deaf children, which leaves most of the community without exposure to digital skills development opportunities. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace, those without such skills are at risk of being left behind. It is our goal to empower Africa’s youth with the skills they need to thrive in the global digital economy in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” Santos continues.

A private sector partnership with Mapal, a German industrial manufacturing firm, resulted in a sponsorship of the Train-the-Trainer session that was held at the Institute of Vocational Training in Vilankulo. “With the generous support of our private sector partners, we trained 20 teachers who in turn inspired 200 youth as part of this year’s ACW.”

Partnership with government extends ACW reach

She adds that government support for this year’s Africa Code Week activities has been hugely encouraging. “We have partnered with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Higher and Vocational Professional Education that has delegations (CPRDs) in each of our provinces with access to computers in regions where many children had never touched or worked on a PC before. With the support of the National Institute of Electronical Governance, we have also trained 345 teachers as part of this year’s Train-the-Trainer activities, focusing on parts of the country where digital literacy is lagging.”

According to Sunil Geness, Project Lead for Africa Code Week at SAP Africa, the in-country support and participation of government and NGOs is one of the cornerstones of Africa Code Week’s sustainable impact across the continent. “In addition to the support from key partners UNESCO YouthMobile, Google and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Africa Code Week is actively driven by more than 15 African governments and in excess of 150 partner organisations across 36 countries. We believe this shared-value approach holds the key to achieving our vision of building community capacity in ICT education across the continent and equipping youth with the skills and abilities that will drive their – and Africa’s – success in the 21st century.”

To find out when your country’s Africa Code Week activities are taking place, please visit africacodeweek.org or follow @AfricaCodeWeek on Twitter. For more information about SAP Africa, visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @sapnews and @sap4good.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of SAP Africa

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How big a problem is fake news in Africa?

People’s emotions trump reason when it comes to sharing news, the BBC’s in-depth research project Beyond Fake News has found. The spread of fake news can also undermine legitimate news because it erodes trust.

By analysing fake news messages on private networks like WhatsApp and Facebook, and surveying people in Nigeria, Kenya and India, researchers have pinpointed the motivations, anxieties and aspirations that drive it.

The study also help us understand the relationship between fake news and mainstream politics on digital networks.

Why does fake news matter?

Why are people fooled by fake news?

Many overestimate their ability to spot fake news, the BBC found when speaking to social media users in Nigeria and Kenya.

Although many people understand the consequences of sharing fake news, that is often only on a conceptual level. Researchers found that the link between disinformation and things like electoral manipulation and democracy is too abstract for users to grasp.

Emotions trump reason when it comes to sharing news, the team found. “After watching the news I was touched, so I had to post it,” said one interviewee in Nigeria.

Nigeria and Kenya have lower levels of digital literacy say researchers, especially in rural areas, where Facebook may be seen as synonymous with the internet and there all things on it may be seen as “true”.

But Nigerians and Kenyans do better than Indians when it comes to checking for themselves if a dubious story is true, which they do through search engines like Google or verifying with others in their network, among other things.

Some fake news is harder to identify than other kinds.

While users show a fair amount of scrutiny on political updates especially in Nigeria, they are less stringent if a news story positively affirms an aspect of their identity. That could be a story on ethic identity in Kenya for example, or an issue relating to geopolitics such as Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.

But young people are less focused on ethnic and religious allegiances than the generations before them, and so are less likely to be driven by these identities when sharing fake news.

Why else do people share fake news?

Often they care more about who the sender is than the source. They might trust that a story is true because the sender is someone they trust to share worthy news, as opposed to a “pointless spammer”.

Sharing news is socially validating too. Being the first to share a story in your group of friends, showing others you are in the know and provoking discussion make social media users feel good. Sometimes people will rush to share information not knowing if it is true.

Reading is hard, but sharing is easy. Researchers found most people do not consume their online news in-depth or critically, and many users will share stories based on a headline or image without having digested it in detail themselves.

For some, it is a civic duty. They will share information, regardless of its veracity, because they want to warn and update others. “Maybe there is a person who didn’t know about it, and [I share the story] to avoid something like this happening to my friend, ” one of dozens of people surveyed in Kenya told the BBC.

This story is part of a series by the BBC on disinformation and fake news – a global problem challenging the way we share information and perceive the world around us.

To see more stories and learn more about the series visit www.bbc.co.uk/fakenews

These users often strongly believe that access to information is stifled or unequal, and want to do their part to democratise it.

Other people choose to read known fake news sources simply because they find it entertaining. “[Even] though it ain’t real, I just like the gossip,” explained one of the Kenyan readers surveyed, Florence.

How can I spot fake news?

If you are unsure if a story is true, fact-checking website Africa Check is a good place to start.

Africa Check and others are working on creating data banks for people to source accurate data. But timeliness and speed in checking fake news or misinformation can be a challenge.

Remember that comments sections on mainstream media and Facebook cannot always be trusted, because it is a place where fake news is debated and amplified. Money and jobs scams are commonly found there, say researchers who analysed posts in African users’ networks.

As things stand, many users say they end up relying on their instinct as to whether a story “feels” true, and whether they can find it reported by other sources.

“I look at the headlines. If it’s too flashy then it’s probably fake,” a woman in Kenya called Mary told the BBC.

“Whenever I read something on the blog I double-check it, whichever blog I am reading something on I Google search it, I want to read two articles,” said Chijioke in Nigeria.

But these two methods are far from foolproof.

The researchers used two examples to illustrate the origin and spread of fake news:

Verifying information can be difficult, which African fact-checkers say is because of the lack of reliable, accurate and independent data across a lot of sectors – which means manipulation of information is easier.

What fake news did the investigation find?

National anxieties and aspirations are often reflected in fake news messages.

In Nigeria where almost 19% of people are jobless, employment scams make up 6.2% of fake news stories shared in WhatsApp.

Roughly 3% of fake news circulated on WhatsApp concerns terrorism and the army, mirroring Nigerians’ anxieties about instability and uncertainty caused by Islamist militants among other things.

Scams related to money and technology contribute to about a third of the fake news stories shared in Kenyans’ WhatsApp conversations. Religion accounts for roughly 8%, researchers found.

Facebook users frequently fail to distinguish between fake news content and legitimate news on their feeds, the BBC team found by analysing Facebook advertising data by users’ interests.

How organised is the spread of misinformation on private and public networks?

Finding the answer to this question is the ultimate aim of BBC’s Beyond Fake News project.

So far it has used big data to analyse 8,000 news articles in Kenya and Nigeria, analysed 3,000 Facebook pages and interests, conducted in-depth interviews with 40 individuals in both countries, and analysed a sample of more than 2,000 messages.

Kenyan and Nigerian social media users told the BBC they believe sensationalist and fake stories are being written on digital platforms purely to make money.

Sensationalist headlines used by parts of the mainstream journalistic sources, and the rush to publish without verification, are further blurring the lines between legitimate journalism and out-and-out misinformation.

Television news, however, is seen as harder to fake because it is not “faceless” and involves sophisticated production methods.

This story is part of a series by the BBC on disinformation and fake news – a global problem challenging the way we share information and perceive the world around us.

To see more stories and learn more about the series visit www.bbc.co.uk/fakenews

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A year in fake news in Africa

The spread of fake news in Africa has been blamed for igniting ethnic violence, sowing confusion among voters and even causing currency fluctuations. As the BBC launches major new research into fake news in Africa, we break down five false stories that made a big impact on the continent in the past 12 months.

1. Nigerian presidential candidate ‘endorsed by gay rights groups’

What was the story?

When Atiku Abubakar was confirmed as a presidential candidate for the Nigerian elections in 2019, a fake Twitter account in the name of the opposition leader posted a message thanking the “Association of Nigerian Gay Men (ANGAM)” for its support.

In the post, “Mr Abubakar” writes that the first thing he would do if he were to become president would be to scrap the country’s controversial anti-gay legislation, signed into law by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

Homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Nigeria, while gay marriage and displays of same-sex affection are also banned.

What impact did it have?

After originally being shared on Twitter on 14 October, the story was picked up by two Nigerian blogs. Then 12 days later, two prominent Nigerian newspapers, The Nation and the Vanguard, both published stories with a very similar theme.

They reported that an LGBT organisation called “Diverse” was also backing Mr Abubakar for president, considering him a truly “liberal candidate”.

A fake news story about a presidential candidate advocating for gay rights could be used to undermine them. Highly influential Muslim and Christian leaders in Nigeria, who were united in their support for the anti-gay legislation, could tell their followers not to vote for such a candidate.

How do we know the story was fake?

The Twitter account which was the source of the original story is not an official account for the politician Atiku Abubakar. This is his real account, verified with a blue tick by Twitter.

There is also no evidence that the LGBT rights organisations quoted in the initial tweet, or the subsequent blogposts and newspaper articles, even exist. There are no official records of the organisations themselves, which would be illegal under Nigerian law anyway.

And neither they nor their purported spokesperson (Spinky Victor Lee) existed online before the emergence of the first tweet in October, as detailed in this fact-check by the Agence France Press (AFP) news agency.

2. Top Kenya media personality shares fake praise

What was the story?

CNN business presenter Richard Quest was in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in October filming for his TV show.

Former news anchor and media personality Julie Gichuru posted on her Twitter account on 25 October to discuss how much Mr Quest was apparently enjoying his time in Kenya.

She posted the following quote, attributing it to Mr Quest.

“Nothing beats the service industry in Kenya… Here I am surrounded by giraffes while having breakfast! In a country declared by the World Bank as the Preferred Investment Destination in Africa, what else can I ask for? KENYA IS MAGICAL!”

What impact did it have?

Julie has over a million followers on her verified Twitter account and 600,000 on Instagram, so within minutes thousands of people had seen what she had posted and believed it to be true.

Many poked fun at her for falling for a hoax given her high profile and her long career in the media industry.

How do we know the story was fake?

The CNN journalist came across Julie’s tweet and was quick to point out that he hadn’t made any such statement. He replied to her original post.

Ms Gichuru then had to go on Twitter to set the record straight to her followers, issuing a retraction and deleting her initial tweet.

3. Somalis ‘pushed into shallow grave’ in Ethiopia

What was the story?

In July, the US-based Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) station broadcast a video which it said showed ethnic Oromos in Ethiopia pushing the bodies of ethnic Somalis into a shallow grave.

It claimed that the footage was taken in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, where there has been deadly violence between the two groups this year.

What impact did it have?

The BBC’s Afaan Oromo language service reported that the broadcast and subsequent widespread circulation of the video on social media in Ethiopia resulted in deadly attacks on ethnic Oromo people living in neighbouring Djibouti and Somalia.

Oromo refugees in neigbouring Djibouti told the BBC that they had been beaten and their shops looted after the video was aired there.

How do we know it was fake?

After an uproar on social media with many questioning its authenticity, ESAT admitted that the video was not real and described it as “deliberately misleading” in an official apology on its YouTube channel.

The same unverified video had been widely shared in June on social media in relation to the current conflict between Anglophone separatists and the government in Cameroon, some 3,000km (1,800 miles) west of Ethiopia.

The video aired on ESAT TV had apparently also been doctored, with audio of what were supposedly Oromo youths chanting inserted on top of the video’s original sound.

4. South African President Jacob Zuma’s “resignation”

What was the story?

On 12 February, a correspondent for South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC reported that then-President Jacob Zuma had agreed to resign.

Citing “authoritative sources”, Tshepo Ikaneng broke the story during a live report outside a high-level meeting of members from the ruling African National Congress (ANC), who were discussing his future.

Another South African journalist uploaded the announcement on Twitter.

Mr Zuma had been under immense pressure over multiple corruption scandals and had faced repeated calls from his party to step down.

The country was waiting on news of his possible resignation.

What impact did it have?

The South African rand, which had gained about 1% on the expectation that Mr Zuma would resign on 12 February, gave up some of its gains after the spokesman dismissed the SABC report.

Do we know it was fake?

Mr Zuma’s spokesperson came out to deny the reports, saying they were “fake news”.

But three days later, Mr Zuma resigned – this time for real.

5. Tanzanian leader ‘backs polygamy to end prostitution’

What was the story?

An article claiming Tanzanian President John Magufuli had told men to marry more than one wife as a way to end prostitution went viral.

It said that the president had addressed a “conference of about 14,000 men” telling them that “out of approximately 70 million Tanzanians, 40 million are women and only 30 million are men.”

This scarcity of men was leading to an increase in prostitution and adultery among women, the article claimed the president had said.

What impact did it have?

The initial story published in the English language Zambia Observer website in February 2018 didn’t create much of a stir.

But it was only when it was published in Swahili, the national language of Tanzania, on a website called nipasheonline.com that the story really started to gain momentum.

From there it was posted on the popular JamiiForums website, where it became a hot topic of discussion and spread to other news websites in Kenya, Zambia, South Africa and Ghana.

How do we know it was fake?

Tanzania’s official government spokesperson condemned the story on Twitter in Swahili, saying the president never uttered such remarks and people should ignore them.

A fact-check by BBC Swahili exposed further reasons we know the article was untrue.

In the fake article, “Mr Magufuli” refers to a population of 70 million, with 10 million more women than men.

But the latest UN estimates put the total population of Tanzania at just under 60 million, with no substantial gender disparity.

The website where the fake article was posted may also have sounded familiar to readers of the prominent Tanzanian newspaper Nipashe.

But it has no connection to the real website for that newspaper, whose official home on the web is https://www.ippmedia.com/sw/nipashe.

This story is part of a series by the BBC on disinformation and fake news – a global problem challenging the way we share information and perceive the world around us.

To see more stories and learn more about the series visit www.bbc.co.uk/fakenews

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At least 10 stowaways dead as DR Congo train derails

BUKAVU, DR CONGO (AFP) – At least 10 stowaways were killed and 24 were injured when a freight train derailed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said Sunday (Nov 11).

Rehema Omari, stationmaster in the town of Samba near where the accident occurred on Friday, said the toll was provisional.

“The brakes gave way when the train was going at top speed,” she told AFP, adding that the driver had fled.

A migration service official said however that he saw “at least 30 mangled bodies and others under the cars” of the train.

State rail company SNCC’s director general for Lubumbashi, Ilunga Ilunkamba, said experts were on the scene to determine the final toll and investigate the causes of the accident.

SNCC is headquartered in Lubumbashi, the DR Congo’s mining capital, where the train had been headed from the central city of Kindu when it derailed near Samba some 280 kilometres to the south, Omari said.

Rail accidents in the sprawling former Belgian colony are frequent and often deadly because of decrepit track and ageing locomotives dating from the 1960s.

In November 2017, 35 people, many of them clandestine passengers, were killed when a freight train carrying 13 oil tankers plunged into a ravine in southern Lualaba province.

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Bobi Wine: The pop star seeking ‘people power’

“When our leaders have become misleaders and mentors have become tormentors. When freedom of expression becomes the target of oppression, opposition becomes our position.”

The lyrics are from a song titled Situka, which means “Rise up” in Luganda, sung by Ugandan musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine ahead of the 2016 general elections.

The Afrobeats artist was using the song to exhort Ugandans to play an active role in fighting corruption and injustice in their country.

End of Youtube post by counsellor Williams

At the time many of the country’s famous musicians backed President Yoweri Museveni’s re-election but Bobi Wine however refused to hop on the bandwagon.

It was then that some suspected that he wanted to play an active role in politics – a change of career which has now led to him being charged with treason and allegedly tortured by the military, which the authorities deny.

‘Ghetto president’

The Afrobeats star, who began his music career in the early 2000s, has always described his craft as “edutainment” – entertainment that educates. One of his earliest hits, Kadingo, is a song about personal hygiene.

Bobi Wine, whose official name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was elected to parliament as an independent in a by-election last year in Kyadondo East, central Uganda.

The 36-year-old beat candidates from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

The self-declared “ghetto president” told the BBC after his win that he represented a new generation: “I am going to stand up for issues. I’m here to give young people confidence,” he said.

The moniker came about after he continued recording music, despite his fame, in his poor neighbourhood in Kamwokya, in central Kampala where he grew up, the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire says.

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Social media tax

In July, Bobi Wine locked arms with activists and marched on the streets of the capital, Kampala, to protest against a social media tax introduced ostensibly to boost state revenue and to end what Mr Museveni called “gossip” on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

Critics, however, said the 200 Uganda shillings [$0.05, £0.04] daily tax was meant to suppress dissenting voices.

The government has since backtracked and said it will review the tax.

Bobi Wine was also a leading critic of the NRM’s push to scrap the constitutional upper age limit, set at 75, for presidential candidates.

He was among several opposition lawmakers who frustrated numerous debates in parliament to resist the change.

At one point scuffles broke out in parliament during the debate:

The opposition was however overwhelmed by lawmakers from the ruling party who managed to pass the bill that will allow Mr Museveni, 74, to run for a sixth term in 2021. He has been in power since 1986.

“He lost touch with the people [and] the values that he stood for. He came preaching fundamental change but right now he stands for no change,” Bobi Wine told the BBC.

‘People power’

Political analyst Nicholas Sengoba says the 14 August by-election in the north-western town of Arua, which was won by a candidate backed by Bobi Wine, was “do or die for Museveni”.

It was during the campaign for this by-election that he was arrested and then allegedly assaulted.

He, and more than 30 others, were accused of throwing stones at the presidential convoy, accusations they deny.

“Bobi Wine has now beaten Museveni and Besigye four times,” in local elections, says Mr Sengoba. “His party would be wondering if this is now a trend.

“Bobi has rallied his support to the slogan ‘people power’, and he aims to galvanise and organise it into a movement,” he adds.

Political analyst Robert Kirunda says Bobi Wine’s appeal comes from a “leadership vacuum” in Uganda.

“There are many young people who are not interested in the historical struggle that brought NRM to power, nor with the radical defiance of the main opposition, [Kizza Besigye’s FDC]. Most of them want jobs and they feel the economy is not working for them.”

According to arts journalist and blogger Moses Serugo, Bobi Wine’s oratory skills and his alignment to people who live in the “ghetto”, mostly the youth, have allowed him to appeal to them.

He says Bobi Wine’s career as an actor, not a singer, is what has helped him become such an influential politician.

‘Baptism’

Mr Kirunda says Bobi Wine’s recent legal troubles and the alleged assault have actually raised his profile.

“The nature of his experience and the severity of his treatment has changed Uganda’s political trajectory forever.”

“No politician has upset the political scene and got Museveni reacting they way he has,” he adds.

Public pressure and protests have pushed President Museveni to deny that Bobi Wine was brutally beaten. He dismissed the reports as “fake news”.

“No Ugandan has gathered so much international attention like Bobi Wine has. He was everywhere, New York Times, Washington Post, BBC,” Mr Kirunda says.

Mr Kirunda adds that Bobi Wine has also upended opposition politics.

Just like long-time opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, Bobi Wine had now experienced what Mr Kirunda calls “the power of the state machinery”.

“The Bobi Wine who was arrested and detained is not the same one that was released.” He says that the politician has now undergone “his baptism”.

Mr Kirunda says that the challenge for the pop star politician now is how he deals with the expectations of his mostly young supporters.

“The weight has now fallen on his shoulder, his supporters will be watching”.

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Why does al-Shabab target hotels?

On 1 November, al-Shabab militants attacked a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing 15 people. It was the latest in a series of attacks on hotels by the Islamist group. The BBC’s Mary Harper explains why hotels are so important to doing business in the Somali capital and how al-Shabab targets them.

New Year’s Day in Mogadishu was drawing to a close. I was having supper with friends when an enormous blast thundered through the night air.

This was not the usual “Mogadishu music” – as the locals call it – of grenade explosions and gunfire. Everybody, including the senior military advisers, who were eating at a table next to mine, looked frightened.

After the first shock, people got on their phones. “It’s the Jazeera Palace Hotel,” said a friend who looks after my security when I’m in town and has contacts all over the city.

Some of us ran up on to the roof, and there, just a few hundred metres away, were flames shooting out into the darkness, the remains of a suicide vehicle, which had been driven at high speed towards the thick, high perimeter wall of the hotel.

Ambulances and military vehicles raced down the street, lights flashing, sirens screaming. Shortly after they arrived at the Jazeera Palace, there was another massive explosion.

Like many other insurgent groups, al-Shabab often conducts double suicide attacks, waiting for the emergency services and onlookers to gather at the scene before sending in another vehicle to ensure maximum casualties.

Then it sends in the foot soldiers, to occupy the building, usually until all of them are killed by the security forces, and sent, they believe, on their way to Jannah (paradise) as martyrs.

About 10 minutes after the second blast, a senior Somali security official and his entourage entered the place where I was. He had been the target of the attack.

We collected plastic chairs and put them out in a circle in the courtyard. The men sat there in stunned silence. At least 10 people had been blown up at the hotel, including members of their team.

Fortresses

General Abdikarim Dhagabadan was not so lucky. Last week, he and at least 14 others were killed in an al-Shabab attack on another high-end hotel, the Sahafi.

A militant contacted me by phone while the siege, which lasted for several hours, was still going on.

“We have been after the apostate general since August 2011 because he commanded the operation that forced us out of Mogadishu. We consider as legitimate targets five, six or seven hotels in the capital, I forget the exact number. They know who they are because they provide lodging for members of the apostate government, certain members of the diaspora, foreigners and other infidels.”

Some Mogadishu hotels are like fortresses, with high surrounding walls, two sets of giant metal gates, private security and scanners. This is to try to protect government officials and other al-Shabab targets, who often live there for years.

Hotels have long been a central part of Somalis’ urban culture, wherever they are in the world, as so many of them move around a lot, in the same way the traditional Somali nomads do.

Al-Shabab has a highly sophisticated intelligence network, so it knows who is in which hotel and when. Security officials say the militants usually have sympathisers working inside the hotels, who can inform on key details such as which room a particular individual is staying in. When Central Hotel was attacked on 20 February this year, one of the suicide bombers was Luul Dahir, who worked at the reception.

Who are al-Shabab?

The people of Mogadishu refuse to give in, despite the regular attacks on hotels and other targets associated with the government, African Union troops, the United Nations and others.

Every time I have been in the city at the time of a big attack, I am astonished at how quickly the damage is cleared.

I visited the site of an attack on a UN convoy near the airport in December 2014.

Even though it was only about an hour after the blast, the road had been cleared, the carcasses of vehicles moved to one side. Women in masks were hosing down the street, but only after Western men in camouflage and dark glasses had sifted through the wreckage, collecting evidence in plastic bags.

Suicide attacks have generated business for Somalis. Some move in quickly after a car bombing, trying to retrieve any surviving spare parts and other scraps before the security forces shoo them away.

Al-Shabab hotel attacks in Mogadishu

12 September 2012: A suicide attack at the gates of the Jazeera Palace Hotel targets new President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The president is unharmed but at least seven people are killed

1 January 2014: Two car bombs explode outside the Jazeera Palace, killing at least 10 people

20 February 2015: Some 20 people, including an MP and Mogadishu’s deputy mayor, are killed after the Central Hotel is hit by a car bomb and a suicide attack and gunmen storm the hotel mosque and open fire during Friday prayers

26 July 2015: A lorry is used to carry out a huge bomb explosion at the Jazeera Palace Hotel, killing at least 13 people

22 August 2015: At least five people are killed in a suicide car bomb attack near the Juba Hotel

1 November 2015: Gunmen use two car bombs to blast their way into the Sahafi Hotel compound before storming the building, killing at least 15 people including one MP and the general who led the 2011 offensive that drove al-Shabab out of Mogadishu

On the day after the 1 January 2014 attack on the Jazeera Palace Hotel, I went to pick up a friend who lives there so we could go for a swim in the warm blue of the Indian Ocean.

Electricians were busy on the street outside, repairing electrical wires that had been brought down by the blasts. The hotel’s many shattered windows had been boarded up and painted white. A waiter showed me around the dining area, which he said had taken the force of the blast.

Everything was tidy, if battered, and people were sitting there drinking Somali tea and fresh watermelon juice, and eating large servings of meat and pasta.

My friend showed me the reception desk, which he and many others had hidden behind during the attack. He couldn’t hear me properly as his ears were still ringing from the blast.

And even though one of the Jazeera Palace’s walls was partially brought down in a huge al-Shabab truck bombing this July – the third time the militants have attacked the hotel – he’s still living there.

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