Big Test for Stability and Democracy in Southern Africa

There were no reports of violence at the polls yesterday, which is a good sign. The run up to the election has not been peaceful, so this is considered a big test of one of the region’s most mature democracies. “The election will be close. According to new electoral rules, the winner must gain more than 50% of the national vote instead of just a simple majority, a challenge for incumbent president Edgar Lungu, who won last year’s election with 48.3% of the vote—only 27,000 votes ahead of his rival Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party of National Development party (UPND)…Today’s election also tests Zambia’s reputation as one of the most stable multi-party democracies on the continent. The country has held competitive and peaceful elections since the 1990s. Its consistent stability is a subject academics have studied.” (QZ

Polio Returns to Nigeria…After more than two years without wild poliovirus in Nigeria, the Government reported today that two children have been paralyzed by the disease in the northern Borno state… Genetic sequencing of the viruses suggests that the new cases are most closely linked to a wild poliovirus strain last detected in Borno in 2011. Low-level transmission of the poliovirus is not unexpected, particularly in areas where it is difficult to reach children with the vaccine.  Subnational surveillance gaps persist in some areas of Borno, as well as in areas of neighbouring countries.” (WHO

Chlorine Attack Investigated…The UN is investigating evidence of a toxic gas attack on a rebel-held area of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Rebels said the attack – which reportedly left four people dead and many injured – was carried out by government forces using chlorine gas. The UN special envoy for Syria said a chlorine attack, if confirmed, would amount to a “war crime”. Footage obtained by the BBC shows people with breathing difficulties receiving treatment at a hospital. (BBC

Song of the day: Dedicated to “all South Sudanese and the people who lost a family member in this useless war,” a group of South Sudanese musicians, artists and activists recently released a song and music video called “Ana Taban.” In Arabic, it means “I am tired.” (VOA


South Africa has regained the title of Africa’s largest economy, two years after Nigeria rebased its economy to claim the spot, according to IMF data. (BBC

Militants blew up another crude pipeline in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, a youth and protest leader said on Thursday. (Reuters

The U.N. Committee against Torture is expressing “grave concern” about reports that four Burundi lawyers are facing disbarment as retribution for giving information to the group. (VOA

Zambians queued round the block in Lusaka on Thursday as voting began for a new president and legislators in what is expected to be a tough battle, as slow growth and weak commodity prices weigh on Africa’s second-biggest copper producer. (Reuters

The U.N. human rights chief urged Ethiopia to allow international observers into restive regions where residents and opposition officials say 90 protesters were shot dead by security forces at the weekend. (Reuters

Ugandan officials raided a prestigious private school Thursday to seize copies of British children’s author Jacqueline Wilson’s “Love Lessons”, as a minister who has led several similar crackdowns threatened to close the establishment. (AFP

South Africa’s parliament on Thursday began interviewing candidates to replace Thuli Madonsela, the head of a corruption watchdog whose findings undermined support for President Jacob Zuma and his administration and worried investors. (Reuters


The United Nations said on Thursday it was talking to Russia about a “workable humanitarian pause” in fighting in Aleppo and that three hours a day was “not enough” to help up to two million civilians trapped in the divided Syrian city. (Reuters

An upsurge of intense fighting around Aleppo has killed scores of Syrians in the past weeks, displaced thousands and cut water and power to up to two million people on both sides of the front line, worsening the already dire conditions faced by hundreds of thousands in the city. (Reuters

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday that it had reached an initial agreement to lend $12 billion to Egypt to bolster an economy battered by years of unrest. (AFP

A Dutch-based lawyer for a Palestinian human rights organization has been the target of a campaign of intimidation she believes is aimed at discouraging her cooperation with the International Criminal Court, she said Thursday. (AP

The whitewashed dome of a Sufi shrine in the Yemeni city of Taiz gleamed for centuries until a band of hardline Sunni Islamist gunmen blew it up last month, victim to a civil war that may have disfigured a once-tolerant society beyond repair. (Reuters

The U.N. Development Program said on Thursday it would help Iraq to tackle endemic graft that is eroding its economy and institutions as Baghdad struggles to defeat Islamic State militants. (Reuters


One woman has been killed and 10 people injured in a double bombing at the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin, Thai police said. (Al Jazeera

Indonesia said on Thursday there was “no room” for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement in the country, after Human Rights Watch criticized the government for failing to protect the group that has come under unprecedented attack. (TRF

Southeast Asian nations agreed to a roadmap on Thursday to combat acrid haze from Indonesian fires that cloaks vast swathes of the region every year, but the move was greeted by activists with scepticism. (AFP

Thailand’s military is looking to extend its government oversight following Sunday’s referendum approving a new, junta-backed constitution, legal experts say. But, one adds, the vote didn’t directly endorse military leadership. (VOA

The Philippine government has suspended operations at two more mines due to environmental violations in an ongoing audit of the country’s mining sector, officials said on Thursday. (Reuters

The rights of Indonesia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community may have come under “unprecedented attack” in 2016, according to Human Rights Watch, but activists said progress had seen LGBT people no longer living in the shadows of society. (Reuters

The chief executive, medical director and three other doctors at a prestigious Indian hospital have been charged with offences related to illegal organ transplants after a kidney trafficking racket was uncovered, a police spokesman said. (Reuters

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay called on China on Thursday to respect maritime law and security as well as the rule of law, to resolve disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. (Reuters

The Americas

A police officer was shot in the head after he and two others working security at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics got lost near a slum and encountered gunfire. (AP

A U.S. congressional report issued on Thursday found that the U.S. Central Command’s analysis of the fight against Islamic State militants was too positive in 2014 and 2015, compared with events on the ground and other intelligence analyses. (Reuters

A new poll suggests approval ratings for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto have fallen to 23 percent, while 74 percent disapprove of the job he is doing. (AP

A U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday reduced its outlook that La Nina conditions would develop in next few months but said it still expected the weather phenomenon to occur this fall or winter. (Reuters

…and the rest

Turkey has canceled the work permits of 27,424 people working in the education sector as part of its investigations into the movement of the U.S.-based cleric it blames for a failed military coup, Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Thursday. (Reuters

The Department for International Development’s approach to managing aid in conflict zones is often weakened by a desire to protect its own reputation, with staff reporting confusion over how to implement DfID’s key policies, a report has found. (Guardian

Pope Francis has had lunch with a group of Syrian refugees who were brought to Italy from the Greek island of Lesbos thanks to the pope’s intercession. (AP

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein accused Bulgaria on Thursday of committing systematic human rights violations by criminalising migrants. (reuters

The British government has named a child protection expert to head a problem-plagued inquiry into decades of child sex abuse. (AP

Ecuador says it will let Swedish officials interview Julian Assange at its embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been sheltering for the past four years. (AFP


Is Political Will the Ultimate Challenge to Development? (New Times

How to combat the threat of HIV drug resistance (Guardian

What Is Fueling Ethiopia’s Protests? (VOA

‘Offensive and demeaning’ (BBC

Why I Decided It Was Time to Tell a Positive African Story (African Arguments

Democracy, forests and finance: the tech making Africa a better place (Guardian

Zika and the Democrats (WSJ

How Worm Warriors Are Beating An Unbeatable Worm (Goats and Soda

War on Climate Terror: Fleeing Disasters, Escaping Drought, Migrating (Inter Press Service

Child marriage shows it takes a village to achieve a goal (Guardian
Are UN Sanctions Against North Korea Working? (VOA