Africa

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Ebola virus (Getty)   © Getty

By Clive Cookson
Research into Ebola drugs and vaccines had been chugging along at a fairly leisurely pace for a decade or more – helped by some funding from the US government’s biodefence programme but not a priority for medical research in the public or private sector – until this year’s explosive Ebola epidemic in west Africa. Read more

Ebola: what risk does the virus pose to Africa and the wider world?
Parts of Western Africa are gripped by the Ebola virus, with more than 670 dead in the current outbreak. Gideon Rachman is joined by Clive Cookson, science editor, and Javier Blas, Africa editor, to discuss how serious a threat the virus poses to the region and to the wider world, and what the international community can do to thwart its progress.

When the already opaque language of diplomacy turns to allegories, you know you are on even thornier ground than usual.

In this case, it is the UK trying desperately to convince Kenya they are after all the greatest of friends – if mistrusting, sparring ones.

Addressing a crowd in a televised speech, Christian Turner, the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, likened the pair – once former colony and colonial power – to a lion and buffalo “locked in combat”.

He went on: “On stopping to gather their strength for a final assault, they saw some vultures circling up above. They at once stopped their quarrel, saying: ‘It is better for us to work together than to become a meal for vultures.’” Read more

The Kenyan military says it. The African Union says it. Even al-Shabaab says it. But President Uhuru Kenyatta not only refuses to say it; he actively denies it.

In a speech televised to the nation more than 40 hours after 49 of his countrymen were massacred in a terrorist attack on a coastal town, Mr Kenyatta has blamed not Islamist jihadis from al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militancy who claimed responsibility for the raid, but “local political networks”.

“The attack in Lamu was well-planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons,” he said in the speech on Tuesday afternoon. “This therefore, was not an al-Shabaab terrorist attack.”

Few corroborate his view. Eyewitnesses, who say gunmen targeted men who could not recite the Islamic creed, are among those convinced it was indeed a terrorist attack. Western diplomats and security experts – who have heavily criticised the Kenyan government’s response to insecurity in recent months – say it is appalling the government is politicising the latest massacre rather than addressing the rising security crisis. Read more

“If you’re not with them they threaten to kill you”. Sheikh Idris Mohamed, a leading anti-jihadi imam in Kenya’s second city of Mombasa, was not afraid to speak out.

Two and a half weeks ago, I met him when he gave an interview to the Financial Times in his dishevelled home to talk about the radicalisation of Mombasa. It turned out to be one of his last. On Tuesday, Sheikh Mohamed was killed in a drive-by shooting on leaving his home for morning prayers. He died on his way to hospital.

The sexagenarian preacher, who was the chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, was one of the most outspoken critics of radical Islam in the country. Last year he was ousted by young worshippers from his mosque in Mombasa, where he had given sermons for more than 30 years. The young congregation later renamed it Mujahideen – those who fight jihad – Mosque. Read more

Four days away from potentially her biggest election victory, Marine Le Pen (above) has had a sharp reminder of the biggest threat to her assiduous efforts to detoxify the far-right National Front (FN) in the eyes of French voters: her father.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the FN founder who handed over the party reins to his youngest daughter in 2010, remains its honorary chairman and is a candidate in Sunday’s election for the European parliament.

Before joining his daughter on the podium for the closing rally of the FN’s election campaign in Marseille on Tuesday evening, the party’s 85-year-old patriarch was heard discussing the issue of population growth and immigration with an FN mayor by two journalists from AFP, the French news agency.

The agency reported him as saying that France “risked submersion” from immigration and a low birthrate, complaining that the issue was being ignored.

In response to the suggestion that it was never to late to act, the agency said Mr Le Pen replied: “It is never too late, but still is it very late,” before adding: “Monseigneur Ebola could take care of it in three months.” Read more

Gideon Rachman

Onlookers at an explosion in Nairobi (Getty)

Join the dots from this week’s news stories and you get a picture of an African continent that is increasingly troubled by Islamist terrorism. On Friday, the British government started evacuating hundreds of tourists from the Kenyan coast, in response to a terrorist threat. Confirming the danger, two bombs went off in Nairobi, killing ten people. Meanwhile in west Africa, the horrifying abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram remains unresolved – but has highlighted the extent to which large swathes of Africa’s most populous nation are now destabilised by extremist fighters.

One western country that is clearly concerned by a pan-African Islamist threat is France. Over the weekend, the French hosted an international conference – bringing together leaders from African nations, including Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as representatives from the US, UK and EU. Read more