African press review 15 August 2014

We begin with race against time being run in Nigeria to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus which has killed four people and infected close to a dozen others.


The Punch says Nigeria will have to tackle the Ebola challenge without 16000 of its resident medical doctors, sacked by the Federal Government on Wednesday for refusing to end a crippling strike while the country was facing a national health emergency.

The Nigerian Tribune reports that the public service medics had been on an indefinite strike since July 1 demanding pay increases among other reforms. According to the paper, the government noted in a statement it was quite regrettable that the people who should take leadership role in the fight against Ebola are now the most unsupportive.

South Africa’s Daily News publication is most preoccupied by the risks of an outbreak in the country’s economic capital Lagos which has a population of 21 million. It reports that this is where Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer collapsed and died of the hemorrhagic fever. Sawyer had contact with dozens of people before the cause of his illness was diagnosed and now Lagos has 10 cases of Ebola. Lagos, according to Daily News is a potentially ideal place for the deadly virus to spread – a vast, dirty, overcrowded city where tracing carriers and their contacts is a major problem. With Ebola spread through the bodily fluids of an infected person, including sweat, sex workers in the gruelling metropolis say they've been particularly badly hit, some saying it is worse than HIV/AIDS. You can prevent HIV by using condoms but you can't do the same with Ebola said a 23 year-old sex worker.

Nigerian epidemiologist Chikwe Ihekweazu, who runs the website Nigeria Health Watch and worked on Ebola in South Sudan a decade ago, says the outbreak caught authorities in the city unprepared. Furthermore he says, on top of dealing with a possible epidemic, they will have to overcome superstition and public ignorance about Ebola. It’s reported that the authorities in Lagos state have forced a Nigerian Pastor to take down a Facebook posting in which he said that US preacher John G Lake once cured Ebola victims “with bare hands”. Lake died in 1935, four decades before Ebola was discovered.

“Prophet” TB Joshua, who draws tens of thousands of people from all over West Africa, lured by claims his divine healing powers can cure ailments such as HIV/AIDS is becoming a cause for concern to the Nigerian government according to the press. Joshua was due to hold a convention last weekend, prompting fears of Ebola victims showing up seeking miracles, but after visit by a Lagos state delegation, he called off the gathering and urged followers from Ebola-hit countries to stay away.

In Kenya, the press is buzzing about the resignation of Intelligence chief Major-General Michael Gichangi Thursday evening in a shake-up of the security docket. According to Daily Nation, the spy chief’s departure and the first ever shuffle of principal secretaries in the Jubilee government was announced along with the appointment of some of the President’s political allies as ambassadors. Also removed is Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo, who swaps places with his Defence counterpart, Ambassador Monica Juma.

Late South Africa’s late icon Nelson Mandela continues to fuel a passionate debate in his country eight months after his passing. The latest issue is a charge by a researcher that the former President is being misrepresented in South African history text books as a mega myth”, “messiah” and saviour which he never was. Adrian van Niekerk, dared attack what could jolly well be a taboo at the 2014 conference of the South African Education Research Association in Durban Thursday, according to the Mail & Guardian. It reports that Mandela’s legacy was the topic of a Master's degree thesis Niekerk defended at the University of KwaZulu Natal in April.Van Niekerk told the Mail & Guardian that after a study of several popular textbooks he found out that all criticisms of Mandela, all his flaws which made him human have been silenced.

The key points he raised include Mandela’s “unilateral decision to enter negotiations with the apartheid government, the “poor” response of Mandela’s government to AIDS as well as his connection to violence was not mentioned. He said Mandela was credited in the textbooks with convincing the ANC to suspend the armed struggle “when in fact it was Joe Slovo. The young researcher told the Mail & Guardian that the writings were as if South Africa was looking for a new national identity, based on a ‘new history’ with new heroes”.

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